Château de Saint Loup sur Thouet

The site of Saint-Loup is placed at a strategic position where two rivers meet: The Thouet and Cébron.

It lies on the border of the flat plain of Poitou and the hilly landscaped Bocage Gatinais. From the early days it was surrounded by military  constructions, of which the Château  constituded  the northern link. Writings refer to Drogon ( XII th c ), first lord to be known.

At the end of the medieval period, influenced by the Dercé family ( from Loudun ), was built a fortress of which remain the Keep ( XII th – XV th century )  and adjacent buildings refurbished in the Gothic revival style in the XIX th c.

The Black Prince imprisoned in the famous Keep the French King John the Good after the battle of Poitiers in 1356. The entrance of the square tower was then protected by a portcullis. Today the Keep and adjacent buildings have been converted into an amazing guest house with five bedrooms, sitting room & dining room.

The Renaissance molded the Castle to its present shape. In 1518 Artus Gouffier, the king’s chamberlain took possession of the site. His family – whose spirit is ” The research of excellence ” also built the Château of Oiron  located 19 miles away.

The present Château

The present Château  ( 1609 – 1626 ) was built by Claude and Louis : plan in the shape of an H in the honor of King Henry the IV th with wings disposed as separate entities and independent vertical roofs. The  coatings were painted ( a fresco ) in false brick. A campanile tops the central Pavillon. All these elements confer to the Château the architural  style which existed at the beginning of classicism which is called the Louis XIII style.

From then on the domain is adorned by  sumptuous gardens designed and built by the most prominent gardeners of their time. A document describes a meeting in 1631 between the Gardener of the Gouffier family Jamin with those of the Cardinal de Richelieu and Duke de la Trémoille.

Under the old Regime, the lords of Saint-Loup keep the flag floating high over Saint-Loup :  in 1645, Nicolas Lepage the King’s treasurer, then in the beginning of the XVIII th century ( 1708 ), Jacques de Boyer de la Boissière, Receiver General  of ‘Britany’s finances. The latter’s son Jean-Baptiste gives a new glimmer to the site thanks to the new works he undertakes.

In 1767 the Château is sold to Jean Haran de Borda, fermier général, who bequeaths it in 1772 to his nephew  Jean d’Abbadie, an important magistrate. The Château remained the property of the d’Abbadie family until 1894.

The gardens

The Orangery Court, where horticultural techniques of the XVIII th c. are still in use, is a walled area where citrus trees – most of which originate from South East  Asia  and annual plants most of which are Mediterranean are placed  during the hot season. 

The Orangery is a building most composed of a vast ( + 2000 sq.ft ) hall where all plants are sheltered during the cold season. The collection of citrus trees in tubs or vase, comprising ca. 50 specimens of 17 différent species is already remarkable. Once enriched by plants now ordered from a specialized nursery, it will become unique in France. 

The layout of the Versailles tubs and Anduze vases is governed by classical rules ( one citrus tree succeding a decorative or fragrant plant ) around four squares lined with box hedge. The beds are planted with annuals chosen for their fragrance. Citrus trees are clipped in the shape of a bowl, a cone or a Chinese hat flollowing the rule of the three thirds ( 1/3 of the height for the container, 1/3 for the trunk, 1/3 for the foliage ).

The Versailles tubs are painted in two shades of green, representing the two sides of an olive leaf. The woodwork ( benches, windows, doors … )is painted in yellow ochre, a traditionnal colour of the Orangery ( Versailles ). The Anduze wases are either green or ” flamed ” and have been specially  engraved for Château de Saint-Loup. Anduze is a picturesque townin the Gard, with a reputation for line pottery that has endured for centuries.

Plants and Citrus trees are housed during the second half of October in the Orangery  in which is maintained a temperature of ca.ten degrees centigrade. The Orangery  is fitted with artificial lighting to enhance natural light. The vegetals are watered once a month when necessary ( 70 cm tub, 3 litres, 50 cm tub, 2 litres, Anduze tubs, 3 litres ).

During the hivernation period, tubs are re boxed. No treatment should be carried out in the Orangery except a little fertilization in March aimed at an outdoors placement last week in April.

Historically the Orangery Court is a representation of the Garden of Eden, place of all delights dedicated to the pleasures of the senses. In Antiquity it is named the Garden of the Hesperidins. Citrus trees and fragrant plants also allowed the private production of perfumes, liquors, essential oils, jams, crystallised fruit…

Placing plants outdoors is an important moment. Tubs and Vases are lined up with a cord, balanced and fitted with the automatic drip watering system. Watering takes place either in the morning or in the evening, with added fertilizers. Once they are installed outside  plants are pruned lightly and with great care either with pruning-scissors or a pinching technique. The emphasis is on the ornamental ( foliage ).

In May – June starts the flowering. The citrus tree is allowed to flower, but the fructification is controlled. On an inflorescence of 4 one flower is kept. This period ( June ) is called in French “nouaison”knotting season. The goal is to avoid an excess of fruit undermining the ornamental stature of the plant : foliage should have the edge  over fruit. 

The restoration of the gardens of Saint-Loup has been made possible thanks to the help of the European Commisssion and the French State following the recommentations of M Joel Cottin head-Gardener of the Château de Versailles and with the assistance of Fourny nuseries ( Corsica ).