Garden News - September 2018

September is the last chance this year to see most jardins in the Open Gardens scheme, writes Jane Hanks

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There will be gardens open every weekend throughout France in September as part of the Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts scheme which encourages gardeners of all nationalities to open up their gardens, big and small to the public, to raise funds for charity.

It is the last chance this year to benefit from a large number of open gardens, as in October there is just one open in the Lot-et-Garonne on the first two Saturdays. Visitors buy a €10 membership card which gives them access to any of the gardens for one year (valid Jan-Dec) or pay €5 for a Day Pass which allows access to any of the gardens on the day of purchase.

There is also the Anniversary card, which costs €35 and gives access to privately owned gardens as well as a growing list of prestigious French gardens, which usually charge an entrance fee but are offering Open Garden members free entry with the card.

This is the association’s sixth year. It began when four British gardeners in the Creuse decided to open their gardens to see if they could raise money for charity, and the idea quickly caught on. President Mick Moat is thrilled that 40% of gardens are French owned, meaning it does not remain a purely British initiative.

In 2018, Open Gardens aims to have 200 gardens in 33 departments. Last year they were able to hand over €23,500 to eleven chosen French charities.

Open in September

10, Alléé de Désiré, Estillac, Lot-et-Garonne; Owner: Marie-Claire Guérin and Ove Pollas

Marie-Clare Guérin describes her garden as personal and amusing, with an eclectic mixture of plants. She has been working on the 5,000m² plot for more than thirty years and has added several varieties of trees during that time.

Every year she buys a Christmas tree with roots and then plants it outside so there are now 34, from 50cm in height to 7m. “I love all plants and though I don’t have any collections I do have unusual plants which you won’t see elsewhere,” she says. “One is a Dahlia Imperialis which grows to a height of 4m before flowering in late October, and a Cyclanthera pedata or climbing cucumber as it also called. There are also different kinds of cactuses, a vegetable garden, fruit trees and a small green house all in a great mix!”

Her garden is open for six Saturdays in a row from September 8 to October 13 but she says she would welcome Open Garden visitors at any other time in that period as long as they telephone first to make sure she will be in on 05 53 67 20 15. It is the only Open Garden for October.

Open: September 8, 15, 22, 29 October 6, 13

La Bayette, La Dorée, Mayenne; Owners: Paul and Shirley Edwards (main picture)

The couple have spent the last ten years transforming an area that was originally pastureland into a garden rich with variety and unusual planting.

Shirley Edwards said that they have created different areas of interest for colour, scent and wildlife throughout the year. There is a herb garden, an ornamental fruit and vegetable garden, a flower garden, topiary, autumn and winter borders, an area with a small pond, an orchard with apples, cherries, plums, quince, a walnut and a mulberry tree, an arboretum and the latest project is an exotic garden.

Every year they add more trees to the arboretum. “We have a Paulownia tree and several Snake Back Maples and though they are still young you can see their distinctive beautiful striped bark. Our latest addition is a Kentucky Coffee Bean Tree. We are permanently on the look out for new plants and every year we go to the International Garden Festival at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire.”

Mrs Edwards says they thoroughly enjoy creating their garden. “It has been fun. In the UK we had a clay soil and here we have a sandy loam so we have had to adapt. At first there were cows everywhere and little by little, with the agreement of the farmer, we have taken back what is our land so that now all of it has been turned into a garden.”

In September there will be asters and cosmos in flower and a number of grasses which will be at their best. There are seats around the garden which offer a moment to pause and enjoy the plants.

Open: September 9 10-18.00

Two gardens are open 6kms apart in the Dordogne on the same date making it easy to visit both.

The first is:

Les Tachats, Hautefort, Dordogne; Owners: Sheila and Kevin Weedon

Sheila and Kevin Weedon have what they describe as “a garden of gardens” which they have created from what was a 7,000m² field ten years ago, in a picturesque valley, overlooked by Château de Hautefort.

The themed gardens include English cottage, a French white formal, ornamental potager, rose arbour, Italian Tuscan, a formal lily pond, wild flower beds and English long borders. There is also a wide range of shrubs, trees and perennials.

In September Mrs Weedon says the long dahlia bed will give a lovely flash of colour.

Open: September 2 10-18.00

The second is:

Les Puits de La Longe, Badefols-d’Ans, Dordogne; Owner: Sheila Hakim

This garden is surrounded by walnut groves and is situated on top of a hill, overlooking the magnificent countryside.

Sheila Hakim says when she arrived five years ago there was nothing in the garden: “I have created a type of cottage garden without using any pesticides. Our local gardening club has been a great help and some of my plants come from its plant trocs.”

She has spring bulbs, perennials, roses and fruit trees. “In September there should still be roses in flower as well as salvias and penstemon with other perennials in the background.”

Open: September 2 10-17.00