The Opposite of Chelsea: The Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire

I’m sure that we English think of Chelsea as the ultimate garden exhibition… show gardens costing tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds, designed by big names, a society event, everything in perfect order and lasting just a week.  There is no equivalent really in France but the French do have the festival at Chaumont instead.  It’s whacky, often very humorous, lasts all summer, is designed on a shoestring budget often by unknown people and is designed to make you think about what gardens mean rather than about how much it all costs.

The chateau at  Chaumont is now the home of the national horticultural college.  It has a park laid out in the English style in the 19th century and a festival show site.  There is a lot of  permanent planting but every year about two dozen gardens are commissioned from designers from all round the world, as well as students from all over France.  There is a strict cash limit on how much can be spent, recycling of materials is encouraged, and the concepts behind the gardens are often more important than the gardens themselves.  When it goes wrong it can be a washout but when it works it is uplifting and memorable…and when was the last time you ever laughed at anything you ever saw at Chelsea?

This talk gives you an insight into the differences between Chelsea and Chaumont, and walks you through a  few of the great successes and the occasional disaster [just to prove the French don’t always get in right!].  You might come away wondering what it was all about but I guarantee there will be some things you’ll love  and laugh at as well!