It is quite a mix that you get to see in this tome – from Zen gardens in Provence to cactus displays on the Côte d'Azur, from classical palace gardens to some wild, untamed and stunningly beautiful plots of land that – had I not been told – I probably wouldn't have been able to identify as gardens.
Ile-de-France, Normandie, Centre, Provence, Côte d'Azur are the regions where the photos – that not only show gardens but also typical plants and flowers – were taken.
Take, for instance, Villandry in the Centre that, I learn, "exemplifies the highest standards in garden design, plantsmanship and upkeep". Its kitchen garden consists of nine squares, each of the same dimensions. "Within each one, different motifs are planted twice a year, in spring and summer. " Moreover, the vegetables "have been carefully chosen for their colours." This is definitely not just a simple kitchen garden but a work of art that required not only lots of planning but also lots of work.
I thought it particularly fascinating that the pictures show scenes from every season and thus, as the text on the cover aptly says, "celebrate the particular beauty of spring, summer, fall, and winter".
When leafing through the pages I mostly just look. I do not seem to wonder what I'm shown, I simply marvel at the colours, at nature's beauty, and at how intelligently composed this book is – for to choose the size of the photographs, and to decide how to arrange pictures and text on a page, is definitely no small feat
There are lots of discoveries to be made. Ever heard of the sunbaked rockscape of the 'garrigue' on the high stone terraces of Gourdon? Or of the imposing chateau and its likewise imposing gardens of Hautefort?
Or of Le Jardin exotique d'Eze? It is situated on a hill high above the ocean. Here you'll get to see huge columnar cacti, common and rare agaves, barbary figes, prickly pears and all kinds of aloes. By the way: "One must time one's visit carefully, some of the succulents flower once in their lifetime, while others blossom only at night."
Gardens of France is not only a rich source book for garden and nature lovers, it is also a very special travel guide of France for quite some of the gardens shown are open to the public.
Gardens in France
Jardins de France en fleurs
Gärten in Frankreich
Edited by Angelika Tadchen
Photos Deidi von Schaewen
Text Marie-Françoise Valéry
Taschen, Cologne 2015