A British expat tells us about his garden in Dordogne and shares some tips for other gardeners in France
Rob Harrison and wife Karen moved to Dordogne 10 years ago to set up a gîte business – there he developed a passion for gardening, which he shares on his blog. He tells us all about his garden and shares some tips for other expats with a garden in Dordogne.
What was the garden like when you first arrived and how have you developed it?
When we bought the house the garden was pleasant, planted with shrubs and roses, but I wanted more. I love perennial plants and decided to create large garden areas using plants suited to the climate, aspect and soil type here in the valley. Much of the terrain around the houses here was just poor hard ‘pan’ – difficult to garden to say the least – so I took to creating raised beds using the local limestone and importing topsoil from local suppliers. However, all the garden is free draining, and in many cases I garden on a slope, so plants that like it dry, the sun lovers, all do well.
What grows well in your area of France?
Catmints, sea holly, gaura and Russian sage and many varieties of prairie grasses flourish, while lavenders, glob thistle, cardoon and scented fennel all perform wonderfully under the hot summer sun. In spring, ornamental onions together with foxtail lilies are the stars and in summer many perennials start to flower, together with the newly emerging inflorescences of many grasses.
What tips would you give someone with a garden in Dordogne?
Try to enjoy it! Sometimes it’s too easy to busy yourself ‘doing’ and forget to sit back and take stock. Simply appreciate it. also, try and find out the dates and venues of the many plant fairs that take place from april to June. They’re often in wonderful venues and are great opportunities to meet like-minded people, exchange tips and source fabulous specialist nurseries. You could also even write a blog, which then serves as both a written and a visual diary.
What do you enjoy most about your garden?
I guess it’s the wonderful insects it attracts, particularly colourful butterflies such as the swallowtail and all sorts of pollinators from bees to hummingbird hawk moths.