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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Sykes Designer’

The Gardens of Villandry

Monday, July 28th, 2014

By Tim Sykes – 28/7/14

Whenever the name Villandry is mentioned it conjures up hazy memories of long boozy lunches during my advertising heydays! A restauranteur rather cleverly created an excellent restaurant, come wine shop, come bar, come specialist food store in Great Portland Street. I’m pleased to say it’s still thriving today, some 15 years after my last lunch! Do pop in if you are passing that way. The food I’m sure is still very tasty, and the wine list even better.

Somewhere equally appealing are the Gardens of Villandry, situated just 15 kilometres west of Tours, France.

I recently persuaded my wife and teenage son to call in on them enroute to the Dordogne. “Yes, OK”, was the response.”But, you are only allowed exactly one hour!” This may seem rather stingy on their part, but believe me these things take some negotiating!

My main interest were the potager, or kitchen gardens, as I’m currently involved in designing a scheme for one of my key clients. So this focus helped whittle down the tour.

We arrived at Villandry at 10am and it was already blisteringly hot. We paid for ‘Jardin’ at the entrance (€6 Adults, and €4.50 Youths). The Chateau looked equally enticing, but not this time!

Villandry is reputedly the last of the great Renaissance chateaux of the Loire to be built, in 1536. It was not a royal palace, but instead the seat of a royal minister, Jean Le Breton. Despite being a Finance Minister, Jean’s architectural expertise was incredible, and he was noted for his works, including the creation of Chambord, which he oversaw before he built Villandry.

As part of the scheme Jean conceived of a garden landscape that would blend the chateau into the surrounding Loire countryside.

The Chateau and grounds remained in the Le Breton family until 1754, when Villandry became the property of The Marquis de Castellane. He was the king’s ambassador, and he brought the castle up to date with modern 18th century standards of comfort and design.

In 1907 Villandry was purchased by a Spaniard, Joachim Carvallo. Carvallo and his American wife were scientists. The house and gardens had fallen into disrepair, so Carvallo set upon a complete programme of renovation. The Chateau was transformed, but it was the gardens that most of his energies and imagination went into.

These are vast, and truly magnificent.

Laid out over 5 hectares. Today they are looked after by a full-time team of nine gardeners.

Given the size and complexity of the gardens, careful planning and a rigorous timetable are required. This all sounds very familiar!

There are 7 distinct areas of the garden:

1. The Ornamental Garden

Stretches behind the Chateau, and features some incredible topairy depicting different takes on the theme of love. Unifying these gardens is the use of box hedging borders set to a Moorish theme, and sixty yew trees, all carefully shaped to a standard size and design ( I have the specification)!

Whilst we were visiting, we were treated to the gardening team out in force tweaking these designs.


Inside each shape are flowers. These are all planted in blocks of colour to enhance the dramatic pattern of this area. My guess is that this part of the garden was also used for cuttings, so at different times of the year plentiful supplies of fresh flowers were available to the household. Something to remember for a cuttings section to my own designs.

At the end of my ‘hour’ , I visited the garden shop and have purchased topairy ball guides, so will experiment as soon as we get home! I also managed to pick up a selection of seeds from the ornamental garden area, including Coquelicot ‘Rouge a Coeur Noir’.

2. The Woods

If you have the time, and the inclination to climb up into the adjoining woods you can gain some stunning views of the Chateau and Gardens. Also situated up there are the greenhouses.

3. The Water Garden

An ingenious watering system for the entire gardens eminates from a large ornamental pond on the upper terrace. This is shaped in the form of a Louis XV mirror. From this water cascades down a staircase of waterfalls into a moat which then distributes water into the planting areas below.

4. The Sun Garden

This is the most recent of the gardens, set on a plateau above the Water Garden. It features a series of herbaceous beds, set out in a formal pattern, but planted with varieties and allowed to grow in a more informal fashion.

Whilst we were visiting we bumped upon an artist recording the beauty of the gardens in oils. With his Van Gogh hat he seemed to be enjoying the mid morning sun.


Another artist who has recently had their sculptures added to this area of the garden is Marine d’Harcourt.

5. The Maze

Is planted with closely cropped hornbeam hedges. The correct pathway leads to a lookout post in the centre from where you can work out your safe retreat.
Probably easy to get out of in the winter!

