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New garden in France

I've valiantly endeavoured to post this in the thread on 'Garden Projects' and I thought I'd try a new post. I now own (though cannot visit) a new garden in France, fairly south but still dropping sometimes to freezing in winter. There are three parts--an enclosed courtyard, with high walls and some mature trees but little else (photo 1); a sloping section with almost nothing except Trachycarpus fortunei and two ugly hedges of Lonicera nitida (photo 3); and then a fairly large, empty meadow with a mature ash tree at one side (photo 2).

I'm thinking of making the meadow manageable (for me) by adding a selection of interesting trees and shrubs. For the sloping bit I want to dig out the hedges plus bits of self-seeded elder and bramble, repair the boundaries, and then have a subtropical garden with shallow steps. In the courtyard, as space allows, I only want a few things, but I might add a pond of sorts. There is a fairly mature, single, pollarded lime there which I will have to decide about--it looks odd on its own, but it does provide some shade.

There isn't really a question in all of this, apart from the fact that it's all question, as in 'where to start'. By the time I move there I should have a reasonable budget to play with. But I'm only one person and it's a lot of garden...

One area I am wrestling with is that on the left-hand side of the sloping garden (not shown here) there are places where you can see a car park over the boundary. Thoughts, or experiences, would be very very welcome. Thank you. I have better photos but their format does not seem compatible with the uploading function.


  • nick615nick615 SW IrelandPosts: 1,245

    Cambridgerose12   Bon chance, Madame.  I'm not expert enough to provide you with a comprehensive screed of advice, but would offer one stop gap measure to give you a breathing space while you attack the rest.  I'm hoping you don't have a dog because the meadow looks to be good quality and can be kept in order quite easily if someone local has half a dozen sheep to graze it.  If you do have a dog, perhaps a pony or donkey?

    My only other caveat will be to suggest you explore whether or not there is any sort of natural water source on the property to feed the pond.  A southern location will probably have insufficient rainfall to maintain one, hence some sort of alternative supply.

    Mowing grass is a time consuming chore but, without it, at least initially, you can deal with the rest bit by bit until you've got it as you want it.

  • No dog on the premises, so sheep are a possibility! Thanks for this suggestion. It’s actually a beautiful bit of meadow—there’s Cardamine pratensis in there (alluvial soil) which I’d like to keep. 

    The water for the pond shouldn’t pose a problem, I can build it adjacent to a piped water supply in the courtyard, as a formal pool of some kind. I’m not yet certain I want to do that, but there’s loads of time to decide. A lot of material will have to be removed before anything new goes in.
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 20,409
    At least the grass looks nice and lush! We've had a lot of rain here in Dordogne, all over the South West in fact.

    I have just moved house in France and my new garden is quite big by English standards and rather empty, although there are trees and a big vegetable garden. It's too wet to do anything much at the moment but at least there is a fence and a picket gate to the fruit beds that I can put flower beds in front of.  I'm planning on pink roses, daughter gave me some for Christmas, and blue flowers that are happy with summer heat, like lavender, salvias, perovskia, caryopteris. I'm also thinking of some flowering shrubs and herbs like thyme, sage and rosemary.

    I hope you manage to get to your house soon.

    Here is my garden.

    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • That looks lovely, @Busy-Lizzie! Full of potential. It seems to get quite hot in the summers as well where my house is. I saw olive trees in a few gardens. These photos are from last March actually—the ones I have from August, my last trip, wouldn’t load. I’m really looking forward to planting some interesting shrubs, as I’ve never had enough room to do much with those. I also hope to have some roses and an area I can edge with lavender. Do keep us posted as things develop in your garden-I’d love to see it!
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 20,409
    OK and I'd love to see your garden progress too.
    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • D0rdogne_DamselD0rdogne_Damsel Saint Yrieix La Perche, Haute Vienne/Dordogne border. FrancePosts: 3,952
    Congratulations @Cambridgerose12 on your new house and your chance of a new life in France.
    I have been in France 7 years now and love the garden here, so much bigger than any garden I had in England so as you say so much more potential to grow interesting plants. 

    One noticeable difference to gardening here I have found is just how fast and how large everything grows, I am in the Dordogne so very warm summers and also generally a short, if very cold winter, so obviously a longer growing season. Of course this is great for the flowers, but be warned the same thing goes for the weeds too, they also grow stronger, faster and bigger than I have ever seen in the UK. 

    I love gardening but it really is a full time job keeping on top of it which if you are not careful becomes a chore rather than a pleasure. Just something to think about when planning your new space. 

    All very exciting for you though, do keep posting when you get a chance. :)
    "To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul." — Alfred Austin
  • Thanks, @D0rdogne_Damsel! I began to realise the effect of climatic difference when I visited, because I also looked at another property nearby, and the owners had planted Acanthus mollis and a bamboo in the garden. The first of these had spread until it occupied an entire low-lying area about 100m2. To the right of that, stretching as far as the eye could see, was a forest of bamboo... pandas would be very happy, I’m sure! So it’ll be trial and error. It’s very interesting seeing the many comments from other people with French gardens on this forum, including yourself.
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