Posts Tagged ‘French gardens to visit’

Jardins des Sericourt

Although my blogging has been rather minimal this year, I have quietly visited a few corking gardens and nurseries that I couldn’t resist writing about. My previous post noted the merits of Les Jardins Agapanthe just north of Rouen, and above are Les Jardins de Sericourt, roughly halfway between Calais and Amiens, also in northern France.

Topiary 3 at Jardins de SericourtI must say that I didn’t find the gardens as a whole as satisfying as the exceptional Jardins Agapanthe, but this magical topiary walk really took my breath away and justified the trip.

Topiary walk at Jardins des Sericourt

I do seem to be developing a penchant for evergreens. Does this come with age? I think so. I’m not going to be throwing out my lush perennials, but I find that a fine bit of topiary increasingly gives pleasure and I’m (finally) starting to really understand the merits of year round structure, even in smaller gardens, where space is always fiercely fought over. And some evergreens, such as Myrtle, Sarcococcas, Pittosporums and Skimmias will also give you scent and berries.

Chilean Guava wholeThis Chilean Guava is such an evergreen shrub (part of the Myrtle family I think) and was covered in the most moreish deep red berries at Edulis Nursery in Pangbourne (near Reading). Wouldn’t this be great for an edible hedge?

Chilean Guava berries

It needs neutral to acid soil, and a sunny sheltered spot, although it should tolerate temperatures to about -10. There’s also a rather attractive variegated variety and one of these might be featuring in a client’s garden (or two) as well as my own next year.

Szechuan Peppers square

Edulis is a wonderfully exciting nursery to visit, with so many unusual edible plants to tempt you. I also came away with a few fantastic varieties of chives (edible flowers, stems, and roots), some which will grow in shady areas and others that have gorgeous flowers in September and October and all the way through to December.  The Szechuan Pepper tree (above) is also on my list for when I get that extra half an acre.

Niwaki Ladder by elephants

Next on my favourite things list is this great Niwaki ladder which I’ve been lusting after for years. I’m absolutely delighted with it. I’m not great with heights, but I feel safe and secure working from it and it’s light and easy to carry around. What more could you want? Different heights? It comes in quite a few. Alas, more temptation!

Gravetye ManorAnd I finally got to visit Gravetye Manor in July for a spot of lunch and a good wander around the gardens, which are now under the very capable hands of Tom Coward, formerly Fergus Garrett’s deputy at Great Dixter. One needs to be a resident or lunching to visit the gardens, but there are some talks and tours in the gardens this year (see below in comments). Not a cheap option, but worth the visit.

Garvetye flower border

The deep borders were soft and romantic,

Romantic borders at Gravetye Manor

packed full of summer colour and very uplifting.

Walled veg garden at Gravetye ManorHowever, the main draw for me was the enormous 2 acre oval-shaped walled veg garden (walled garden envy alert!).

Trained fruit trees at Gravetye Manor

All the beds were immaculately maintained, with trained fruit trees dotted along the walls,

Stepover apples at Gravetye Manor

as well as step-overs edging some of the beds.

Garvetye walled garden flowers

And there was a great hum of insects from the flowers that were generously planted along the margins of the beds.

Picking gooseberries at Gravetye Manor

It’s great to see varied growing techniques in different gardens and I found these Hinnomaki Red Gooseberries, trained as cordons, very inspiring. A lot easier to harvest than from a bush, these upright fruits would be wonderful to grow in tight urban spaces and I’ve already ordered a few to experiment with in my own garden.

Siew Lee's front garen July 2015So onwards for 2016. I’m looking forward to visiting lots more exciting gardens. Above and below are the delightful airily planted gardens of Siew Lee Vorley, another Great Dixter gardener with an abundance of vision.Siew Lee's back garden 2 July 2015

Her gardens are packed full of artful plant combinations, (Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Lavendelturm’ above from Marchants Hardy Plants, flanked by the annual, Larkspur ‘Sublime Lilac’)

Siew Lee's back garen July 2015 with truly gorgeous colours and textures. This delicate Kniphofia ‘Rufa’ (above), is a non edible plant from Edulis. They do flowers too!

Siew Lee in her garden 2Siew Lee’s garden is in Brightling, East Sussex, a hop skip and a jump from Sarah Raven’s flower picking patch, and if you’d like to visit her gardens this year, you can contact her at slvorley@googlemail.com.

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Jardins Agapanthe alliumsI was completely wowed by Les Jardins Agapanthe at the beginning of June this year. Above are glorious groupings of Allium Globemaster and as the bulb planting season is (just about) still with us, I’m borrowing this idea and have ‘Globemaster’ bulbs waiting to be planted as I type.

