When we lived in England we gardened. We didn’t think about labelling our garden but planted the plants we liked and what we knew would work.
When we arrived in France we had no garden but a field that had been grazed by cows for years. Our neighbouring farmer fenced off where our boundary is so that his cows could no longer eat our grass. It then took us two years to garden a little bit of our land, starting with vegetables. I wasn’t very good at vegetables, only realising too late that I had mistaken many of the seedlings for weeds and yanked them out! At that time we sowed direct into the ground as we had no polytunnel and the house was a mess.
Once our garden started to take shape and we set up our nursery (http://www.penstemonsandherbs.com) we started to have visitors here at the farm. I say farm because that is what our french friends and neighbours and the MSA class us as, but to us it is a garden.
We participated in Ferme en Ferme (http://www.defermeenferme.com/regions.php) which takes place nationally in France and is the last weekend of April each year. This organisation encourages farms to open their doors to the public and show them how they go about their business. It includes how farms work, the systems in place, the economy and impact on the environment. This was a great challenge for us as our french was not sufficient to talk freely but we managed with a lot of help from the organisation and friends. These weekends were very successful on different levels. We had hundreds of people come round and talk to us, all of them french and so it was great for learning more of the french lingo. It was great for sales too with many of those people becoming regular clients and friends. It helped us showcase what was then a new enterprise.
The main question that our french friends ask is “how do we make an English garden”. It baffles me somewhat as most of the plants we grow are native to the United States and the Mediterranean. Do they mean the way the plants are planted, the amount of flowers and plants we have, the varieties of plants that we grow or the layout of the garden?
My observations of gardens in our area of France are that the French love their potager, dahlias, hydrangea and, of course, the colourful geraniums. Grasses such as pampas are also very prominent. Well we now have a potager, more successful I might add than our first all those years ago and some grasses - does that now make us a “frrench garden”?
We are passionate about our gardens like most other garden lovers and be it “french” or “english” we love them for what they are and how they constantly develope and mature. We hope you also enjoy our gardens and watch them grow!