We started to create a garden for Le Jardin Champêtre in Caunes-Minervois ready for opening the nursery in mid-April 2016.
The first tasks: Planting a double hedge along the boundary, adding trees for structure and shade, including Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste Tree), removing the worst of the weeds – especially those with deep tap roots, and cutting the ‘grass’ for instant tidiness and to minimise self-seeding. There will be a wild zone plus a more landscaped area to demonstrate the plants we will have for sale.
We have kept some of the native flora which will fit in with the wild zone for now, including: the scented and bright yellow flowering Coronilla glauca (Glaucous Scorpion-Vetch), Calamintha nepeta (Lesser Calamint), Asphodelus luteus (Asphodel), Echium vulgare (Viper’s Bugloss), plus the occasional Verbascum. We may live to regret leaving those Verbascum…
Also, as this will be a wildlife garden, we haven’t taken any prunings or weeds to the tip. Instead, the bulk of what we’ve cut back or dug out is in a brash hedge. For compost bays, we’ve started with very simple structures using rusty ‘panneaux de dallage’ from a DIY shop, which is welded reinforcement mesh usually used for concrete. (Imogen used stronger versions of this for trellis at Pensthorpe.) They only just fit in the car when bent in half which has dictated the size of the compost bays!
We were very keen to start planting, of course, and have started with an area for partial shade. The levels are higher around the outside of this border where the most drought-tolerant plants are, and lower in the middle for the thirstier ones. This is a community of ground cover, bulbs, taller perennials and grasses, mainly in yellow, blue, purple and white, and densely planted to minimise weeding and create a natural look using layering.
Some of the plants in the new border…
Planting list and playing around with ideas for the rest of the garden. Just a little more planting to go!
We invited people to the nursery on Sunday 10th May 2015 to learn about designing borders using Mediterranean plants. 55 people came along on a very hot day to do a tour of the Mediterranean display beds in the nursery’s garden and listen to a talk about our 3 basic designs which you’ll see below. We placed out the 3 designs on the ground, using the plants in their pots, and talked through the plants and why we’d chosen them for their different heights, forms, textures and colours; how to space them differently for instant or longer term effect; and adding additional interest.
All the drawings are by Imogen!
Some of the participants asked us to type up a summary of the design talk:
The ‘Low Growing Border’ is a ‘tapis vert’ or ‘couvre sol’ in French, i.e. a carpet of plants or a ground cover. It is a mixture of silver and green foliage using Origanum, Teucrium, Centaurea, Thymus, Artemesia and Achillea species which can knit together. Alternatively, planted further apart with gravel as a mulch, it would show the plants’ individual forms. Flowers provide purple, pink and white. For additional interest, this border can be interplanted with bulbs, smaller grasses and flowering perennials.
The ‘Medium to Large Border’ is an evergreen border for year-round structure. It’s a mixture of larger shrubs Cistus and Phlomis – spaced at least 1m apart, with the smaller Lavenders, Santolinas, Salvias, Hyssops and Helichrysum – mostly planted in 3s and spaced up to 75cm apart. The colour scheme is a base of green and grey with purple, pink, white and pale yellow flowering from Spring to late Autumn. For additional interest, add taller bulbs and flowering perennials.
The ‘Mixed Border’ is full of contrast and interest in height, texture, colour and form. It has a base of evergreen structure with extra blues, silvers, globe-shaped flowers and floating grasses. For additional interest and a longer flowering period, add bulbs and flowering perennials, or for a softer look, add different species of grasses throughout the border.
Hello from Caunes-Minervois where Imogen and I (Kate) have been planting 2 new demonstration areas at the specialist plant nursery, La petite pépinière http://www.lapetitepepiniere.com. 1. The Dry Shade Border In part-shade at the end of Gill’s stunning, long-flowering Salvia border, this area is a cool place to sit in the summer and listen to the birds and the stream running into the Argent Double river.
To start, we cut out a curved shape around the Cedar (Cedrus libani) and under the 2 Flowering Ash trees (Fraxinus ornus), removed the ‘lawn’ (mown weeds) and dug out the couch grass, oxalis and other weeds.
