We got back from our trip to Madrid and London on Saturday in sunshine and just a little warmth. Spirits were utterly lifted and the dog very puzzled, by the screams of joy as Scotland took the Calcutta Cup- a lot of Queen-type air punching accompanied the screaming from our sitting room. You must allow me this weakness. I am not a fan of nationalist politics, which, in general does not end well as history tells us. But I am just thrilled when small countries bite back. And Scotland deserved it in every way. My Dad would have loved it.
Meantime, Siberia was advancing…last night temperatures reached about -8C, and those parts of the garden not touched by the bright sunshine today are in a permafrost lockdown. But those hardy perennials can take it. The Anemone, which was a new and expensive purchase as three small corms early last Spring is sporting three flowers today, all of which were decked at first but have popped back up as their stems thaw out. The only bulb from the winter planting in a shallow bowl of Iris unguicularis ‘Mary Barnard’ to have flowered yesterday, has remained utterly unfazed.
The two rescued wild daffodils to have flowered are still lying down, but as we only have another day and a bit of these cold temperatures, I am hoping that the rest will just stay put and wait. They come out in different shapes and sizes, as you can see. A wide, almost peony-type flower turning up as well as a star-framed flower with internal hoops of yellow. I adore them, and look forward to the four small clumps gradually expanding in the future.
If you are over in Minervois, this nursery should be on your list of places to visit. I visited accidently last summer just as the nursery was opening for business, and since then, have been back again for a growingly-beautiful demonstration garden and evolving space with, this year, a new potager and more to come. As well as that, Imogen Checketts and Kate Dumbleton, are developing a growing range of beautiful and tough perennials, grasses and shrubs for people and wildlife in a Mediterranean climate. All in all, good reasons for heading over to Caunes-Minervois and finding out more.
I was very intrigued by what I saw- not only from a plant selection point of view, but also, in the year of Brexit, I was curious as to why two young Englishwomen would choose to make a life in South West France right now, and to find out more about their experience of setting up a business here.
Imogen and Kate are both professional horticulturalists with strong connections to France, but their journey to Caunes-Minervois has been one of happy accident and serendipity. Kate says,
‘I studied French and used to work in Paris but hadn’t planned to live in France again. Imogen had always wanted to live in France, having visited Normandy at age 11 and loved everything French; no-one in the Midlands was wearing white trainers, skinny jeans and scarves, or having cous-cous parties! ‘
France drew them both to it.
‘We initially came to France on a sabbatical year. Imogen was Head Gardener at Pensthorpe in North Norfolk, quite a dry, bright climate, and wanted to learn more about Mediterranean plants. I had recently retrained in horticulture and wanted to expand my plant and gardening knowledge. Our first garden was just minutes from the Roscoff ferry, the Jardin exotique de Roscoff, but most of the year was spent going West to East along the South of France and just into Italy to work at the Hanbury Botanical Gardens.’
Travelling through France West to East led to them discovering Caunes-Minervois, and the garden and nursery, ‘La Petite Pepiniere’ which was established and run by Gill Pound. Imogen and Kate had the chance to take over the specialist nursery business from Gill, who still lives next door, and they both decided not to return to the UK, but to commit to a life in Caunes-Minervois. Planting up for the first time onsite in the Spring of 2016 was the beginning of ‘Le Jardin Champêtre’.
As Kate says,
‘The style of our garden is sort of Dutch new wave mixed with Mediterranean garrigue. The movement of grasses is key to the feel of the garden, which consists of layers of planting: low ground-covers, bulbs, medium height shrubs, tall perennials and trees. The taller grasses and other plants provide shade during the heat of summer, and we’ve dug out basins to capture rain water and watering, which allows us to grow a wider variety of plants. ‘
The demonstration garden and potager will continue to evolve, and they have already scheduled a range of events throughout the year, to introduce people to their style of gardening and their approach to gardening naturally without chemicals. More about their approach and their passion for gardens as spaces for beauty, relaxation and the environment in a second part to this post.
Here they are: get down there and meet them….
19 bis avenue de la Montagne noire, 11160, Caunes-Minervois, France.Tel. 0780433262 (France) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By appointment *all year* & every Saturday 10-5 from March to October.