French Kiss

Veg­gie-lov­ing home­own­ers trans­form a sprawl­ing French-in­spired jardin de curé into a man­age­able and re­lax­ing oa­sis.

Canadian Gardening Annual 2016 - - Great Garden Ideas 2016 - Text WENDY HELFENBAUM pho­tog­ra­phy AN­GUS MCRITCHIE styling JULIE DES­LAU­RI­ERS

op­po­site: A large golden weep­ing wil­low (Salix alba ‘Tris­tis’) pro­vides a pretty back­drop for four beds of ro­tat­ing crops, which fea­ture pota­toes, beans, toma­toes, car­rots and let­tuce. The gar­den pro­duces am­ple food for the couple who lives here. right: In front of JeanFrançois Giroux and Eveline Landa’s French Nor­man­style farm­house in Saint­an­toinesur­riche­lieu, Que­bec, helianthus, smooth hy­drangea (Hy­drangea ar­borescens), east­ern white cedar (Thuja oc­ci­den­talis) and old­fash­ioned hostas (grow­ing against the house) have flour­ished for around 20 years.

At the turn of the 19th cen­tury in France, thou­sands of unique gar­dens brim­ming with medic­i­nal herbs, veg­eta­bles, fruit and flow­ers were known as jardins de curé, named for the parish priests who kept them. Th­ese care­free gar­dens were of­ten laid out in geo­met­ric grids, pro­vid­ing not only food for the priests but also flow­ers for the al­tars and tran­quil ar­eas for med­i­ta­tion. In 1992, Jean-françois Giroux, a bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor, and Eveline Landa, a sci­en­tist for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, fell in love with and bought a mod­ern­day jardin de curé in Saint-an­toinesur-riche­lieu, a mostly agri­cul­tural area in southern Que­bec. “Th­ese types of gar­dens have lots of lit­tle nooks and cran­nies and pack in many dif­fer­ent wild and cul­ti­vated plants,” says Eveline. The 1,400-square-me­tre property also boasts an adjacent 4,200-square-me­tre leased plot with a large or­ganic veg­etable gar­den and hay field. “We loved that there was tremen­dous po­ten­tial to adapt the land­scape to suit our tastes,” she says.

Eveline was es­pe­cially ex­cited about tend­ing the ex­ist­ing pro­duce gar­den. The sec­ond sum­mer af­ter mov­ing in, she used a small trac­tor to pre­pare the soil, as the pre­vi­ous own­ers had al­ways done. But main­tain­ing such a large veg­etable plot proved dif­fi­cult for Eveline to do on her own. “The clay soil was very hard to work with,” she says. “In terms of nu­tri­ents, clay is great – it re­tains wa­ter well when sandy soils would need wa­ter­ing. But if it dries out in sum­mer, it’s like ce­ment.” In­spired by a re­cent trip to Europe, where she saw gar­dens di­vided into

“There was tremen­dous po­ten­tial to land­scape the property to suit our tastes.”

clock­wise from top left: Squash, pump­kins, cu­cum­bers and corn grow along­side pink Queen Se­ries cleome (Cleome has­s­le­ri­ana) in this veg­etable plot; a pan­i­cle hy­drangea adorns a pa­tio; green hy­drangea blooms and alpine sea holly (Eryn­gium alpinum) dress up a rus­tic bistro ta­ble in a sunny cor­ner; pink Chi­nese astilbe stands tall in a raised bed by the gar­den shed.

smaller beds for easy crop ro­ta­tion, Eveline de­cided to cut her veg­etable gar­den in half and sep­a­rate it into four sec­tions. To de­lin­eate the plots, Eveline first tried wooden edg­ing, which rot­ted, then plas­tic, which she didn’t like, be­fore us­ing af­ford­able and solid one-me­tre-long ce­ment bor­ders. “Over time, they be­came moss-cov­ered and de­vel­oped a grey patina, which I really like,” she ex­plains. Eveline had good luck from the start in her pro­duce gar­den, where as­para­gus, blue­ber­ries, rhubarb and chives thrived. Over the next few years, Eveline fur­ther sim­pli­fied her tasks by fill­ing in a swampy, mos­quito-rid­den pond at the back of the property, con­vert­ing it into a field. She then turned her at­ten­tion to the area be­side the house, where Jean-françois helped her cre­ate raised flowerbeds all around the perime­ter. “I went with lots of straight lines – squares and rec­tan­gles,” she says. “And I wanted plants that were strong, re­silient and not too in­va­sive, es­pe­cially in front of the house. The raised beds make

weed­ing eas­ier and also save my back. And plant­ing large amounts of the same va­ri­ety keeps things sim­ple yet strik­ing. Hostas, hy­drangeas and forsythias are great – noth­ing will grow un­derneath them once they’re big. When they’re each in bloom, they cre­ate huge im­pact.” Be­tween 2000 and 2005, Eveline and Jean-françois slowly added paths and a pa­tio, mix­ing dif­fer­ent coloured paving stones they’d col­lected from pal­let ends at a lo­cal sup­plier. Next, Eveline plans to land­scape the area un­der the huge golden weep­ing wil­low at the far end of the property. “That part of the gar­den is my baby now,” she says. “It’ll be a beau­ti­ful spot to re­lax in, and even though that land is leased, I’m happy to take care of it and enjoy it. I love keep­ing my­self busy, and there’s never an end with gar­den­ing.”

above, far left: Eveline plants English laven­der cul­ti­vars (La­van­dula an­gus­ti­fo­lia), such as ‘Hid­cote’ and ‘Mun­stead’, which look lovely laid out in a bas­ket with sea laven­der (Li­mo­nium lat­i­folium cvs.). above, left: A for­mer chicken coop and an­i­mal stable was con­verted into a gar­den shed. The groups of plants en­cir­cled by pavers in­clude nas­tur­tiums, hostas, rhodo­den­drons, ‘Jack­manii’ clema­tis, bearded iris and petu­nias. above, right: Un­der a canopy of ap­ple, maple and po­plar trees, this small al­fresco din­ing area is a great spot for the couple to serve up their sea­sonal bounty.

A trum­pet-shaped ce­ment planter holds ‘Black Knight’ but­ter­fly bush (Bud­dleja da­vidii) and herbs. “I al­ways grow basil in this wide pot, slightly hid­den from direct sun by the bud­dleja,” ex­plains Eveline. “All the other plants are peren­ni­als, which I trans­plant in the fall in my back gar­den.”

left: Some years, the veg­etable gar­den pro­duces enough bounty for Eveline and Jeanfrançois to freeze and enjoy through­out the year, be­gin­ning with as­para­gus in the spring and end­ing with au­tumn-har­vested cab­bages and leeks. Brussels sprouts, Eveline adds, taste even bet­ter af­ter the first hard frost. right: A pair of wooden Muskoka chairs pro­vides a great spot fac­ing the huge golden weep­ing wil­low, sur­rounded by var­i­ous nas­tur­tiums and old-fash­ioned or­ange daylilies. “They’re an ex­cel­lent flower: pro­lific, drought tol­er­ant and they fill gaps rapidly,” says Eveline. right, bot­tom: A black-eyed Susan vine (Thun­ber­gia alata) adds a pop of bright colour to the sit­ting area.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.