Loire Valley Visit by Michael Marriott

Our first overseas tour of rose gardens since Covid was a great success, with 30 of us visiting 7 superb and very different gardens in the Loire Valley. It also included a certain amount of eating delicious food and drinking lovely local wines. It was superbly organised by Mary Hember with Anthony Baker making sure that the financial side ran smoothly. The slightly damp weather didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.
We went to:

Plaisanterie at the Chateau du Lude

  1. Chateau du Lude, whose owner, Comtesse Barbara de Nicolay, expertly guided us round. We saw an excellent collection of old roses including a number of Teas and Chinas. It was especially notable for its huge specimens of Plaisanterie, an eye catching large shrub/short rambler that came from a cross between Mutabilis and Trier. The Comtesse also took us into the private potager, which was a real treat and where we saw many more historic roses including a very fine Alberic Barbier. The tour was rounded off by local wine and apple juice in the Chateau. It was hard to leave! A delicious lunch in a small classically French café/restaurant was enjoyed by all.

Chateau du Lude

2. La Maison Natale Pierre de Ronsard (the renowned 18th century French poet). A rather wet visit unfortunately although, as the house was itself fascinating, it didn’t matter too much. The garden had an interesting and very wide ranging collection of roses, not all labelled, which prompted much discussion. Some of the ‘rooms’ to the side were dug out of the limestone and included the kitchen which had two ovens, one dedicated to bread the other to patisserie. There is a modern rose named Pierre de Ronsard which we saw everywhere but which split opinion.

3. Chateau du Rivau, where our visit was again led by the owner, in this case Mme Patricia Laigneau, who has written about her ramblers in our journal (No 65). An extraordinary chateau with towers that could have very easily housed Rapunzel! And indeed there was a very long braided train hanging out of one of the windows. A great range of roses here from short shrubs to tall ramblers and from ancient to modern. Nearly all were well labelled, which always helps. Many of the walls were covered by huge ramblers which, as Patricia Laigneau pointed out, needs brave gardeners to prune and train. The Claire Jacquier (a once flowering, vigorous form of Alister Stella Gray) was looking particularly splendid.Lunch was at the chateau and included delicious salads and really tasty goat cheeses. And wine of course!

Neige d’Avril at the Roseraie Loubert

4. Roseraie Loubert is a vast and outstanding collection of roses, assembled over 50 years by the late M. Loubert and his wife Mme Therese Loubert who is 90 but who still knows the name of many of them. Absolutely fascinating especially as the more one wanders the more one finds, and in one of the further parts we heard nightingales! Located very close to the start was Neige d’Avril which, as the name suggests, was a mass of small white flowers. So many roses here that I didn’t know and that I would like to have in my garden, including Duc de Cambridge, Fatinitza, R. rubus, Tolstoi, Gros Chou de Hollande, Fulgens, Souvenir de Brod and many others. The great majority of these are not widely available except from Pépinière Loubert www.pepiniere-rosesloubert.com who, apparently, budded over 2200 varieties last year! You can also book visits to the roseraie through the website. As far as I’m aware they will export to the UK. We left just as the very heavy rain started.

Duc de Cambridge at the Roseraie Loubert

5. The very lovely garden of Plessis de Sasnières, (only the first S is heard!) with a wonderful collection of roses was the first garden on our third day. Unfortunately most weren’t quite in flower yet but we did see a tree honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii, the highly scented Wattakaka sinensis and a silver leafed Actinidia. Notable among the roses were a very dark red hybrid tea rose called Senegal and Sourire d’Orchidée, a very free flowering blush coloured short climber. Also a very fine Fantin Latour. The tour was rounded off by a very delicious lunch (and wine).

6. Les Jardins de Roquelin is relatively modern, delightfully informal and described by Stéphane Chassine, the owner, as a Jardin à l’Anglaise. There are about 500 varieties of roses, most of them pre 1900, but notably also included many self sown seedling which are actively encouraged and often very beautiful. The many paths meander through the roses giving wonderful views of both shrub roses and great ramblers and climbers (including Cécile Brunner clg) reaching high into trees. I particularly liked Souvenir de Brod, a large flowered, full petalled red/purple flower variety. Alchymist, Ghislaine de Feligonde and Mme Isaac Péreire were also looking very lovely.

Yolande d’Aragon at La Javeliere-

7. Our last garden was La Javelière where we were shown round the garden again by the owner, Patrick Masure and his wife. It is a garden of two halves, the more traditional garden half with many roses scattered about in both formal and informal areas along with excellent collections of Acers, Mahonias and Irises. In the other half, behind a beautifully sculpted yew hedge and surrounding an aquamarine coloured lake, is his national collection of species roses, which I found particularly fascinating. I clearly remember seeing and smelling Yolande d’Aragon, a Portland that is rarely seen in the UK (although I see Trevor White Roses sells it). R. henryi and R. laevigata were also looking very splendid. M. Masure has written a book, Guide Des Rosiers Sauvages, which looked excellent.

And so off to the Gare du Nord and back to London.

Michael Marriott