A British expat tells us about her new-found love of home-grown produce and how she has transformed her garden in Poitou-Charentes
Jacqui Brown, her husband Adrian and their son Edward, moved from Reading to Deux-Sèvres in Poitou-Charentes 10 years ago where Jacqui discovered a love for home-grown produce.
What was the garden like when you first arrived?
The garden was an important thing for us as we had quite a good-sized one in Reading. We have a long courtyard which the house opens on to, but right at the end there is a green wooden door which opens up into the orchard which is hidden from the house. I’ll never forget the first time we opened that door. the grass was waist high, it was impossible to tell how large the orchard was but I didn’t want to leave, it truly sold the house to me.
How have you developed it?
We have done quite a bit to the garden over the years. the waist-high grass was tamed, the trees, too large and old to properly tame, get pruned as and when. We have added flower beds, a vine-covered seating area in a secluded spot and a huge vegetable garden. The vegetable patch is very important to me. Moving to France has made me realise how important the food we eat is. ilove to be able to sow, harvest and cook with our own produce as much as possible.
What grows well in your area of France?
Things that grow well in our area of France are tomatoes, courgettes, garlic, onions and beans in the vegetable garden. Salad works well in spring and autumn, but we struggle with it in the summer as it is too hot. In terms of flowers we are in hollyhock country. They grow like weeds sprouting out of the base of old stone walls and litter our courtyard year after year – all self-sown and a variety of colours. We have also had success with the roses that have grown really huge in the last 10 years.
What tips would you give to someone with a garden in your area?
The best way to start vegetable gardening is to be a nosey neighbour – see what and when your neighbours are doing and the chances are that will work well for you too.
What do you enjoy most about your garden?
The thing I love most is the peace and quiet. There is often a distant rumble of a tractor, the buzzing of the bees, the birdsong or the church bells, but these are sounds I never tire of. Mowing takes a good three hours, but it is very relaxing and I even find weeding quite therapeutic, although it easily gets out of control. My favourite thing to do is to sit and read a book in a shady corner, but apéros in the sun with the family, harvesting cherries or courgettes or picking and eating raspberries and strawberries are also high up the list.
www.frenchvillagediaries.comSue Woodward tells us about the difficulties of gardening at a high altitude in AuvergneIf you are an expat with a garden in France you would like to tell us about, email us