Caro­line & Paul Wright

Living France - - À La Maison - Open Gar­dens mem­bers, Haute-Vi­enne

“We be­gan mov­ing plants to their per­ma­nent po­si­tions, lay­ing out a gar­den that re­flects our pas­sion for plants, na­ture and be­ing creative with ma­te­ri­als we had found, re­claimed and up­cy­cled”

Al­though we bought our prop­erty in Vayres six years ago, we only made the per­ma­nent move to France in Jan­uary this year. We left Eng­land at 2am on 3 Jan­uary 2018 ar­riv­ing 17 hours later at our French home with a car and trailer rammed full of our be­long­ings, two cats and the re­mains of our gar­den in Eng­land, hastily dug up and stuffed into old com­post bags.

We lit­er­ally hit the ground run­ning, start­ing up two small busi­nesses; a plant nurs­ery and a ‘gar­den school’ teach­ing hor­ti­cul­ture, green­wood and nat­u­ral crafts and gar­den sculp­tures.

We built a cou­ple of poly­tun­nels and shade tun­nels out of re­claimed green­houses and tun­nel frames and started prop­a­gat­ing.

We had both worked at a univer­sity run­ning cour­ses in hor­ti­cul­ture and had been able to spend our an­nual leave in France ren­o­vat­ing the house to a point where it is now com­fort­able and func­tional (al­though not fin­ished).

We have an acre and a quar­ter of land which was ba­si­cally a field sur­rounded by ma­ture oak trees and a small area that had been cul­ti­vated as a potager by the pre­vi­ous owner. We didn’t really start to work on the gar­den un­til win­ter 2016/17 when we be­gan to mark out the path­ways and threw down some grass seed and started defin­ing the bor­ders.

SUR­VIVAL OF THE FITTEST

Up un­til this point we had been bring­ing bare root plants over dur­ing the dor­mant sea­son and plant­ing them while they had some hope of sur­viv­ing. Bit by bit we dug up our favourite plants from our old gar­den, bunged them into any avail­able nook or cranny on the trailer and planted them in a small area of the gar­den here that was fenced off and of­fered some pro­tec­tion from wild boar and deer. This was quite a good way to see what sur­vived and what didn’t.

Early on we had planted a col­lec­tion of or­na­men­tal trees and an or­chard con­sist­ing of her­itage Not­ting­hamshire va­ri­eties of ap­ple to add some height and ma­tu­rity.

Through­out the late win­ter and this spring, we be­gan mov­ing plants to their per­ma­nent po­si­tions, lay­ing out a gar­den that re­flects our pas­sion for plants, na­ture and be­ing creative with ma­te­ri­als we had found, re­claimed and up­cy­cled. We haven’t really pur­chased many plants here in France yet as we have prop­a­gated our own from seed and cut­tings and di­vided up plants from our old gar­den.

We have bought a few plants from spe­cial­ist nurs­eries here and at plant fêtes but have gen­er­ally found a limited range of her­ba­ceous peren­ni­als here in France, which is where we hope to fill the gap in the mar­ket with our own nurs­ery.

OPEN FOR BUSI­NESS

We had a dead­line to meet be­cause we were tak­ing part in the Open Gar­dens scheme along­side three other lo­cal gar­dens in mid-July, en­cour­aged by our neigh­bour who was a lo­cal co­or­di­na­tor for Jardins Ou­verts. We man­aged to com­plete all the path­ways and pa­tio/ out­door kitchen area just in time and were ready for our first open day.

We had over 50 vis­i­tors and were over­whelmed by the feed­back we re­ceived. Ev­ery­one loved all our quirky fea­tures and seemed gen­uinely amazed at what we had achieved in such a short space of time. We are still de­vel­op­ing the gar­den and hope that when we open next year there will be plenty of new plant­ing and fea­tures to see.

Now that we have been here for a whole grow­ing sea­son we have found that the cli­mate is our big­gest chal­lenge. In the win­ter the tem­per­a­ture can start at mi­nus eight overnight and can reach 22 de­grees in the af­ter­noon. This year we ex­pe­ri­enced so much rain from Jan­uary to March that there were per­ma­nent ponds on the field. It stopped rain­ing in May and we have had noth­ing more than a few mil­lime­tres of rain be­tween then and mid-Oc­to­ber. The ther­mome­ter at the front of our house reg­is­tered 54 de­grees on the hottest days, it is in full sun but then so are my plants! open­gar­dens.eu le­jardincre­atif.net

Above: Favourite plants from the cou­ple’s old gar­den now have a new home Be­low: The gar­den’s quirky fea­tures were a big hit dur­ing the open day

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