Gardens are open on September 3, 6 and 24 in the Jardins Ouverts /Open Gardens scheme, which encourages garden owners of all nationalities to open up their gardens, big and small to the public, to raise funds for charity.
This is the association’s fifth season and 170 gardens are involved in 28 departments, with hopes to have 200 gardens in 33 departments signed up by the end of 2017. The scheme started in 2013, when four British gardeners in the Creuse decided to open their gardens to raise money for charity, and the idea caught on.
Now, visitors can buy a €10 membership card which gives them access to any of the gardens for a year or pay €5 for a one-off visit. You can also buy an Anniversary card for €50 which gives access to the private gardens as well as seven prestigious French gardens, nearly all labelled Jardin Remarquable, which usually charge an entrance fee, but are offering Garden members with the new style card, free entrance.
Last year Open Gardens raised a record €23,000, with €12,000 going to A Chacun son Everest, which runs courses in the Alps to help children and women who are in remission from cancer but need help restoring their confidence after treatment.
President Mick Moat believes this will be another record year, as by halfway through the season they had already raised €20,000.
An amateur photography competition with the theme The Seasonal Garden is open for entries until September 15. The prize is a copy of your photo on canvas and two annual membership tickets for Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts 2018. The rules are on www.opengardens.eu
Les Tachats, Hautefort, Dordogne
Sunday, September 3, 10am-5.30pm
Owner: Kevin and Sheila Weedon
Kevin and Sheila Weedon moved to France 13 years ago because they are keen gardeners and wanted to buy a property with a large area of land which they knew they would not be able to afford in the UK.
They bought two dilapidated buildings in a 7,000m² field, in a picturesque valley, overlooked by Hautefort Château.
Now they have a home, gîtes and a large, established garden with several different themed areas, including an English cottage garden, an Italian gravel garden, a white parterre-style garden, a formal lily pond, wild flower borders, an ornamental potager, a long rose arbour, two English long borders, and trees, shrubs and perennials.
Being in a valley means the land is sheltered, but the position did prove a problem to start with as the soil is clay based and the ground became boggy in winter.
“We spent hours digging drains to get rid of the excess water”, says Mr Weedon. “There were no trees, so we planted several, and they take up the water. Now the situation is controlled and the advantage is that there is still always some moisture in the underlying clay, so that it never completely dries out in long, dry summers.”
Their biggest challenge is facing up to a climate which can be very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer, and as all gardeners know, unpredictable: “The late frosts in April ruined our fig and apple harvests as it came at the wrong time.
“The cold winters mean we have to dig up all our dahlias and overwinter them. But gardening is never easy and there’s not much we can do about the weather.”
They are creating a rhododendron and azalea feature in the form of a ying-yang raised bed with a “sun-hive”, natural bee hive.
16 Valaize, Saint-Pardoux-les-Cards, Creuse
Open: Sunday, September 3, 10am-5.30pm
Owner: Sue Lambert
Sue Lambert’s garden is in what was a field for cows and horses on the edge of the hamlet. She says she is interested in gardening in an ecological way. Visitors will be able to see a full potager and cutting garden plus dahlias, chrysanthemums, sedums and echinaceas and asters. There is also a 3km circular walk on the local lanes and a neighbour, who sculpts in limestone, wood and cellular concrete, has agreed to open her workshop and garden on the same day.
Le Verger, Prondessagne, Saint-Avit-de-Tardes, Creuse
Open: Sunday, September 3, 10am-4pm
Owner: Lynn Hutchinson
Dahlias, eryngiums, rudbeckias, day lilies, sedums, roses and fruiting pepper bushes will put on a colourful display in September in this half-acre plot with mature hardwood trees on two sides, several fruit trees, a vegetable plot and a dry bank garden. Lynn Hutchinson says there are unusual plants dating back to the time when she studied horticulture and her tutor sold plants for 50p each. She managed to bring many of those she bought then to France by taking cuttings.
Le Jardin de la Petite Pépinière,
Sunday, September 24 10am-1pm, 2pm-6pm
Owner: Gill Pound
This is a Mediterranean style garden of about one hectare which was started about 20 years ago on agricultural land. There is an enormous collection of shrubs and perennials, which tough plants that can survive dry summers, cold winters and wind. A border of Mexican sages will be in flower as well as erigonum and asters and a big border of grasses. Some areas are only mown once a year, allowing wild flowers to flourish - including autumn lady’s tresses, which flowers in September.
Le Jardin Champêtre, Caunes-Minervois, Aude
Sunday, September 24, 2pm-5pm
Owner: Imogen Checketts and Kate Dumbleton
You can visit this display garden from Imogen Checketts and Kate Dumbleton’s adjoining nursery which specialises in flowering perennials, ornamental grasses, shrubs, ground-cover/lawn replacements, herbs, sensory plants and drought tolerant plants. In early autumn there will be drifts of colour from the blue and purple perennials such as salvias, perovskia, elsholtzia and echinops, asters, catananche, tulbaghia and yellow coreopsis, helianthus maximilliani and foeniculum.