Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb writes:
In the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I had spent a couple of months in France with my French great aunt, first at her apartment in Paris, and then at her country home in the small town of St. Aignan-sur-Cher. Located in the heart of the Loire Valley chateau country, known as “the valley of the kings,” St. Aignan is a picturesque town that boasts both a 16th Century renaissance chateau and an adjacent twelfth-century church, with belfries and parapets high above the Cher river. I immediately fell in love with the town, and especially with Aunt Muguette’s picturesque U-shaped house surrounding a walled garden on two levels. The first morning I heard the “Angelus,” the beautiful song of the church bells, I was enchanted and my enchantment quickly turned into a wonderful summer of exploration and family fun with my young French cousins.
Now, flash-forward to May, 2014, and I had the opportunity once again to stay in my aunt’s lovely house, which is now a bed and breakfast run by a delightful couple, Marie-France and Richard Caillaud. Once again I fell in love with the house and with the intimate, medieval character of St. Aignan. But what astonished me was what the Caillauds have done with the garden. Its bones – parterres of low Boxwood hedges separated by gravel paths under the shade of a large Horse Chestnut tree – were exactly as I remembered from my first visit, but the Caillauds have made something wonderful with the garden beds between and behind the parterres. Now with their Hydrangeas, perennials and Mahonias, I can’t imagine a lovelier place for strolling than the upper garden; nor for sipping a glass of local Tourraine rose than on the terrace below the lovely curving stone steps.
Why is the house called “Le Sousmont?” Quite simply, my aunt named it that in tribute to the person who owned it before her, a World War I-era American gentleman named Dr. Underhill. “Sousmont” means “under the mountain” (or under the hill) in French. If you decide to book a room there, Monsieur and Madame Caillaud await you with terrific hospitality.
The chateau viewed from the lower garden
The upper garden with the chateau beyond
The upper garden parterres
The house enfolds the garden, with the medieval church beyond
The garden from the third floor, with the chateau and church beyond
Le Soumont from the street, with its rose vines – you would never know there is an enchanting garden beyond!