English tourists when visiting France are often surprised at how nice the French maintain their gardens (front and back yards for you Americans). Perhaps the Brits assume only England is home to the tres jolie jardin. Not so, my friends. One of the most beautiful gardens in and around our village of Libaros happens to be at the home of our friend, Dominique. Her garden rivals that of any I’ve seen on any continent. It’s simply stunning! Especially true at this time of the year, when the garden is a blaze of colour, with dozens of rare and old-fashioned varieties of roses, iris, lilies, peonies, freesia, gladioli and more.
Dominique considers herself a “lazy” gardener. Meaning, she says she won’t plant anything which requires a lot of work on her part. So far, lazy seems to be working. But, I think the real secret to her garden is that Do is always planting something new. Often, these new plants will have been brought back from lands far and wide… Morocco, Mexico, England, Ireland. Spain, or simply a plant she spottted driving along the side of the road.
Recently during my in-laws visit we had the good fortune to be able to spend the day enjoying Dominique’s garden and pool area. Also as Dominique was away on holiday visiting her daughter in Mexico, I’d been put in charge of garden and pool maintenance. It’s not really a chore. The beauty of the garden with its backdrop of stunning mountain vistas and valley farmlands is totally calming and peaceful. A kind of serenity comes over me, even whilst weeding the flowers beds, cutting the grass and hoovering la piscine.
With no sightseeing plans of their own, we decided to make a day of it with Penny and Stuart, taking along a picnic and bar-b-que essentials. But before “play” we had to do a bit of work. After nearly 2 weeks of rain both the garden and pool looked like a swampy jungle.
However, with the Lewis man & womanpower on hand, all was soon back in tidy order. Soon thereafter, both Penny and Stuart were able to relax. Here’s Penny swinging away….
When it comes to gardening, I’m fairly ignorant. Oh how I wish I’d paid more attention when my grandmother, or bio-mother, aunts, and mothers of close friends dragged me around their gardens when a child and teenager. However, back then (and let’s face it even now) my attention span was and is typically short.
But now with “The Folly Garden” as my BIG new project, I feel extremely fortunate to have friends and family who are blessed with extra green thumbs and a wealth of plant knowledge.
Before leaving on les vacances, Dominique suggested that I take photos of all the flowering plants in her garden that I liked. This is a great idea, giving me a good idea of what plants grow well in our mountain valley. This is also very clever thinking, because typically I’d be tempted in my ignorance to plant what I grew up with, like azaleas, camellias and the like. All of which apparently do not grow well in our soil and climate.
Dominique’s plan is to label all the plants on the photos with the names of each plant. I’ll add these to the garden landscape drawing. Meanwhile, Dominique will then take cuttings or collect seeds which she’ll provide for our garden this summer or next year.
The ability to propagate plants on your own has got to be one of nature’s greatest gifts. No need to spend a fortune at the garden center when you have friends and neighbours with gardens bursting with a stunning array of plants, shrubs and even trees. To which point, Dominique must have swiped at least a dozen baby palm and other trees from The Folly’s wall garden. I had not a clue what was growing in the masses of greenery, but real gardeners have a keen eye!
Meanwhile, my job is to prepare the garden beds at The Folly this summer. This is proving frustrating as we can do nothing to the gardens until after our digger/landscape builder finishes his work in all the grounds. No point planting anything if it will only get dug up by a 6 ton JCB digger! Have you seen those huge machines in action? Talk about mass destruction!
Hopefully, by the end of the year we will have the makings of a garden which in a few years will equal Dominique’s tres beau jardin.