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Le jardin de Michel et Colette dans le Var

General Description / Description générale : Our garden, located in the Var has an area of 1 500 m². Both its configuration and its exposure to the sun and winds (mainly Mistral), led us, from the beginning, to divide the garden into several themes: the flower garden, the shrub garden, a tropical theme, a ‘Mexican’ area (in fact this is a dry garden of cacti or relatives), etc… Seven gardens in one! This landscaping of the garden allowed us to acclimatise a huge variety of species and kind of plants, including succulents, palms, perennials, ferns shade-lovers etc.

Notre jardin est situé dans le Var et s’étend sur 1500 m². Sa configuration et son exposition au soleil et au vent (principalement au Mistral), nous ont conduit dès le début à diviser le jardin en plusieurs thèmes : le jardin des fleurs, des arbustes, tropical, le jardin « Mexicain » (en fait un jardin sec de cactées ou plantes apparentées), etc … Sept jardins en un ! Ce paysagisme du jardin nous a permis d’acclimater une large variété d’espèces et de sortes de plantes : succulentes, palmiers, plantes à fleurs, fougères et plantes d’ombre, etc …

Soil and climate / Sol et climat: Here too, the situation is very contrasted. On one side of the garden, we have a slope of rocky schist. Here, there is hardly any soil to grow plants, except xerophytic plants and cacti which will root in the rock. This area, in full sun in summer, is very dry because rain runs off the rock and flows downwards. Others spots in the garden are fortunately more accommodating for growing plants, with, on the whole, a gentle and moderate climate throughout the year because of the proximity to the sea.

However, in order to protect against the wind and the summer heat, every area (except the schist slope) is regularly re-mulched and supported by several networks of watering systems.

Ici aussi, la situation est très contrastée. Sur un côté du jardin, nous avons une pente schisteuse où le rocher affleure. Il n’y a presque pas de terre pour cultiver des plantes, exceptées des Xérophytes et des cactées dont les racines d’infiltrent dans le rocher. Cette partie du jardin est en plein soleil en été et extrêmement sèche car la pluie ne s’infiltre pas dans le rocher et s’écoule en contre-bas. Heureusement, d’autres endroits du jardin sont plus accueillants et propices à la culture des plantes avec, globalement, un climat doux et tempéré tout au long de l’année en raison de la proximité de la mer.

Cependant, notamment pour tenir compte du vent et de la chaleur estivale, chaque endroit du jardin (excepté la pente schisteuse) est régulièrement recouvert de paillis et bénéficie de plusieurs réseaux d’arrosage automatique.

Plants and Projects / Plantes et projets: The character of the garden lies in the huge variety of types of plants cultivated. Our goal is to have something in bloom throughout the year, fall and winter included. The common theme is the palms, present in each part of the garden.

The garden was landscaped more than ten years ago, but during this period, we have not lived here, and our visits have been rather rare and spaced out. So, the garden is not yet mature.

La spécificité de notre jardin réside dans la grande variété des types de plantes cultivées. Le but est une constante floraison tout au long de l’année y compris en automne et en hiver. Le fil conducteur est les palmiers, omniprésents dans chaque partie du jardin.

Le jardin a maintenant plus de 10 ans. Mais durant cette période, nous n’habitions pas là et les visites furent plutôt rares et espacées. Aussi, le jardin n’est pas abouti.

Visits: The garden can be visited at any time of the year, though flowering is at its peak in spring and summer. A virtual visit is possible by looking on our website.

Appointments by email: Michel Gautier

Le jardin peut être visité à tout moment de l’année, bien que la floraison soit à son apogée au printemps et en été. En attendant, une visite virtuelle est possible sur le site web du jardin.

Rendez-vous par mail: Michel Gautier

Languages spoken: Français / English

Jenny’s experimental garden in Bédarieux

General Description: The garden lies below an old hamlet at a height of 200 metres. It is walled on two sides with a small cypress-filled cemetery at the far end. The total area, including house and pool, is 2000 sq. metres. It is flat apart from a raised bed made with soil from the pool construction. The garden was a wilderness when we arrived in 2002, the only signs of cultivation being a few flowering shrubs and roses round the house and some cherry trees and several conifers at the back of the house. Along the drive at the front were several trees and an ancient iron pergola bent out of shape by a magnificent wisteria and a Campsis radicans.

Soil and climate: The soil at the front is largely building rubble but a few barrow loads from the back has allowed bulbs to flourish making a colourful spring showing. The rest of the garden is stony, alkaline clay. The climate is Mediterranean, with frequent winter temperatures of -7°C and the coldest recorded -13°C. Summer temperatures are 30-35°C with a maximum of 40°C. The prevailing wind is the tramontane. The summer drought is usually eased by an occasional storm. Conviction and practicality combine to ensure a waterwise approach as watering depends on one ageing female with a watering can and hose. This restricts watering to the establishment of young plants plus a rather erratic response to cries for mercy.