The following plants – some of which may not cope with the extreme weather here in the Languedoc – were then planted in puddles to keep them as moist as possible while they get established:
Actaea simplex ‘James Compton’
Geranium sanguineum ‘Alba’
Helleborus ‘Silver Frost’
Liriope muscari ‘Alba’
To preserve moisture and minimise weeding, we have covered the border with a deep layer of woodchips made from prunings cut from elsewhere in the garden.
We’ll keep you posted on how this border develops… 2. Mixed border for wildlife and people We are using this border to try out new design ideas for Mediterranean gardens. Already in this established demonstration garden is an ornamental grasses bed, a dry Mediterranean native bed, a Salvia bed, as well as different plant collections and tree avenues. This new area is a mixture: grasses and flowering perennials, with bulbs and succulents. We’ve kept the Ceanothus ‘Concha’ bush for height, have raked the soil to create different levels, and have mulched with river sand and stones.
With all the climbing up and down ladders to the river and barrowing the sand and stones, we haven’t finished this border yet! But we’re nearly there and it is being used by Redstarts and Robins already – they sit on the posts and rocks that are marking out the bulbs and smaller specimens at this early stage, and the robins are fighting over the territory. The plan is to attract insects and birds via the plants, using single flowers, different flower head forms, bright colours, high pollen, and leaving the seed heads over winter for food. Using bulbs will extend the flowering season too.
The plants we’re trialling in this border are: Grasses
Miscanthus ‘Dronning Ingrid’
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’
Broadiae ‘Queen Fabiola’
Tulipa ‘Little Beauty’
Coreopsis ‘Cutting Gold’
Eryngium ‘Silver Ghost’
Geranium ‘Rambling Robin’
Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’
Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’
Sedum ‘Black Beauty’
Sedum ‘Citrus Twist’
Sedum ‘El Cid’
Sedum ‘Joyce Henderson’
Sedum ‘Moonlight Serenade’
We’ll add more plants, e.g. different Agastaches and Echinops, which we’re growing from seed so are too small to plant out at the moment. We’ll post photos of these 2 borders as they develop. You can also see some of our planting combinations at www.facebook.com/jardinchampetre.
Some views of our experimental mixed border May to June…..
The last month has been a whirlwind of travel, gardening and shopping! After three months working in Italy I took a slight detour and headed to Cornwall before coming back to France. Kate and I have decided to settle here for a while and see if we can make a go of gardening in the Minervois. We also hope to start building a garden that reflects some of the ideas and the places that we’ve visited over the last year on our quest to learn more about water-wise gardening. This mixed in with our own style of planting which is usually quite wild, sustainable, natural and colourful, it should keep us occupied for a while!
My mission in Cornwall was to help a friend with a new border, to dig up and divide plants from her garden partly for the new border and partly to bring back to France to see if they can cope with the climate over here (hot, dry summers and cooler,wet winters) Also to collect seeds, bulbs and any other plants that might work here and of course to visit the odd garden for inspiration (and cake)
We love living among the trees here at Hanbury Botanical Gardens. Here are some photos of some of the many Citrus and Acacias, plus an Albizia. We’ve been eating the Citrus, not all of them taste sweet…, and helping the seed laboratory here to collect and clean the Acacia seeds. Happy Days!
This is a short post from Kate that has nothing to do with gardening, except that gardening has taken us along the south of France for 12 months, and I took these photos of old shops, fonts and door knockers along the way!
From left to right. I’ve taken many photos of outdoor laundry pools, ‘lavoirs’, and communal bathhouses, the latter being one of my favourite things about life in Japan.The only bathhouse we’ve seen that is still in use is for the homeless, next to the Montpellier botanical garden. The cinema in the above collage is now used for tai ji. The Pont du Gard is engraved by craftsmen who used it to advertise their name and tools. The tall stone is a road sign indicating the way to St. Hippolyte du Fort. The bridge is in here in memory of Suzanne Robinson, and the brick, like many old bricks and roof tiles, is engraved with the details of the company that manufactured it.
Hairdressers have all the best fonts…
Most of these lovely shops are still trading although we’ve seen quite a few converted into houses with the signs restored.
And possibly my favourite thing to photograph, door knockers of animals, women’s hands and lovely shapes. The town of Auch had the best ones by far.
And to sign off, some terrible showing off with my name in font!