An English Country Garden – in France

Peek through the chain link fence.  There – an expanse of grass.  Perhaps two or three trees, organised in a line or some geometric shape.  Over in the corner, a vegetable patch.  If you’re lucky, there may be a bed of flowers near the house or down at the end there.  That’s the standard garden in our corner of France, even though you’ll find plenty of gorgeous gardens too, in hidden corners.

A garden down the road
A garden down the road

So different from its typical English cousin.  Herbaceous borders in the gardens of stately homes and the average garden of the average semi all owe something to the informal planting and glorious mixed colours of the traditional cottage garden.

Gill and Ken, English friends of ours, have created a wonderful outdoor area around their French home, full of year-round interest with an always-changing canvas of flowers and shrubs . Last Saturday they invited the members of the French gardening group they belong to, Graines des Jardiniers, to look around.  Gill (whose garden this really is – Ken is her labourer and gopher) was to have her Chelsea Flower Show moment.

It was one of those grim days we’ve become accustomed to this year: moments of driving rain and whirling gusty winds alternated with sunny intervals.  Chilly too, and their guests turned up in winter coats with fur-trimmed hoods.  But enthusiasm for the pleasure of sauntering round the garden soon took over.  Winding gravelled paths encouraged exploration.  Flowers everywhere filled irregular-sized beds and scrambled up hilly banks and round convenient tree trunks.  There were seats under pergolas and arbours, on which you could rest whilst admiring the garden itself and the hilly countryside beyond: a pond to discover too.

And for her French guests, Gill had laid on a proper English afternoon tea.  Scones with butter and jam (no clotted cream though), rock cakes, ginger cakes, drenched lemon cake and date loaf, all washed down with a ‘nice cup of tea’.

The group, whose members must have gardens very different from the French stereotype,  had come with plants to swap and ideas to share.  They were keen on Gill’s garden.  We were keen on them.  We think , like Gill and Ken, that this is a group we’d like to join.

12 thoughts on “An English Country Garden – in France”

  1. To all garden lovers : next week-end is ” Rendez-vous aux jardins ” in Midi-Pyrénées. You can get the brochure from tourist offices. In Ariège, there are about twelve different places to visit either on the Saturday, or on the Sunday, or both ! I wish us all a glorious weather …

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    1. Oooh! Thank you! We have a very busy weekend planned, but we’ll do our best to get some gardens visited too. The weather might be more difficult to organise however….

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  2. Enjoyed reading that, Margaret! Could do with a slice of lemon drizzle cake amongst the flowers myself. It also got me thinking how French parks are so different to English ones, all that gravel and formal beds, never quite got over them.

    Oh, and coming over here and logging in to leave you a message alerted me to an old blog that I sent up in 2009 – I think you will link to it. Kind of lovely, such a suprise, had forgotten all about it. Think I will go back to writing it!! 🙂

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    1. Well, do, and then send me a link. I can’t get beyond your gravatar. And recently I’ve come across a couple of really quite green and pleasant parks here in France: just trying to think where. But what wouldn’t be green at the moment? Will there EVER be a rain-free day?

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  3. ……………always appreciate so much English gardens, you are so talented to create paradise out of a piece of green land – ordered a beautiful English garden book, shall send you the title when I’ve got it – wishing us all more sunshine and less wind! xxx AnnA

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    1. Rock cakes. I didn’t make those. They remind me too much of my very second cookery lesson at Grammar School. Our first one we had to learn how to scrub a deal kitchen table. Honestly, I don’t feel THAT old.

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  4. I really admire people who have such vision and commitment to create such beautiful spaces. I’ve rather lost my gardening mojo but after seeing those photos…Oh! and my grammar school had decidly dodgy cookery lessons, my rock cakes looked more like flagstones as far as I remember!

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    1. You have no idea just what Gill has created. It was a nice enough garden before, but shes utterly transformed it. Such hard work. Rock cakes? Yep, flagstones works for me.

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