Monday, 4 June 2012

For love of flowers

Imagine fields of majestic blooms as far as the eye can see, 360 degrees, whichever way you turn. There I was, standing in the narrow pathways created for the public to appreciate this spectacle. The delicate perfume of thousands of flowers wafted on the air.
I was at the Cayeux Iris fields - one of the two most important places/ companies in the world for finding Irises, especially Bearded Iris. There are 600 varieties and the company produces a beautiful mail order catalogue. All the colours of the rainbow were present in the leaves and flower petals plus a very deep black. Dwarfs, intermediates and giants were grouped and there was a small section for other iris too, like the water-loving ones.
You may NOT touch the plants and you are not supposed to sniff them either in case you cross pollinate accidently but you sure can take photos.

These flowers are masterpieces of beauty. You can see a large collection of them on the website .

It was difficult to choose a favourite but I think the one that really caught my eye was the beautiful brown and orange bicolour iris pictured at left.

One hundred years have gone into the breeding of them by the Cayeux family who are based not far brom Blois and Orleans in the Loire district, in a town called Gien which also houses a museum of the hunt in the chateau. There's also a museum of pottery-making from this area.

 The Museum of the Hunt contains some very interesting pieces: old rifles and other fire-arms from the 18th and 19th centuries, ammunition belts, a stuffed wild boar, nasty-looking traps which would take a man's legs off. Naturally hunting dogs featured big-time in the displays though usually only in paintings and engravings. There were hunting horns and artworks, gloves and jackets, as well as equipment used in falconry. I don't imagine the birds enjoyed being trussed up like that and wearing silly helmets with plumes on top- what self-respecting creature would.

  I didn't like the paintings of trained birds of prey being used to bring down other, gentler birds. Hunting is such a French tradition still but becoming less and less popular. Most of the hunting club members are my age or older. The hunting museum is located inside the chateau de Gien but most of the chateau is not open to the public. I suspect it's mostly empty. A lot of money and effort needs to be spent on preserving all this history in France and these days there just isn't the money to go around - no matter the worthy cause.
Gien is worth a visit. It's on the banks of the Loire river and has a picturesque bridge or too. I liked the old one in the middle of the poppyfields.


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