OPEN GARDENS: Corrèze
Gardening throughout the hot summers and bitterly cold winters of Corrèze proved challenging for Jan Colbridge, but she has turned it to her advantage
Here in Corrèze in central France we have exceptionally hot summers and often deadly cold winters with alarmingly late and early frosts which appear unannounced and which can result in mounds of blackened vegetation.
The increasingly hot summers are also a problem for a garden which always has many young plants, so mulching and providing shade are essential, as are using appropriate plants and getting them off to a good start with sound planting techniques and aftercare.
We didn’t realise the climatic hazards when we set up and built a small business growing organic vegetables, some fruit and also plants, all of which we sold from home and on local markets.
Unfortunately an invasion of mole crickets one year put paid to nearly all our vegetable crops – plums and apples failed due to early frost and I was so disheartened that I decided to spend more time on the plant side of the business. This also had the advantage of being less tiring physically and less open to attacks by beasts or bugs.
Realising that trying to sell plants that are not too well known here required some sort of display, we set about building raised beds to deter the mole crickets and planting examples of our perennials. This is how the garden started and it has just gone on and on. Ponds were dug among the fruit trees, non-productive vines dug up and the poles used for climbing roses, and anything and everything was recycled to create benches, shelters and even sculptures.
Our nearest neighbour is about 300 metres away but we cannot see them for the trees which also shelter deer, badgers, foxes and a fantastic variety of birds. My first garden was in rural Norfolk and tiny in comparison with what we have here, which gives huge scope for creativity.
We have requested that the local hunters do not use the part of our land which is next to the house and garden, and hope to become a refuge for the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (French equivalent of RSPB).
The decision to open the garden to the public came about four years ago after a trip to Roscoff on what happened to be the weekend of the Rendez-vous aux jardins at the beginning of June. One garden we visited was so lacking in plants that I thought ‘Well if they can do it so can we’ and so in 2014 we opened for the first time with an entry fee of €2.50 which we donated to the Association SOS Violences Conjugales in Brive.
Last year a visitor mentioned Open Gardens and I was delighted to chat about the benefits of opening your garden to the public to the president of the scheme, Mick Moat. I love people coming to the garden because there is something so satisfying about chatting to kindred spirits about your favourite subject – we can all learn so much and make new friends at the same time. opengardens.eu