Gardening in Charente-Maritime

Caroline and Christina in their garden

Caroline and Christina in their garden - Credit: Archant

British expats tell us about transforming their garden in Charente-Maritime and share some tips for other gardeners in the area

Caroline and Christina's garden

Caroline and Christina's garden - Credit: Archant

Brits Caroline Thistlewaite and Christina Tooley moved from Southampton to Charente-Maritime 11 years ago, where they now run a gîte. They worked hard to transform their garden and share their advice on their blog.

What was the garden like when you first arrived?

To our English eyes, it was quite boring. The house had been a maison secondaire, so gardening was kept to a minimum. There were a couple of mature ash trees which we contemplated cutting down (thank goodness we didn’t) and a small mulberry, grown for shade, in the front garden. The hedging was leylandii, which we really hate.

Their garden in Charente-Maritime

Their garden in Charente-Maritime - Credit: Archant

How have you developed it?

We actually brought over some shrubs because there was space in the van. They lasted a few years but I think we’ve replaced almost everything now, except for the original trees. We’ve planted a mixed hedgerow along the rear boundary and have just one section of leylandii as background for the herb garden. Gradually we’ve widened all of the borders along our driveway and around the garden perimeter, planting lots of bulbs and perennials, leaving just a bit of grass as a cool oasis for the cat to roll in.


Flowers - Credit: Archant

What grows well in your area of France?

All our mature shrubs like cistus, viburnum and hydrangea seem to have three times as many flowers as they did in Hampshire, probably due to all the sun. Herbs thrive in our free-draining soil and recently we’ve been cultivating different varieties of sage and hyssop – their flowers come in rich colours and go on for weeks, looking especially good with ornamental grasses.

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What tips would you give to someone in your area?

Don’t be over-ambitious in deciding how much land to cultivate. at first, we worried that the main garden here would be too small, now we realise that we’re probably better off with a limited amount which is fairly easy to maintain. everything grows fast in this climate, especially grass and weeds, so you don’t want to spend your time taming a jungle. Look for drought-resistant plants to save on watering.

What do you enjoy most about your garden?

I find it really satisfying to grow new things from seed, and we can plant in drifts. The warm climate means quick results, particularly with cuttings, which are easy to take. We both love to potter, even in winter. if we’re not actually gardening then we enjoy eating en plein air!! Bevan tells us about transforming her parents’ garden in Ardèche