6. The Herb Garden

Adjoining the Maze is the long, corridor like herb garden. This is the traditional garden of the Middle Ages full of aromatic, cooking and medicinal herbs.

7. The Kitchen, or Potager Garden

This is what we were here to see. And wow! What a display. I counted 9 areas, featuring different geometric patterns, set in a series of squares, all in one huge quadrant, with wide gravel avenues between them.

The designs depict Medieval crosses, all different. The structure of the potager gardens is created by using low closely cropped box hedging, that is in a constant process of clipping and replacement. Planted amongst these in symmetry are standard roses. These reputedly symbolise the monks who in Middle Ages would dig their squares.

Within the box borders a combination of flowers and vegetables are planted in concentrated bands of alternating colours, which together help create the magnificent vistas you can achieve by looking across the Potager Gardens.

To this day the Carvallo family are actively involved with the gardening team in the design and maintenance of this section. In the garden I could see bands of Chard, ornamental cabbages, beet root, tomatoes and pumpkins.

Time nearly up and a quick detour to the Garden Shop. This took 10 minutes, an all time record! Then out we rushed to the cafe to pick up a much needed diet cola.

One hour exactly. But what an hour!

You can see more about Villandry at www.chateauvillandry.com

For further information please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or at info@reallygardenproud.com

Magnificent! I don’t need to go to Chelsea now!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

What a lovely thought!

But that was our dear client’s reaction was when she returned from holiday recently.

She found her Tunbridge Wells town garden transformed from the grass bank it was, to the contemporary space that she can now enjoy with her friends and family.

The new garden was designed by Tim Sykes from Gardenproud. A modern and tranquil space with interesting features and terraced planting, plus entertaining and relaxing areas designed to mask the natural topography, and create the illusion of a much larger garden than the town location affords.

“The basic design concept uses a series of offset rectangles, that both interact and interrupt each other, plus are layered. This helps create different points of focus and different compartments within the garden, ” comments Tim.

Even the rather swish terraced pond reflects the concept.

So does the bespoke pergola that now frames the pastel blue painted Lutyens bench.

First things first, the terrace was enlarged, so that it now accommodates a large table and chairs for at least 8 people in two possible locations.

Cedar strip panelling was used to help accentuate features and create vertical blocks.

The grassed area features two offset oblongs that leads the eye round to an interesting mirror.

This feature reflects the terraced planted up platforms on the opposite side of the garden.

Here is planted what will become a grouping of buxus balls that will eventually merge to form a cloud formation.

“The terraced pond was a labour of love!” states Sykes. “We wanted to create a slate clad vision that contrasted with the adjoining cedar and oak materials. But slate was potentially a problem from a frost perspective, so we eventually went down a route that used  slate coloured and textured porcelain tiles. A lot of research later and we found the perfect finish. Thank goodness!”

A textured slate strip forms the basis of the outer walls, and a riven traditional slate tile is used as the copings.

The whole garden, including the workings of the pond, all run off a clever wireless remote control system that has become the hallmark of Gardenproud gardens. “These days it’s important to be able to use the outdoor space in the evenings as well. So we try wherever possible to incorporate lighting with schemes and create zones that can be illuminated in isolation, as well as fountains and other water features that can be remotely controlled. It can all contribute to some quite dramatic results, and reasonably green too as they employ LED low wattage fittings, or bulbs. “

The planting plan also played a major role in this garden. A colour palette featuring blue, lilac, purple, white and of course various hues of green was featured throughout. Gigantic lilac alliums helped create a linking theme between different areas, bamboo columns form the basis of what will become the rear wall of the garden, a salix half standard tree links with planting of euonymous, salvias are repeated in different places in contrasting colours. Miscanthus sinesis flamingo sits among giant verbena bonariensis. Beautiful white agapanthus frame the black steel obelisk that tops the upper terraces. And behind this a wall of white jasmine will adorn the trellis background.

Two beautiful wisteria will eventually trail over the contemporary pergola. A border of lavender softens the link of the pond with the lower terrace.

Anyway, whilst our client may not feel she needs fresh inspiration from our Chelsea peers, I always do!

So I’m looking forward to my trip tomorrow to London to the Chelsea Flower Show 2014.

I’ll see what I can pick up and incorporate in our thinking for 2015!

For further information about Garden Design contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820, or via email info@reallygardenproud.com