The Château of Saint Jean de Beauregard, just south-west of Paris, hosts a plant fair twice a year in spring and autumn. Along with the Les Journées des Plantes at the Chateau of Courson, it is one of the best plant fairs in France and attracts nurseries and horticultural suppliers from around Europe. The château itself was built in the 17th century and is also famous for its walled kitchen garden which dates from the same period.
In September the kitchen garden looks fantastic. Espaliered pear trees are covered in fruit; pumpkins, artichokes and cabbages fill the central plots. Wide herbaceous borders burst with purple asters, yellow rudbeckia, dahlias, bright orange Tithonia rotundifolia and heleniums.
Many of the plant stalls are dedicated to perennial plants which are charmingly known as ‘vivaces’ in French – this makes me think of them as ‘vivacious’ rather than the more prosaic translation of ‘always living’.
My discovery at the Fête des Plantes this year was a nursery specialising in rare and unusual plants called Pepinière Vert’Tige. Run by a young couple, Aurélie and Maxime Van de Sande, the nursery is based in Brittany. Of all the beautiful plants on their stand, this was the one that most attracted my eye; Isodon longitubus ‘Noshoku’. Originally from Japan, the stems carry spikes of small bright blue flowers and light and airy foliage. The plant stands at around a metre tall, likes a well drained soil and to be placed in sun to moderate shade.
A stall selling vintage garden tools and accessories reminded me of my friend and garden designer Peter Beardsley who is a collector of vintage galvanised watering cans.
My other favorite stall is that of the nursery ‘Sous un arbre perché’ run by two young men who specialise in plants for shade including some rare and unusual plants. My own garden is pretty shady so I always like to look at their stock. Their nursery has recently moved to Brittany from Le Perche and this year they won the best nursery award as voted by the gardening press.
This autumn, the plant that tempted me on their stall was this woodland perennial called Keiskea japonica. I asked to know the name of the plant and the reply was “Qu’est ce qu’il y a?” meaning “What do you want?!”. Which would have been quite rude if the chap on the stall hadn’t hastily explained that he had said ‘Keiskea’, the name of the plant. Apparently it’s a source of constant linguistic misunderstandings! It has a spike of white flowers with burgundy freckles and anthers and likes well drained soil in sun to partial shade.
Another new discovery for me on their stand was this Physostegia virginiana ‘Van Wassenhove’. It likes to be sited in sun to partial shade and boasts spikes of violet flowers up to 80cm tall from August to November.
For more information about the Fête des Plantes de Saint Jean de Beauregard, or visiting the Château and the walled kitchen garden see their website here. The fêtes are held in spring and autumn each year. The next spring edition will be held on the 10th, 11th and 12th of April 2015. Entry was €13 in Sept. 2014, with reductions for professional designers and horticultural students as well as children.
If you want to take your car and stock up on plants there is plenty of free parking. Alternatively get the RER B from Paris to Orsay-Ville, where there are 2 free shuttle buses which run between the Chateau and the station roughly every 20 minutes.
There is an outdoor canteen style restaurant for lunch which sells salads, frites, sandwiches, meals and drinks. Toilets are chemical portaloos.
Lynda Harris is a Landscape and Garden Designer based in Paris.