Weeks ago I was in France, eager to visit the famed gardens of Villandry chateau. I became captivated by the story of the couple–neither of them French–who bought the chateau in 1906 and restored it.
They met in Paris, in the laboratory of Professor Charles Richet. Richet would go on to win the Nobel prize in medicine.
Ann Coleman was in her early twenties, a Bryn Mawr College graduate from a wealthy family of American Industrialists. Joachim Carvallo was a Spaniard. He had grown up poor after his bankrupt father abandoned the family. Both Joachim and Ann had lost their mothers when they were children.
The two young scientists had different temperaments. Ann was introverted and resisted the roles for the women of her time. Joachim was “very romantic and enthusiastic in his loves and hates,” wrote Professor Richet.
The passionate Spaniard and independent-minded American sparred over the ongoing Spanish-American War. Then they fell in love.
Seven years after they became Mr. and Mrs. Carvallo, they bought a 1536 chateau in France’s Loire Valley.
The chateau is still in the Carvallo family. They keep these photos of Ann and Joachim on the piano.
The Carvallos Recreate a Long-Lost Garden
Joachim amassed an important collection of 17th Century Spanish art. Ann enjoyed all types of needlework and became skilled in them.
Together, they researched what their simple garden had looked like in the 16th century. They consulted books of the period. Digging in the garden yielded the remains of foundations and drains.
They transformed their grassy fields, shrubs and trees back into a spectacular Renaissance garden.
In this image, the foreground is the Ornamental Garden, also called the Love Garden. It is in front of the fenced stream, which turns into a moat.
The four squares of geometric patterns symbolize different types of love. You can see the entire Passionate Love square next to the white planters with trees. This square has shapes that suggest dancing and broken hearts.
To the left is the Tender Love square. It has heart shapes filled with flowers, pink right now. They are separated by flame shapes, and the center has hedges that represent masks worn at balls. The other squares are Flighty Love (half is shown here) and Tragic Love.
Above the fenced stream is the organic Vegetable Garden, which includes flower beds. Here is map of this garden, including colors, for this spring:
There is also a maze and a serene Water Garden with lawn, fountains, and a large pond shaped like a Louis XV mirror.
Villandry is one of many chateaus in the Loire Valley, but it has the most beautiful garden. This is wine country, not far from Paris.
I had to take photos in driving rain! Still, I did not want to leave. For lovely photos of the entire gardens, here is Villandry’s virtual tour. I’d love to hear your comment.