Friday, 9 January 2015

Thoughts turn to the garden

Our Virginia I left it in late October.

When I left France at the end of October I had plans to organise a garden book. It was to hold photos and drawings of various parts of the garden , with my plans for how each area would be developed.
I was inspired to undertake this project ( as well as the actual proposed garden developments to be documented in the book) whilst attending a gardening course held at La Petite Pepiniere in Caunes just before I headed back to the UK for the winter.

La Petite Pepiniere is a magical specialist garden/nursery  owned by Gill Pound in Caunes.)

( Gill's web site is ) and shows what a fabulous place it is.

Gill, during one of our classroom sessions.
The course, was a 2 day event, run by Gill, and concentrated on gardening in a Mediterranean climate.
Much of the course was spent walking around the garden at la Petite Pepiniere, with Gill, showing us examples of the successful planting she has undertaken in her Caunes garden.
I learned so much. I learned that the less than 3% of the world’s surface which can be categorised as having a Mediterranean climate ( areas surrounding the med ...surprise surprise, California, Chile, S Africa and SW Australia) produce 16% of the world’s plants.

Our bit of the world does suffer from extremes though....heat, drought, wild winds, cold winters, snow, hail, frost and difficult soils. It seems miraculous that anything grows and survives at all. One of the things I learned from Gill was about how plants have  evolved and adapted to their environment......and as the climate has only been like it is now for 3 million years, many plants are still evolving . So...things in the garden are basically unpredictable.

Our garden in Caunes is beautiful.....but difficult.

The pine forest behind the big oak....a cypress, and some prickly pears hiding behind the ivy and virginia creeper.

We have terracing, virtual rock, rather than soil in some parts, evergreens, conifers, a few broadleaf plants and trees, bulbs, ( hundreds of wild irises) orchids, native garrigue shrubs, vines, and my annual attempts at vegetables in the potager.

beyond the potager.....the start of a playground area....see-saw and sand pit planned for next year....the grandchildren want a slide and a climbing frame as well......mmmm, we'll have to see.
We have almond trees, a wide variety of oak trees, green fig trees, a gorgeous purple fig tree, olive trees of various ages and sizes and a couple of small apple trees which fruited for the first time last summer and newly planted cherry trees which have yet to crop.

We have enormous succulents, aloe veras  to die for, a rather pathetic looking palm that replaced the huge 25 year old one that was killed off by the 2 weeks of snow and freezing temperatures in the winter of 2011, rose bushes, lavender and large rosemary hedges throughout the garden.

Some of the succulents

When we first arrived in Caunes, we asked Gill to come up to the house and walk around the garden with us, telling us what we had, and advising us on what we should do with it all.
Her advice was to live with it, watch it, see what happened with each season and gradually develop sections at a time, as we worked out how the land surrounding our new home could work best for us.

We determined that some of the huge fir trees surrounding the pool should be removed.
 Doing so enabled other plants to grow in their place, removed the huge shade area from the pool, and gave us fabulous views over the village.

We kept many of the cypress trees as well as the most beautiful of the some architectural structure to the pool surround.
We cut back and then removed the prickly pears that bordered pathways, enabling us...and visiting grandchildren to walk through the garden without being impaled.

We removed some of the wild iris bulbs....they bloom when we are not in Caunes, and leave untidy browning foliage for the rest of the year....this is great in the parts of the garden we have left “wild”...but in front of the house, we replaced them with some native salvias which bloom all summer and provide a gorgeous backdrop to sitting on the terrace, sipping the odd glass of wine.

My garden book project has not even been started yet....just as my planned blog about the wonderful gardening course run by Gill has not yet emerged. My last blog....a month ago, was mainly about my inability to get things done, and things don’t seem to have improved. So I thought I would make a start and include a little about Gill and her beautiful garden, her brilliant gardening courses, and get my mind working on thinking about the garden in Caunes.

