Following the longest river in France is an excellent route for anyone interested in landscapes and gardens. The thirty or so gardens displayed in this book, entitled “Gardens and the Loire Valley”, during a perambulation that is as scholarly as it is poetic, illustrate an uninterrupted dialogue between the monuments and landscapes in the Loire Valley. From the most breathtaking to the most unassuming, the most structured to the most disorderly, they all offer up a glimpse of places that pay witness to the outstanding history of a listed UNESCO World Heritage site.
Engraved in the Loire Valley blond tuffeau stone for five centuries, the title “Garden of France” certainly merits a few explanations. Shedding light on the civilising function of the river and its role in the development of its surrounding areas, the diversity of landscapes born out of the variety of cultures and their link with the garden is an ambition which spurs us on to guide and inspire readers to whom scholarly perambulations and poetic strolls appeal in equal measure.
One needs to follow the longest river in France to understand the development of a garden culture interwoven by the royal routes and their cortege of illustrious figures. Out of this intellectual and botanical vibrancy sprung the very idea of landscape during the Renaissance. Around monuments, within the garden, unfolded knowledge of plants just as windows were opening out onto the landscape and the Loire. The dialogue between monuments, gardens and landscapes would henceforth endure, forging a lasting, harmonious link recognised by the Loire Valley’s inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The thirty or so gardens showcased in this book tell a few chapters of this history.
From the most breathtaking to the most unassuming, the most orderly to the most disorderly, they all offer up a glimpse of the history of the Loire Valley. The passing of time and fashions have swept away many vestiges, but the idea still holds. That of a valley where garden culture has always kept up with the times.
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L’équipe de la Mission Val de Loire.