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Home > Archive > Russell Page Archive: Château de Bléneau

Russell Page Archive: Château de Bléneau

Page’s plans for this red-brick country house in a village in central France, where he worked in the early 1950s, are a striking example of his ability to apply his pre-war experience as a landscape architect of larger estates to gardens on a smaller scale. He used steps, areas of formal beds and a new lawn to connect the 17th century house, moat and gatehouse.

  • Château de Bléneau, Plan A

    RP/1/6/73/1

    August 1950

    77 x 75 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper dated 20 August 1950, marked ‘Projet A, Bléneau’. The plan shows the house and the surrounding gardens. Areas for growing flowers are located closer to the house; quite a large section of land to the right of the house designated for growing vegetables. Further away from the house is a flower garden (see RP/1/6/73/3 and RP/1/6/73/4). The design for the area with the annotation ‘Voir Detail’ is shown in a separate drawing (RP/1/6/73/5).

  • Château de Bléneau, Plan B

    RP/1/6/73/2

    August 1950

    75 x 70 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper dated 20 August 1950, marked ‘Projet B, Bléneau’. Presumably an alternative design to RP/1/6/73/1, there are only a few amendments.

  • Château de Bléneau, Flower Garden A

    Ref: RP/1/6/73/3

    October 1950

    60 x 123 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper dated 31 October 1950, marked ‘Madame Matassian, Château de Bléneau, Yonne, Jardin Fleuri A’. The drawing shows the flower garden to the south of the house; a slightly sloping path flanked by flowerbeds leads through an area with formal beds and paths to a pavilion beyond.

  • Château de Bléneau, Flower Garden, A

    RP/1/6/73/4

    October 1950

    60 x 120 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper dated 31 October 1950, marked ‘Madame Matassian, Château de Bléneau, Yonne, Jardin à fleurs A’. A very similar plan to RP/1/6/73/3, several of the formal flowerbeds have been replaced with grass (‘gazon’). ‘BON’ is written at the bottom of the paper which suggests this design was chosen.

  • Château de Bléneau, Jardin de Madame

    RP/1/6/73/5

    January 1951

    64 x 48 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper, marked 'Madame Matassian, Château de Bléneau, Yonne, Jardin de Madame’. The plan shows six square flowerbeds, each with a central water basin.

  • Château de Bléneau, Bridge Plan

    RP/1/6/73/6

    August 1951

    60 x 80 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper dated 16 August 1951, marked ‘Monsieur Matossian, Château de Bléneau, Yonne, Projet de pont’. The drawing shows cross sections and details of various elements of Page’s design for a bridge to span the moat.

  • Château de Bléneau, Bridge and Moat

    RP/1/6/73/7

    August 1951

    29 x 52 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil drawing on tracing paper dated 16 August 1951, marked ‘Château de Bleneau – Pont Sur Les Douves’, ‘Bonnin’. The sketch shows a view of the bridge over the moat, with trees in the background. ‘Bonnin’ is written in the bottom right corner; possibly a signature, it suggests the drawing is not by Page.

  • Château de Bléneau, Sketch Plan of House and Grounds

    RP/1/6/73/8

    c. 1951

    46 x 53 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    An undated ink on tracing paper plan of the château and grounds at Bléneau.

Château de Bléneau, Bléneau, Yonne, France

1950 to 1951

Archive of Garden Design Ref:  RP/1/6/73

Page’s designs for the garden at the château de Bléneau are among the earliest to survive in the archive. In 1950, he was asked by Monsieur and Madame Matossian to harmonise the disparate elements of their grounds, as described in The Education of a Gardener:

‘This house is the remains of a fortified castle, whose moat and gatehouse still exist. I made a wide lawn inside and to one side of the house a small formal garden of box-edged beds intersected by narrow gravel paths and filled with the dark red floribunda rose “Alain.” The main reception rooms, as in many houses of the period, are on the first floor; so I had to connect the great salon to the garden by a double flight of stone steps, leading down into this small formal garden. To add gaiety to the composition, I designed the little rose garden round a series of yard-square stone-edged pools, each with its tiny water jet to sparkle in the sun with its splashing.’ (226)

It was one of the projects which Page undertook whilst working in partnership with the Vilmorin company, Paris-based seed producers since the 18th century. Page had been invited by his long-standing friend André de Vilmorin to join forces with his family’s firm after the Second World War. Working from the Vilmorin office, Page’s brief was to encourage clients to grow flowers again, after several years of wartime shortages had meant gardens were mainly used to produce vegetables and fruit. At Bléneau, although the plans do indicate that a sizeable area of the garden remained dedicated to vegetables (see RP/1/6/73/1 and RP/1/6/73/2 on which sections are marked ‘legumes’), the new designs were largely concerned with flower gardens. The small formal rose garden to which Page referred in The Education of a Gardener is called the ‘Jardin de Madame’ on the plan (RP/1/6/73/5). The geometrical design of six square pools, and the combination of water and the scented flowers, hints at Page’s interest in Islamic gardens. Although the influence of Moorish gardens would become more pronounced in the 1960s, when Page was working in Southern Spain, he had first explored Persian gardens when visiting Iran in the late 1940s, having been asked by the British Council to design parks and gardens for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Abadan (the project never came to fruition).

Also included in the drawings is a design for a bridge to cross the moat, another example of Page’s ease composing architectural – as well as landscape and horticultural – elements.

Note

The clients’ name is spelt Matassian on some of the early drawings but Matossian, as it is written later, is more likely to be the correct spelling.

Literature

Page, Russell. The Education of a Gardener. Harvill, 1994.

van Zuylen, Gabrielle and Marina Schinz. The Gardens of Russell Page. Frances Lincoln Ltd, 2008.

Related material elsewhere

There are photographs of the château de Bléneau garden in the RHS Lindley Library reference collection (PAG/2/1/11, PAG/2/1/25 and PAG/2/1/28).