It is good to think that already the days are getting longer.....and spring isn't too far away. Although we wont be going back to Caunes for our next 6 month stay until May, we are popping over to do some pruning during the first couple of weeks in March......not long now.

Anyway....for Christmas, I received an excellent gift from, not some amazing piece of jewellery, but a Bosch garden shredder. Mulching will begin as a major operation, when I get back to Caunes and start shredding all my prunings. 


  1. What an uplifting post this was to read on a very, VERY cold day here on the Cutoff, Janice. You have already done much in Caunes garden, and how it is to dream of more. You will make good use out of the shredder. We could use one here.

    I like your idea of a garden book (though I suspect my own blog serves that purpose, for all the times I go back to look at what we did in past years). Best wishes, Janice. :)

    1. My plan is now to begin the garden book when I return to Caunes ! The idea of it being a project to be undertaken here in England, just hasn't worked...there is always too much else to do ! take care in those low low temperatures Penny.

  2. Thank you for the tour of your most wonderful garden in Caunes, Janice. It is all lovely - but how does it survive when you return to the UK? The garden and the climate must be just right for each other. The gardening course sounds fantastic - I have never come across one, but I know I would enjoy it too. Happy New year and all the best for 2015. xxx

    1. Part of what is lovely about our land in Caunes, is that much of it can be just left to be seems to cope well without us ! We "tame" bits of it, and if we take Gill's advice, we tame it, bearing in mind the way indigenous plants have adapted to the drought/ heat/ wind/ cold variations in the climate. It has been delightful starting to understand how these magical plants have adapted to this fascinating environment. Happy New Year to you.. ...very fondest wishes Jx

  3. What a wonderful gift Mark gave you! Your garden in Caunes is so so lovely...such a diversity of environments on the one property...magnificent!

    1. Hope all is well Maria..... I've been thinking about you both a lot. Hugs. xxx

  4. Lovely garden, thanks for the tour, must be hard getting the happy balance for the times when you are not there. Appreciate the child friendly thoughts, some of those succulents can be quite vicious. Having our first grandchild we too are thinking every hard about the planting to use in our new beds. I'm sure your new present will come into its own xcx

    1. Even the glorious aloe veras, with their calming balm are pretty damaging, if the end of one of those huge "leaves" catches a, we had to think very carefully about where to allow them to remain in the garden.
      I must admit, I am really looking forward to doing some shredding and mulching !

  5. Gorgeous! Your garden is like me - I'm GREEN (with envy!)

  6. I echo Nilly's feelings exactly! It's lovely to see your garden and hear about your plans, it looks a wonderful place. I use my blog as a sort of garden book; it's reassuring to look back to summer images in the depths of winter! As for your pool!!!!
    Have fun with the shredder. If you get the mulch on the ground in spring, preferably after a good soaking of rain, it should keep your plants happy throughout the summer. I use it thickly in my borders as a weed suppressant.

    1. I am very excited about the shredder and hope it will help improve the quality of the soil over time, and in the meantime, provide good protection for plants during those drought months. yes, SmG...the pool is the icing on the cake ! Jx

  7. What a wonderful garden! I love the advice given by Gill to live with the garden first before making major decisions.

    If you wanted a mulcher then Mark has proved himself to be an attentive and generous husband. On the other hand... ;o)

    Good luck with the mulching xx

  8. When I was looking at the photos of your garden, before Gill said you should live with it, I was actually thinking how beautiful it is and I wouldn't really want to change much at all. It's absolutely lovely Janice and your summer stays there must be an absolute joy xx

    1. It is great that we can just leave huge swathes of it to be as wild as it likes..but it has also been good fun to develop bits of it, as and when the fancy has taken us! no need for back breaking garden work in the heat of the summer ! Jx

  9. Gosh, what a huge garden you have Janice! It's a good thing you can allow so much of it to look after itself with such satisfying results. Gill's excellent advice is just what I'm doing with the garden in the new house - letting it go through the round of seasons and seeing what emerges, before making plans for how I want to develop it. I look forward to lots more posts about your garden adventures. :-)