Caroline & Paul Wright
“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