Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Gardener Prince

Last Monday my friends B. and J.L came over to discuss the program of our upcoming trip to the Loire Valley. We did this over a home made lunch of Italian antipasti and a glass of ‘spumante’ (Italian bubbly); followed by my version of a ‘steak tartar’, French fries and a green salad. B. and J.L brought a nice bottle of red wine from the French Var region. It was completely unknown to me but very, very nice indeed. We ended our meal with a cheese platter: Camembert, Tomme de Savoie, Rochebaron and a ‘Brebis’ (ewe’s cheese).

I had prepared a two page program, listing castles, abbeys, gardens and museums to visit in la Touraine. It wasn’t difficult to come to an agreement, as B. has never been to the Loire Valley and J.L. was still a young boy - ‘en courte culotte’ (in short trousers) as he puts it – when he was there with his parents.

However, we did add one château that wasn’t on my initial list because I didn’t think it would interest them. If you’ve been reading my blog regularly you may remember that J.L. is a keen photographer and that he likes growing orchids. What you didn’t know – and neither did I – is that he’s also a keen gardener. So when I mentioned a château hosting a ‘conservatoire de la fraise’ (strawberry museum) he was immediately interested. I’ve never visited the place myself and therefore had to admit
 that I couldn’t tell much about it. However, I have visited the ‘conservatoire de la tomate’ at the Château de la Bourdaisière near Montlouis.

2003: Château de la Bourdaisière in Montlouis

My friend and I were there in 2003. The castle belongs to the Prince de Broglie, who’s also known as ‘Le Prince Jardinier’ (the Gardener Prince). In order to pay for the upkeep of the castle, the Prince has turned it into a hotel. The rooms are named after famous historic figures and the rates range from 170 to 300 euros per night. It is also available as a setting for movies and television programs. I vividly remember one reality show on Belgian television that was shot at the château.

The Prince’s pride and joy, however, are the beautiful gardens and the ‘conservatoire de la tomate’, a museum paying tribute to this delicate fruit. In a library-like room of the castle, the walls are lined from floor to ceiling with shelves on which sit hundreds of glass jars containing preserved tomatoes in all sizes and colours. In the greenhouses in the vegetables garden, rows and rows of tomato plants are competing in size and shape. And if you want to have a go at growing some of the exotic varieties yourself, you can drop in at the souvenir shop and buy the seeds of your favourite species.

I tried that some years ago and got a nice harvest of juicy and sweet yellow pear-shaped miniature tomatoes. But that’s another story!

When I told my friends about the castle and the tomatoes, they immediately decided to put the Château de la Bourdaisière on our to-see list. I’m now going to finalize the program by splitting it up in two parts: 1) the musts and 2) the alternatives. And a lot will of course depend on the weather conditions.

Have you ever visited La Bourdaisière or tried your hand at growing tomatoes?



chm said...

I went to La Bourdaisière some ten years ago with Ken when they were vacationing in Vouvray. I was really disappointed by the château that looks more like a XIXth century pastiche of a Renaissance castle than the real thing.

This being said, the gardens are absolutely magnificent.

If I'm not mistaken, La Bourdaisière was bought by the Broglie brothers some thirty years ago.

Thib said...

Every year, on Easter weekend, there is a "fête des plantes" at La Bourdaisière, which is a must for all gardeners and garden lovers. I went there 2 years ago (and posted about it), and took several good ideas for my garden.... unfortunately, some of them are still only ideas ;-((

Jean said...

We have never visited this place but grow tomatoes every year, with varying success, largely depending on the weather and how dedicated we are at watering them and keeping them trimmed. My favourites are the little cherry tomatoes that we grow in pots hanging baskets around the patio. They are very sweet and seem to grow in huge abundance with very little effort.

Carolyn said...

Martine, the tomato garden sounds fantastic. And where is the conservatoire de la fraise you mentioned? We might need to go there.

Everyone is thinking of gardens today.

I hope we'll find out what your Plan A and Plan B are and also, after the trip, which places your gardening friend really liked.

ladybird said...

Chm, I agree with you about the castle. It's not really my cup of tea either! I don't know anything about the history of the Broglie family. I'll have to look it up before my next visit in May.

Thib, Maybe now that spring is in the air, you could try and turn those ideas into projects ... :)

Jean, I love cherry tomatoes too. They look great in a salad with hard boiled quail's eggs!

Carolyn, The Conservatoire de la Fraise is located in the Château Dumoulin in a village called Lassay-sur-Croisne some kiometres North-West of Romarantin.
I'll keep you updated on plan A and B as soon as I've finished the program, which should be very soon now.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Lassay-sur-Croisne is very close to Chémery and Saint-Aignan, but I didn't know about the strawberry conservatory there. It makes sense, because the Sologne region is known for strawberries and for asparagus. June should be a good time for a visit -- it's strawberry season.

ladybird said...

Ken, We'll be there in May, so I suppose all we'll get to see will be some flowering plants and maybe some tiny green strawberries. :(

Ken Broadhurst said...

Oops, I meant May. I'm so used to your June visits...