Grasses, spikes and flowers in combination

Plants and Projects: The style of the garden is informal and experimental. Although I always wanted to use locally appropriate plants I knew very little about them, or how they would behave in this garden.

The fun has been in planting one bed at a time and observing how things grow. As a result each bed, despite some duplication, has a slightly different mood as I tried the effect of cacti and other spiky plants or fell in love with grasses.

My favourite plant is often the one I’ve just discovered, but having discovered the delights of taking cuttings, earlier loves such as salvias, cistus and helianthemums are regularly renewed. Gardens are for sitting in, so late summer colour and the view from under the pine tree have been priorities. I’ve learned a lot, in particular the importance of shape and texture as well as colour.

There is also the irony that the advantage of clay soil retaining some moisture in summer becomes a disadvantage for drought tolerant plants in our frosty winters. But that’s gardening!

Visits: By appointment. Visitors are welcome any time, but in winter it can look a little sad.

Languages: English, a little French.

Email: Jenny Etritch

Read an account of a visit to Jenny’s garden in April 2011.

Catriona’s garden, Le Jardin des Rossignols, near Gignac in the Hérault valley

General Description: My ten year old garden is approximately 3000sq metres of old vineyard land in the Hérault valley near Gignac, about 3 miles from where I actually live. We inherited several varieties of fruit trees, and six rather decrepit vines. The Canal de Gignac runs beside the land, providing us with water from March to October and the garden has wonderful uninterrupted views across the vineyards and the valley. It is planted in an essentially wild, “prairie/garrigue” style.

Soil and climate: The soil is heavy vineyard clay, alkaline with a ph of 8.7. The land is sloping and exposed, with few trees but around the cabane a few Cypress leylandii and firs act as a wind break.

The springs are warm with some good rainy spells in March and April. The summers are hot and dry but we have a cool breeze from the mountains behind St Guilhem-le-Desert. Winter months are cold at night with temperatures as low as -8°C but daytime temperatures can rise to 18°C.

Now the garden has become more established, watering is becoming less needed, and I hardly water throughout the summer months, unless new planting is suffering. This I do by hand, with a very basic hose spraying system using re cycled piping we found on the land when we arrived.

We now see that the planting using the “Filippi” method of leaving plants to find water with their roots as much as possible has worked over time. I do minimal mulching due the large expanse of garden beds. In the early years weeding out the vineyard “thugs” took much time, but close planting and growing plants that thrive on 8.7ph has brought this chore nearly to an end!

Plants and Projects: Between the fruit trees, we have planted every year daffodils, tulips and crocuses. We circled the fruit trees with lavender, rosemary, box, hemerocallis, wild irises, bulbs and Lychnis coronaria.

There are now three 15m long planted borders running down the slopes of the terrain with small paths dividing the beds. We planted as much as possible hardy perennials which thrive on alkaline soil, little summer watering and a lot of sun as there is very little shade in the garden. Grasses have done well, especially the stipas, with inter-planting of irises, hemerocallis, achilleas, penstemons, gaura, alliums, verbena and even aquilegias. Surprisingly, we were successful with lilies and roses planted amongst the perennials which have taken time to get established but now flower well in the early summer. There is a lot of self seeding which has helped fill the gaps.

We planted 25 olive trees of different varieties and recently under-planted swathes of Stipa tenuissima and S. gigantea (I am a great admirer of Piet Oudolf’s prairie planting). Around the greenhouses and cabane, where the Cypress leylandii and pine hedges give shelter and shade, are a lot of plants in pots. Hostas and favourites that abhor our alkaline soil thrive here, although this does mean watering almost daily from the canal close by.

To see more photographs of the garden on our web site, click on the link below.

Visits: I am happy to receive visitors at any time of year, although the garden starts to take off from late March and looks its best in May and June. Even during July and August the wild garden with its grasses and dried alliums can look wonderful, the lavender, cistus and phlomis attracting an array of insects and butterflies.

Please email to make an appointment and to receive details of how to find the garden. I prefer afternoon visits. Je parle couramment le français.

Email: Catriona McLean

Website: www.jardindesrossignols.com

Graham and Julia Petty’s garden, near Uzès

General Description: The terrain comprises 3000 sq m of sloping land, part of an old olive grove. The house was built in 1982 when the hard surfaces and rockeries were created, and the major planting of trees, including umbrella pine, sophora, lime, conifers, arbutus and vitex. The white oak and almond are indigenous. In the mid 90s the house became a holiday home. The garden was neglected and all the soft planting had been lost before we bought it in 2004. We are gradually restoring and developing the garden.

