In the heart of the Loire Valley, the Villandry estate is home to an intricate lacework of gardens. This plant world is the work of one man who devoted his life to creating a universe that would appeal as much to the senses as to the mind.

When Joachim Carvallo, a Spanish-born gentleman and prominent medical researcher, bought the estate of Villandry in 1906, he acquired a romantic English-style landscaped park. The height of fashion in the 19th century, the English garden cultivated the illusion of unfettered, apparently untended nature, rich in picturesque details. Exotic species abound and the colours blend together in the “democratic egalitarianism” so dear to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the spiritual father of the English garden.

Carvallo, however, was determined to create a garden in sharp contrast to this “unbridled landscape”. The result of his work can best be admired from the medieval keep which commands the finest view of the estate. Joachim Carvallo set about restoring the garden to its former French Renaissance grandeur, mirroring the creations of André Le Nôtre at Vaux-le-Vicomte, Saint-Cloud and Versailles with distinct lines, order, hierarchy, terraces, flower beds, geometry and colour.

During the restoration work, this free thinker had a spiritual awakening and became a fervent catholic, transforming the gardens of Villandry into his opus magnum. Using his encyclopaedic knowledge, Carvallo designed and built a garden that was both original and reminiscent of the past. This new interpretation of tradition went hand in hand with a rehabilitation of certain “classical” values in the mind of this mystic connoisseur, creating a vision of nature that was intended as a prelude to contemplation of the divine world. Each detail was designed and subjected to a higher order: “the union of difference leads to order” (Saint Francis de Sales) was moreover one of Joachim Carvallo’s favourite maxims.

The vegetable garden, home to flowers and vegetables, pergolas and fountains, is inspired both by the medieval tradition of monastery vegetable plots and the Italian-influenced French Renaissance garden. As you stroll round the vegetable garden, you may be interested to know that the pergola represents the celestial heavens, symbolising the microcosm of earth, that a copse is a place of retreat and meditation or that Villandry’s maze was intended to enable the visitor to embark upon a spiritual initiation. Similarly, a genuine chromatic order reigns over the garden by the juxtaposition of red and yellow chards, blue leeks, red and green peppers, red and white cabbages and yellow aubergines. The flowerbeds are lined with begonias, zinnias, Busy Lizzies and verbena.

An incredible human adventure, a place of remembrance and an historical compendium, Villandry is the fervent champion of a certain garden art. It also reminds us that, since the beginning of time, mankind has frequently associated gardens with happiness.

Practical information

Château de Villandry
37510 Villandry
Tel: 0033 (0)2 47 50 02 09
www.chateauvillandry.fr

The tourist attractions mentioned

Gardens of Villandry Gardens of Villandry
Gardens of Villandry
Villandry
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