OPEN GAR­DENS: Haute-Vi­enne

Mem­ber of France’s Open Gar­dens scheme, Gill Broad­hurst re­veals how she copes with the ex­treme tem­per­a­tures in Li­mousin

Living France - - Ala Maison -

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

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