A Garden Party at Brécy Castle
Patrimony Day in France happens once a year and enables curious visitors to see and experience treasures of French patrimony that are not typically open to the public. This year, I had the pleasure of experiencing several special places dressed for the occasion under beautiful blue sky of mid-September all in one weekend. The first and foremost is Brécy Castle Gardens, which I had already photographed in 2012 with a large format film camera.
This year, a private invitation was launched to commemorate the fifth year of the passing of Barbara Wirth. Gardener extraordinaire, she and her husband Didier orchestrated the restoration of the gardens of Brécy from their purchase of the château in 1992.
We learn, in reading the marvelous and freshly published Florilegium of Brécy Garden by Béatrice Saalburg and Catherine Watters, that the key to the elegance of this garden is a striking harmony of “just enough” in Barbara’s selection of plants. To complement graphically dominant yew, hornbeam and boxwood topiary, of which an intricate parterre de broderie on the ground level sets the stage for the terraces, Barbara added a savvy selection of roses, clematis, hellebore, lily and iris. She chose the artichoke as a theme for the second terrace, enhanced by two fountains (baskets of artichokes) that she herself designed. This delicate palette of color and textures is set before an impressive three-tiered original stone terrace and balustrade, the mineral aspect of which is complemented by the surrounding plants.
The garden was perfectly trimmed and the gravel paths carefully raked for this private celebration in honor of Barbara Wirth, strategically held beyond the confines of the internal garden. Stepping beyond intricate stone pillars and an imposing wrought iron gate, we are sheltered by tall hedges and bell-shaped topiary on a hill that was completely raised and restructured by Didier Wirth. Looking back from the top of this hill we have a view upon the gardens, château, chapel and fields beyond; a view which is framed by two long hedges and an overhang of beech trees.
If ever there was a visual association to make with the notion of “Fête Champêtre”, or Garden Party, this evening certainly encompassed it not only literally but figuratively. A beautiful balmy evening, a perfectly groomed garden, large ice buckets full of champagne, home-made appetizers and fireworks at sunset; privileged visitors enjoyed a delicious moment in this dream world, basking in the memory of a passionate gardener and her faithful companion whose four green thumbs made all of this possible.
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