Agave, ceanothus, roses and euphorbia

Soil and climate: The soil is very variable. In places it is a shallow covering above solid rock, in others it is deep and sandy, or dense rubble of stones and rocks. Sometimes a planting hole takes half an hour to make, using a heavy-duty fork and a hammer and chisel. We do not have a well or forage, and temporary watering systems from town water are used to establish new plants for their first 2 or 3 years. After that they must survive on their own. The house and garden are reasonably well protected from the mistral, but we have experienced intense winter cold in recent years.

Plants and Projects: Our philosophy now is to focus on plants of the region that like our very dry conditions, such as phlomis, cistus, and sage, and other plants that are well adapted to our soil and climate. We try to limit ourselves to plants with Filippi’s “code de sécheresse” of at least 4. We say “now”, because we have learned the hard way, e.g. losing about 50 new plants in our first canicule, when the roots were too small to cope with the extreme heat. A surprising success is the hostas. We brought just a few from UK as they were Graham’s favourites and they have flourished in large, well-watered pots in the shade of oak and olive.

We plant only in the autumn. So progress is slow, and much of the garden is still work in progress. We are starting to plant under large pine trees, and amongst olive trees, that we are pruning in order to create a more intimate feel in the front of the house. We still have too much hard surface area.

The land at the rear is still an area of old olive trees mixed with oak and pine trees that in 20 years have taken over. We are starting to clean and open this up, and will be reintroducing garrigue plants lost because of the planting of pine trees.

The garden produces an enormous amount of oak leaves and pine needles each year. We produce excellent leaf mould from oak leaves every year. The pine needles are a pest as they make the place look so untidy.

Visits: We would welcome garden visitors at any time of the year, but would recommend spring, early summer or autumn. Please contact us by email to make an appointment.
Julia parle français à un niveau moyen.

Email: Graham & Julia Petty

Chantal’s city garden in Montpellier

General Description: Our city garden was created in 2004, at first using plants from my previous garden which had been waiting in pots since 2001 – Helleborus orientalis, Viburnum bodnantense, Viburnum opulus, Hemerocallis, Thalictrum flavum, and Cotinus.

My husband’s grandfather bought this piece of land as a second house to grow vines and enjoy the countryside during the weekends. Now, however, the town of Montpellier has expanded and we are surrounded by buildings and concrete everywhere.

The garden can be divided into several zones. These are – the kitchen and fruit garden at the entrance established by the previous generation, the Matricaria tchihatchewii lawn with an olive tree and mixed hedge to hide the cars, the beds in front of the house that have not been irrigated at all since summer 2008, the east-facing mixed border which is irrigated in summer, the somewhat tropical border, also irrigated, with a small fish pond and the north-facing mixed border planted with evergreen trees, shrubs and perennials.

There are two Mediterranean beds in the middle bordered by a small bamboo grove. In this zone, some of the plants are watered once a week in summer and some not. These raised beds were created in 2006 and since then the plants have increased threefold. Our aim was first of all to hide the surrounding buildings with trees and bamboos then to cover the walls surrounding the garden with greenery. This was an opportunity to plant lots of different climbers.

Soil and climate: Le sol est calcaire devenant compact en été et retenant l’eau en hiver, donc pas de tout drainant.

Le climat est méditerranéen, avec des pluies abondantes au printemps et à l’automne. Des hivers pas trop froid (température nocturne minimum en 2010 -6˚C, en 2012 -10˚C) et des étés chauds et secs. Je dispose d’un puits et j’ai un système d’arrosage goutte à goutte pour chaque zone.

Le défi ; se sentir à l’abri de la vue, de la pollution citadine et du bruit causés par l’environnement.

Iris et Rosa ‘Cornelia’

Plants and Projects: J’aime beaucoup les plantes grimpantes et les bulbes. J’aime aussi faire des semis.

Je suis toujours en train d’essayer des plantes à la limite de la rusticité, donc, bien entendu, lors d’hivers comme 2012, je perds des choses magnifiques. L’hiver de 2010, j’ai perdu un Lagunaria patersonii de trois mètres de haut.

Mon dernier projet a été la création du potager, mais j’ai beaucoup de difficultés à produire des légumes. Comme les résultats ne sont pas probants, je vais petit à petit convertir le potager en verger.

I am still learning and enjoying experimenting with new plants. There is no doubt that gardening in our area is much more challenging than in the northern parts of Europe.

Leonotis leonorus – Queue de lion

Visits: Je peux accueillir des visiteurs dès cette année.

Je parle français couramment, l’anglais moyennement et je me débrouille en espagnol.

Contact me by email.

You can read more about Chantal’s garden in the Garden Diary section: ‘A City Garden in Montpellier’.