OPEN GARDENS: Haute-Vienne
Member of France’s Open Gardens scheme, Gill Broadhurst reveals how she copes with the extreme temperatures in Limousin
We’ve lived in La Réveillère for eight years. When we arrived, the garden consisted of just rough ground and some dry-stone terracing. I’ve now got raised vegetable beds and grow some stuff vertically due to lack of space, soft fruit beds which provide plenty of fruits for jams and preserves, and also a greenhouse where I germinate seeds and overwinter tender plants. I’ve always loved gardening and think I got the bug from my mum – I love the colours and forms that plants produce.
Wildlife is abundant with a wide variety of birds, bats, hedgehogs, foxes, and rabbits, along with lizards, slow worms, adders, frogs, toads, salamanders, and marbled newts. My bog garden provides an ideal location for them during the hot weather. They’re natural predators for slugs, snails and insects that feed on my plants, so I encourage them to stay.
We’re 620 metres above sea level and temperatures can drop to -180C in winter, rising to 380C degrees in the summer. My garden in Derbyshire where I lived before never saw such extremes, so I have to select plants that survive here. I buy plants locally, swap cuttings with friends, and order things online, and have been known to snip off cuttings from shrubs that I see in parks and gardens – naughty I know!
My quarter-of-an-acre English garden had flower borders, mature trees, a vegetable plot and manicured weedfree striped lawns. The only thing missing here is the manicured lawn replaced by green mown spaces consisting of grasses, daisies, buttercups, and other wild flowers.
As secretary of our local garden club, I was always on the lookout for speakers to come and give a talk at our monthly meetings. The Open Gardens scheme is great because it not only raises money for very good causes, but gives you the opportunity to share your garden with lots of lovely people.
We open in mid-June which is a busy time in the gardening year and even more so when you want everything to look just right. One year we had a hailstorm that shredded most of my plants, and virtually washed our drive away a week before we opened.
This year, after a hot start to the summer, we thought we’d escaped the wrath of the Limousin weather but no, it lashed down all day. Thankfully visitors were not put off and I was well supported by members of our gardening club, which helped.
I haven’t a favourite part of my garden as each area has its own special features but I love my ‘shabby chic’ shed which is sanctuary whenever I want to take five with a cuppa.
My husband David is the ‘garden builder’, from paths to walls, to sheds and raised beds. He’s not really a gardener, but he helps if I’m struggling to pull up a shrub or even chop a large one in half with the spade – we make a great team.
He loves the Open Gardens day as he dons his apron, serving tea and cake and generally makes folk feel welcome… just don’t ask him the name of any of the plants! opengardens.eu