New to Languedoc

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New to Languedoc
« on: May 07, 2012, 01:41:07 PM »
I'm currently living and gardening in London and building a house in Roquebrun in Languedoc, Southern France (of Jardin Mediterranéen fame). The garden will be created from a tiny terraced vineyard. I would love to hear from any Forum users in the area. I won't be able to plant anything until Autumn 2013 but am starting to plan. My experience is of temperate climate gardening (and wet, despite a current hosepipe ban!) and Gertrude Jekyll and Christo Lloyd are my usual inspirations, so it's a big psychological shift. Any advice gratefully received. 
Currently living and gardening in London and building a house in Roquebrun in Languedoc (of Jardin Mediterranéen fame). The garden will be created from a tiny terraced vineyard. Would love to hear from any Forum users in the area.

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ritamax

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Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2012, 01:49:57 PM »
Good for you, lots of luck! I would warmly recommend Olivier Filippi's book "The Dry Gardening Handbook", it is a great inspiration, as gardening in a temperate climate is really different.
Hobbygardener (MGS member) with a rooftop garden in Basel and a garden on heavy clay with sand 600m from seaside in Costa Blanca South (precipitation 300mm), learning to garden waterwise

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Pescalune

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Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2012, 02:48:45 PM »
Welcome to Languedoc, Kate, you have made a good choice with Roquebrun!

And you will soon discover that there are quite a lot of members of the Mediterranean Garden Society nearby and all of them will be happy to help you.
The creation of a garden is a most fascinating enterprise. My advice is keep a logbook. I envy you.
Please let us know about your progress on this Forum.
All the best,
Jean

PS Should you wish to communicate directly with me, here is my address: mgspresident@gmail.com
Pescalune

Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2012, 03:52:35 PM »
Thanks for the support and suggestions. I've already discovered Heidi Gildemeister's books but will definitely look out for Olivier Filippi.
Currently living and gardening in London and building a house in Roquebrun in Languedoc (of Jardin Mediterranéen fame). The garden will be created from a tiny terraced vineyard. Would love to hear from any Forum users in the area.

David Bracey

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Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2012, 08:45:13 PM »
A garden in the Languedoc will be a real challenge.  I suggest you read the MGS Forum and join the local MGS branch.

 There are several elements to a med garden: Firstly the technical elements which are well covered in O Filippi`s book.

Then there is the botanical or plant element.  To-day there is a wide choice of plants suitable for a mediterranean garden (MG) and many sources of information .  Take your time, look at what is successful in your area, discuss plant choice on the MGS Forum and with  Branch members.  Start a list of desirable plants and the characteristics that you like.You can still follow Jekyll and Lloyd colour shemes; it will take time and some effort to learn the new plant species.

The last element which is rarely mentioned is the mental approach to a MG. The difference between gardening in a mediterranean climate and a temperate (maritime) climate could not be more different. You can forget most of the practices and principles learnt in the UK.  Start again with an open mind.

The med climate is dry, dry, dry and dry. Rain occcurs during autumn, winter and in the spring, for a few days and then it pours down.  Take advantage and plant in the autumn when the soil is still warm.  Planting at other times is not usually encouraged.  Because it`s dry you have to be prepared to water in the first year at least.  Your chosen plants should not need watering once they are established. A med garden is full of colour in the spring and again in the autumn.  Be prepared for dormant plants in the middle of summer and again in the winter.  These should not be boring however with appropriate use of shapes, seed heads, leaf colour.  Forget many of the old favourites like hybrid T`s, hostas, geraniums, bedding plants, English lawns......its just too dry.

My wife had a real problem with a med garden, thinking that it was always necessary to irrigate. .  This tends to be the rule with professional landscapers in the region.  It may be that they wish to sell irrigation equipment

Grow some "exotic " vegetables such as squash, peppers, okra, toms, aubergines,  Good luck.
MGS member.

 I have gardened in sub-tropical Florida, maritime UK, continental Europe and the Mediterranean basin, France. Of the 4 I have found that the most difficult climate for gardening is the latter.

Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2012, 10:30:15 AM »
Thank you for your helpful advice David. I'd been thinking along the same lines. Even though we will be installing a large citerne for rainwater storage, I'm determined to go down the drought-resistant plant route. As soon as it stops raining here (London) I shall be visiting Beth Chatto's wonderful dry garden for more ideas. And I'll still have a garden in London for a few more years so I'll be able to indulge my herbaceous perennial side. One thing I won't miss in the Languedoc is the slugs and snails!
Currently living and gardening in London and building a house in Roquebrun in Languedoc (of Jardin Mediterranéen fame). The garden will be created from a tiny terraced vineyard. Would love to hear from any Forum users in the area.

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Fleur Pavlidis

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Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2012, 11:40:10 AM »
Catching and storing rain water is a great idea. On many Greek islands this was the only water supply available until maybe 50 years ago and for every house the basement was a cistern. Two points to look out for are obvious but important.
When we get rain it tends to fall all at once so you must have an adequate overflow which doesn't cause damage elsewhere.
Forgotten taps are a menace; just one can waste your precious water overnight. I'm putting a timer onto the hose I use to top up the pond for instance because I agonise about forgetting it.
When it comes to planting, Olivier Fillip has a wonderful nursery in Languedoc for drought tolerant plants - if I were moving to France I'd choose Languedoc just to take advantage of it - we have nothing to match in Greece, or England.
MGS member, Greece. I garden in Attica, Greece and Mt Goulinas (450m) Central Greece

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John J

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Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2012, 12:16:52 PM »
Unfortunately here in Cyprus building houses with rainwater storage facilities built in is still something that has to be fought for. Even the simple expedient of providing guttering is sneered at by the majority of builders with the ubiquitous shrug of the shoulders and a "We don't do that in Cyprus".
Our house was built 25 years ago and has roofs sloping in so many directions that guttering is not an option, we'd need water containers all around the outside of the house. However, when we built the double garage a few years ago, seperate from the house, I installed guttering and placed a 700 litre tank on the corner. We soon found that one heavy downpour filled this to overflowing so I linked another 700 litre tank to it, so that it took 2 heavy downpours to fill them. Actually it was quite a revelation to see that the area of a double garage roof could collect 1,400 litres of water in such a short space of time.
The snag, of course, is that during the winter we don't need to use the water from the tanks very often so they don't get emptied and the excess water runs off into an area under an olive tree and on into a herb patch. When we do need them in the summer they very quickly run dry but at least it helps in a small way.
Cyprus Branch Head. Gardens in a field 40 m above sea level with reasonably fertile clay soil.
"Aphrodite emerged from the sea and came ashore and at her feet all manner of plants sprang forth" John Deacon (13thC AD)

Umbrian

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Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2012, 06:12:58 PM »
Gardening in a Mediterraean climate is certainly a challenge when you are new to it but also very rewarding. I fully endorse David's comments about shape and form within the garden when colour and flowers are scarce, something those used to winter dormancy ,in the UK for example, are aware of but in Mediterranean gardens also occuring in the summer. This afternoon I managed to take advantage of some really warm sunshine to sit by the pool for a short while and I was amazed by the variety of foliage both in form and colour. Our pool is below the house and runs North/South. It has travertine paths around three sides and a wider terrace for sitting on the East side. This is bounded by a 4ft wall above which the ground is terraced up to the house and this area is full of colour at the moment. To the West it is protected by small (existing when we bought the house) Pine plantation and forward of this I have a border of about 4m deep. At the back I have Buddleia (fresh,grey green leaves), Spartium juncuem (spikey, dark green stems and just beginning to come into flower), Atriplex (silvery grey leaves) and some Rosemary still with some flowers. The middle ground  contains some ancient Lavender angustifolia, now lovely large mounds of fresh grey/green foliage, Nepeta with purple flowers, and lots of fast growing Gaura  and Verbena bonariensis plants that will provide flowers all through the summer. The foreground is already clothed with flowering Erigeron karvanskianus and this will soon be joined by convolvulus mauritanicus. In the summer wild carrot seedlings appear all over the border, their white flowers providing harmony. At the moment though the main colour is green in all its many shades.
Beyond the pool paths on the shorter North/South ends I have semi circles of gravel the width of the pool with planting to the sides and beyond.  Tall dark green "Italian Cypress", Juniper "Skyrocket" - tall but bushier and blue/green foliage, Rosa rubifolia - blue tinged ruby red leaves, a couple of Olives, Santolina cut into "balls", a "pyramid" Hornbeam - very bright light green leaves when new...I could go on but don't want to boor you and my husband is waiting for his dinner! The point is you can make a wonderful garden wherever you are as long as you plant the appropriate things. Enjoy the challenge, have patience and Good Luck!
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

David Bracey

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Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2012, 07:44:31 AM »
I have never understood why gutters have never caught on in Southern Europe.  Useful technology usually spreads around rapidly viz mobile telephones and hybrid maize which was planted worldwide in a few years, maybe 10 only.  Any ideas?
MGS member.

