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Are you gardening in France too?

I have a vertical rockface garden in the South of France and just wondered if anyone else faces the same problems that I have - a schisty soil, wet and windy winters (more rain that I get in England!) and then a good three months in summer of unrelenting heat and no rain at all.  As we are only there for around three months of the year the garden has to be able to look after itself and we can't run to having a gardener or watering system.

I would love to hear from others in this situation and how they cope with part-time gardening.


  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 8,194

    I have no experience of this type of gardening but is there stuff growing naturally which can be tamed to be a low maintenance natural garden?

    Do you have some photos so we can see what you are up against? image

    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 22,631

    I live in France too, but not the same situation. Dordogne, on a belt of limestone that runs through the middle of it from left to right. Means topsoil is thin, poor and alkaline. Last winter was very wet, but usually it's like England but colder. Summer gets into late 20s early 30s with rain sometimes and thunderstorms, but still have to water as it's not enough. I live here all year round so easier for me than for you.

    It can be hard finding plants that like hot and dry in summer and cold and wet, even snow in winter. Sorry I can't be of much help, the hardest thing for you is that you aren't there enough for the plants. But some plants  do survive without much care here, aubretia, yellow allysum, iberis (the perennial one) 

    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • image



     The first picture shows what we started off with in 2004 and the bottom one what we had achieved by 2014.  We soon realised that just clearing the area would not work as what little soil there was got washed to the bottom of the slope in the autumn rains..Since then we have terraced the slope to provide planting areas, incorporated homemade compost and planted by trial and error.  Sedums and sempervivums do well, verbascum, lavender, sage, valerian romps everywhere, iris and muscari, and a beautiful cyanara.

    We are quite proud of what we have achieved as the garden at various levels is a joy to be in and gives beautiful view up the valley to the mountains.

  • Given you are talking about a vertical rock face, I guess it's the summer heat rather than the winter wet that will be the real problem. Like Topbird, I would suggest you look at what grows locally in similar condiions and then look for cultivated varieties of the same things. I would think succulents like sedums would cope, maybe lewisias, if sheltered by the rocks or cistus if you can manage to give it both drainage and soil to grow in. Where I live it is cold and wet in winter, though rarely anything like as hot in summer, and I've had no problems with sedums and sempervivums rotting off and had lewisias last for years, if sheltered from the worst of the wet. Jury's still out on whether cistus will survive the winter! But it is quite likely that plants where you are will naturally flower relatively early while there is still some ground water and then die back in the hottest part of the year, unless artificially maintained. If so, maybe you could change the time you visit?!

  • That's very pretty,GG.....Sedums would certainly do well,especially the Dark Knight variety planted beside silver leaved plants.....

  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 8,194

    Well GG - I think you should just keep doing more of the same - that is a lovely garden you've got going there in difficult terrain and climate. Well done you!  image


    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • Thank you Topbird, what a nice comment.

    I was really hoping that there might be somebody in the South of France to share ideas with.  As you may imagine I have done a lot of research, asked a lot of people, visited a couple of nurseries that deal in plants that would survive naturally in this terrain, and persevered.

    Within our village I am known as "the lady with the garden" - as I mentioned before the really keen gardeners have watering systems, and the old guys have wonderful pottagers - but all are able to water regularly in the summer.

  • floraliesfloralies Posts: 2,518

    Hi GG, I am also in France down near the Pyrenees. We all have different soils to contend with depending on where we are. We have thick clay which is a bog in winter and bone dry and hard in summer, and luckily have a farming neighbour who gives us all the cow manure that we need. I totally agree with all the other posts, just keep on doing more of the same your garden looks really good.

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