January 2019 Meeting - European Inspiration Gardens

A new year! A new meeting place! And a new growing season has started! We held our first meeting at Living Waters Church and nearly filled up the place with such a great turnout. Our first speaker of the year was Laura Opsahl, who spoke about her Garden “Bucket List” trip she took to the gardens in France and the Chelsea Flower Show outside of London with her sister and mother. With much enthusiasm, she shared her photos and experiences at France’s Chateau de Chenonceaux, the Palace of Versailles and Monet’s Garden at Givenchy. After sharing her photos, explaining the origins and history behind these places, she also shared her knowledge about the techniques and design they used.


The gardens surrounding the Palace of Versailles were designed by the royal court for King Louis V. It was a very controlled garden meant to be seen by great distances. The grounds were much manicured, designed with symmetry as represented by their formal plantings of shrubs and mixtures of arranged annuals. Even their use of water was controlled. They used the architecture of the surrounding buildings to create a micro climate within the gardens, using the brick wall for their fruit trees to keep cold air out.



At the Chateau de Chenonceaux , a garden originally built for King Henry’s mistress, a very delicate, but again highly coifed garden was enlarged after King Henry’s death by Catherine de ’Medici to extend all the way to the river. Within the gardens you will find a nearly hidden restaurant, with many of the dishes comprised of the produce grown in the gardens.

At the Chateau de Chenonceaux , a garden originally built for King Henry’s mistress, a very delicate, but again highly coifed garden was enlarged after King Henry’s death by Catherine de ’Medici to extend all the way to the river. Within the gardens you will find a nearly hidden restaurant, with many of the dishes comprised of the produce grown in the gardens. Laura also shared some fantastic flower arrangements from the unique variety of flowers and vegetables found in the gardens. Many fruit trees are grown as espalier for space and form amongst the many garden “rooms.”

Monet’s garden in Givenchy was like a living painting that was inspired by his trips to Japan including many exotic plants and trees. All the bridges are painted the same green color for uniformity. You could not look without each view being a vista befitting a picture or photo. He brought in artists from the area to help capture its beauty; even diverting a river into his garden to help the city’s flooding problems.


Lastly, Laura shared with her inspirational experience to England’s Chelsea Flower Show. The year she went was a tribute to Queen Elizabeth’s 90th Birthday with an incredible entrance highlighting a red ‘carpet’ made of hand crocheted poppies!




She shared with us the technique of gabion; fences made with steel enclosed rocks or other commonly found hardscape.


Laura gave us many “Wow” moments with her photos and shared experiences. She also brought a sheet of some suggestions for us to incorporate into our own gardens this year, shared here and on Facebook.



Please check out our Facebook for the events that are coming up from Garden Expos in our area, classes and much more with our growing club! We are looking forward to February’s meeting about Seed Starting with Theresa Rooney, so start saving your milk jugs now! In March, local Fox TV celebrity gardener, Larry Pfarr will be our featured speaker. So we are off to a great and growing start for 2019!

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