 I have gardened in sub-tropical Florida, maritime UK, continental Europe and the Mediterranean basin, France. Of the 4 I have found that the most difficult climate for gardening is the latter.

Alice

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Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2012, 11:43:56 AM »
What a wonderful opportunity, Kate, to have a whole year to plan your garden.
A couple of suggestions:
1. you might like to consider a brighter colour scheme than you would in London - under cloudless skies one can get away even with "garish" colour combinations.
2. If you are there during a downpour, observe if streams form and where the water runs. Any trees planted in areas where a lot of rainwater soaks in will do very well but bulbs might rot.
Although we don't have slugs we do get millions of snails. Admittedly they do little damage, as they aestivate during the dry months.
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.

Vaughan

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Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2014, 10:52:25 AM »
Hi Kate, I'm also starting a garden in Languedoc,  about 90 mins drive East of you, near Uzès, Gard. Would really appreciate an update on how you are getting on. We plan to start plating this Autumn, with some hard landscaping over the summer during visits - as it's still a holiday home at the moment.
New garden near Uzes, Gard - currently a building site/ natural garigue. Sloping west facing garden with thin soil over quartzite rock. 670mm annual rainfall

Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2014, 11:22:47 AM »
Hello Vaughan, glad to meet another new Med gardener. You may well be the one advising me though as our house-building plans have been on hold for various reasons (a change of architect, then planning application hiccups). At the moment IF we receive final planning permission in the next month, we're hoping to start building in Sept, meaning that we won't be able to do anything much about the garden until 2015, or else we'll risk getting in the builder's way. (It's not a large plot and steeply terraced). And everyone says you should only plant in Autumn, so I'm still at the stage of ever-longer lists of drought-resistant plants and visits to dry and mediterranean gardens. I'm doing a half-day course in Blackheath next week to whet my appetite. The best advice I've found so far is Olivier Filippi's book. I had to read a friend's french copy as I was desperate to read it and couldn't get hold of an english version! (I have now, it's The Dry Gardening Handbook in case you don't already know it)

But it would be very nice to keep in touch and maybe visit each others' gardens eventually!
Good luck with your landscaping and planting.

Currently living and gardening in London and building a house in Roquebrun in Languedoc (of Jardin Mediterranéen fame). The garden will be created from a tiny terraced vineyard. Would love to hear from any Forum users in the area.

Vaughan

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Re: New to Languedoc
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2014, 03:18:28 PM »
Aha, sounds very familiar, but a least we have completed the structure of our house now and it's water tight. We live in UK about 25 mins from Blackheath btw, how odd! I have bought the English version of Filippi's book, which is superb, and we are also making an ever growing wish list of plants. I just posted today a plea for help in another section of the forum (our gardens I think the section is called, or suchlike) - our current dilemma (building in France seems to propagate "challenges" as sounds like you know) is that once the swimming pool was dug, or rather excavated from the bedrock!!, we now only have mounds of mostly rock with which to landscape with. So we are grappling with the need to import topsoil, or go natural as Filippi recommends with the existing "soil". Top of our plant list is some Olive Trees, so at minimum I'm assuming we will need topsoil for these to add to the planting hole. I will definitely keep in touch, sounds like we have much in common. I'm rather jealous of your terraced old vineyard plot, as means it will have had prior cultivation. If you haven't already, I would strongly recommend you test your site for depth of topsoil above the bedrock. Ours was inches, so it's added considerable cost to the project. What's the name of the course in Blackheath btw?
« Last Edit: April 30, 2014, 04:13:21 PM by Vaughan »
New garden near Uzes, Gard - currently a building site/ natural garigue. Sloping west facing garden with thin soil over quartzite rock. 670mm annual rainfall