Jardins Agapanthe alliums 2

The first thing that really hits you is that all of the gardens are mulched with an light-coloured river sand which gives you the impression that you’re not far from the beach in the South of France, (when you’re actually in Normandy, a little north of Rouen). Très Mediterranean.

Allium cemtary 3 at Jardins Agapanthe

This area looked great from every angle, and seemed like an homage to the first world war cemeteries. Magnificent!

Paving 2 at Jardins Agapanthe

As you follow the twists and turns of the pathways, through gigantic exotic plantings to more intimate shady settings, it felt like taking a masterclass in garden design. It’s ‘Jardins’ in the plural by the way, as there are 2 different gardens, created by garden designer Alexandre Thomas, surrounding two houses, with a small road dividing them. Each garden is artfully divided into a number of smaller gardens, almost like different stage sets and I absolutely loved the drama and theatricality of it all. If you’re ever in Normandy, make sure you visit!

Miscanthus+Persicaria orientalis+Asters+Calmagrostis brachytricha at Jardin Plume september 2011

P.s. And you could also visit Le Jardin Plume (above).

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Trained Ivy at Prieure D'OrsanSomehow after our summer holiday I just didn’t get to writing about Prieuré D’Orsan, but you may well have caught a glimpse of this gorgeous boutique hotel/garden (in Central France) on Monty’s visit for the BBC earlier this year.

This image just hasn’t left my head though, and I’ve been wondering if my wayward Solanum (scrambling up the back of the house) would take to being trained in a similar fashion. Probably not, probably a bit too loose and gangly (even if I could make it up the ladder to trim it). But I’d love to have a go at repeating the almost 2D simplicity of this heart-somewhere!Quince tree and chair at Prieure D'OrsanThere’s so much fantastic training and shaping going on at Prieuré D’Orsan. Nature has been constricted, controlled and cajoled, creating a myriad of desirable sculptural forms, whilst still providing an abundance of fruit. Quite remarkable, especially as this garden was a blank canvas only 20 years ago.

I thought I was getting a bit fancy with my attempt at training a quince tree into a fan shape, but this amazing specimen has been trained as a calming retreat over a woven chair. How bloomin’ delightful is that!

Quince chair at Prieure D'OrsanHere’s a side view, with more evidence of  fruit actually being produced, ready to be plucked after a nice shady sit-down.

Roses trained around small frame at Prieure D'OrsanVisiting later in the year meant that I didn’t get to see most of the roses in flower, but I did see plenty of ideas to take away with me.

Roses trained around large square frame at Prieure D'OrsanWhatever the structure, roses are twirled and twisted and this is certainly a way of training that I plan to experiment more with next year.

Ramblin rose 'Seagull' trained at Prieure D'OrsanThis ‘Seagull’ rose is a fairly rampant rambler, reaching up to 20ft high if left to its own devices,

Rambling rose 'Seagull' trained at Prieure D'Orsan

but curling and crossing stems should supply masses of flowers within this tightly contained framework. All very labour intensive, but what a labour of love (and devotion!). I was watching Carol Klein’s cottage garden episode on the Great British Garden Revival last night (you can catch up with it here), and I must admit to being a complete sucker for loose edges and flowing ebullient borders. Compared to such gentle cottagey planting,  there’s a severity to this garden (with more than a nod to its monastic past) that made me wander round in a respectful hush and a contemplative mood.

Playful supports for veg at Prieure D'Orsan

However, the supports and sculptural additions to the garden are bold and strangely playful and rather uplifting in their simple restraint.

Flower meadow at Priuere D'Orsan

Having said all that, there was a mini (well not that mini!) meadow tucked around the back behind the hotel, bringing in essential pollinators and a refreshing splash of colour.

Veg and flowers at Prieure D'OrsanThe veg patch was, not surprisingly, well-ordered and contained too,

Chunky veg beds at at Prieure D'Orsan

 and I couldn’t help admire the chunky beds and generous supports, packed full of glossy healthy veg.

Frames for roses at Prieure D'OrsanOn the way out, you can pick up your own beautifully crafted rose supports,

Trained apples and vines at Prieure D'Orsanand admire yet more trained fruit trees,vines

Bird box in trained vine at Prieure D'Orsanand even the odd invitation to nature. Prieuré D’Orsan-I’ll be back!

P.S. I couldn’t resist adding some of the gorgeous seats dotted around the garden too.

Chair woven arpound tree at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 2 at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 4 at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair unde apple tree at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 1 at Prieure D'Orsan

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