Monday 21 September 2015

Sensory overload....

Normandy by rain. For most of the week, at any rate. It tipped down as we drove across to Rouen from Beauvais, at the start of the trip, and carried on intermittently for much of the rest of our time there - with a

L'Etang de l'Aunay - wonderful theatre, and excellent planting
 few breaks, which allowed us to trudge soggily around a breathtaking multitude of mostly wonderful gardens. Rouen was beams, and 59 steps to our front door, and an impossible kitchen - within an otherwise charming apartment - and an hallucinogenic light-show each evening on the front of the cathedral....but, generally Rouen was viewed as we left town first thing in the morning, for distant parts of the département, and again at the end of the day, as we trudged wearily home again. Sunday was devoted to a natural history excursion, when we went to observe some of the wildlife of St Pierre Azif in their natural habitat...and after that it was gardens all the way!
Miromesnil - where the lawns were mown to resemble parquet de Versailles

 And, what gardens!

Nothing disappointed, although inevitably some things shone less brightly than others. From the theatrical creativity at L'Etang de l'Aunay, through the exquisite aristocratic charm of Brécy and the tranquil and breathtaking perfection of Boutemont, all was spectacular. So much so, that any more of it would have been too much to be able to assimilate in such a short period.

Vasterival - vistas, vistas, and yet more vistas
We got picky on detail: in its polished perfection, Reux (the Normandy home of the Rothschilds) was perhaps too general, there were too many dahlias (everywhere, practically: Canon, Galleville, Miromesnil, Boutemont, Jardin must be a Normandy staple)....and although undoubtedly impressive, the garden at Champ de Bataille lacks charm. At Miromesnil, the chateau provided a handsome background for the huge kitchen garden, where, through banks of asters and gauras and delphiniums, rows of fat pumpkins could be seen, ranged alongside cabbages, and tomatoes and beans, not to mention apples and pears and quince.
Galleville - Ducal fox terriers, and brioches heaped up before the blazing fire
 At Galleville, as rain swept across the garden, we lunched inside the chateau before a huge blazing fire, surrounded by serried ranks of mounted hunting trophies....and as we entered the hallway, a spanish Duke rather inexplicably appeared, with two deeply charming fox terriers at his heels, who then (the Duke, not the dogs, although they happily joined in) proceeded to lead us into completely the wrong part of the  chateau, before we managed to get back on track again (he mentioned that he had fifteen such terriers, and it seemed a shame he hadn't brought all of them with him, to swarm around his ankles like the cats of the Countess of Groan).
Brécy - the exquisite charm of a frail and elderly Duchess
 The garden at Brécy is perfection in every way...although Boutemont runs it a very close second, despite being quite different in style...and to see both of them in the same day was almost too much to take in.
Canon - yet more dahlias!
Some interesting design suggestions, and innovative techniques - the effectivesness of such dense mixed planting at L'Etang, and Vasterival, and Reux, for instance, and the dramatic effects produced by the 'transparent' pruning developed by Princess Sturdza at Vasterival - and lengthy lists  of new plants to hunt down (many splendid and hitherto unknown hydrangeas...some groundcovers and hedging plants...a few interesting climbers).
The polished perfection of the Chateau de Reux
 Restraint and the limits of hand luggage on Ryanair meant that I bought only one thing to bring back to Italy- a Miscanthus Zebrinus, which will form the centrepiece of one of the pergola borders. That, along with a renewed zeal to get the garden into shape once we were back, so the time since we got home has been significantly devoted to mowing and trimming and weeding....and the place is now more or less under control.

Boutemont - paradise!

All four-footeds were delighted that we were back; this had been a longer absence for us than normal, and for the first hour or so after we arrived home, the cats made a point of jumping through windows and making forbidden dashes through the house, just to demonstrate that they could...and the canine four-footed has been periodically wrapping himself around my legs all weekend, generally at very unhelpful moments when I've been in the middle of mowing, or hacking at tree branches, or hefting bags of weeds in the direction of the compost heap (or compost mountain, as it currently is).
Champ de Bataille - impressive in its splendour

It's good to be home.

Tonight's dinner:


Boned Chicken and Fave.

Peach Sorbet (we have a peach glut - the latest fruiting of the white peach trees was stripped yesterday, and even after having made ten kilos of jam, a challenging quantity still remains...)