I have divided this page into two parts. In the first part I have listed the cultivated plants that I have found growing in my garden on arrival. By cultivated, I mean those plants that I think were planted here on purpose for decorative (or productive) purposes, rather than those that appear to have self-sown. Lower down the page I have started a list of other plants that I might like to add to my garden in the future.
Part 1 – Cultivated plants in my garden
Bay (Laurus nobilis). Bay is an evergreen shrub or tree, whose aromatic leaves are used to flavour soups and stews. Bay can be clipped quite hard into topiary shapes, or if left unchecked, can grow into trees up to 7.5m tall. It actually enjoys being grown in a pot, with its roots restricted, although it is hardier grown in the ground, where it is more likely to become a large bushy shrub or tree. It prefers a sheltered position, in sun or partial shade, in well-drained soil. When grown as shrubs, bay can be trimmed into shape in spring or summer by cutting back to a leaf or bud. It can also be hard pruned if required, but takes a while to recover and re-grow. Can be propagated from seed in autumn, or softwood cuttings in early summer or semi-ripe cuttings in late summer.
Buddleia (Buddleia davidii). Buddleia are almost notorious for being able to grow anywhere, from railway banks to drainpipes! However, in the wild, they grow in rocky ravines, so they like a well drained soil and full sunshine. Known as the ‘butterfly bush’, they are a magnet for butterflies during their summer flowering period. Faded flowers should be removed to encourage further flowering, and all dead flowers removed at the end of the flowering season to prevent unwanted seedlings. Buddleias need to be hard pruned, in late spring, to maintain the plant’s vigour. They can be also propagated from softwood cuttings in late spring.
Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus). Prickly shrub to 1m tall. Female plants have red berries which last more than 12 months, but only if there is a male nearby to pollinate them. Hermaphrodite forms are also available. Butcher’s broom suckers to make a thicket, is often found in woodland in the wild, and enjoys deep shade. Christopher Lloyd recommends thinning out stems regularly, as each only lives productively for 2-3 years. He also recommends planting it in combination with the evergreen fern, Polypodium interjectum ‘Cornubiense’. Propagation by division is the best method – grown from seed it can take 5-6 years to bear berries. So-named because butchers used to use a handful of it to wipe their chopping boards clean (ouch!).
Daylilies (Hemerocallis). Daylilies are so-called because they produce a succession of lily-like flowers, each of which only lasts a day. They are produced in great profusion so that the display is usually continuous. Daylilies thrive in fertile, well drained soil, but are also tolerant of poorer soils. They can be grown in sun or partial shade. Mine are the ‘common’ orange variety, a colour which works beautifully with hibiscus ‘Oiseau Bleu’. Daylilies do not require much routine care. They can be deadheaded for appearance’s sake. To propagate, large clumps can be divided in spring or autumn, replanting 4-6 inch wide sections a foot apart.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus). [I have Hibiscus syriacus ‘Oiseau Bleu’/’Blue Bird’ which is the most beautiful shade of lilac-blue, with a dark magenta centre.] Hardy hibiscus are deciduous, usually multi-stemmed shrubs and enjoy a sheltered position in full sun (south or west facing). They are also very hardy and easy to grow. They can reach an eventual size of 1.5/2.5m height and spread depending on variety, although they usually grow up to twice as tall as they are wide. Quite late into leaf (as late as May-June), they have a long flowering season from summer into early autumn, flowering on the current season’s growth. Although most hibiscus tend to be left unpruned, they apparently respond well to an annual hard prune in spring, in the way that roses do. This can be used to restrict their size if required.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera). I have a very rampant and beautifully scented honeysuckle growing up onto the roof of a covered seating area. The flowers are white and yellow, so it is likely to be ‘common honeysuckle’ (Lonicera periclymenum). Honeysuckles need very little attention, unless they are overgrown and require pruning. They flower on the current season’s growth, so should generally be pruned after flowering, which is late summer for Lonicera periclymenum. The RHS recommends pruning them back by a third at this time. Overgrown climbing honeysuckles can be renovated by cutting them right back to two feet from the ground in early spring. Vigorous new growth should then be thinned out and new shoots tied in.
Japanese wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius). Also called wine raspberries, these are an Asian species of raspberry originally introduced to Europe to hybridise with other raspberries and as an ornamental plant. It is a perennial which produces biennial canes: in the first year a long, unbranched cane will sprout up but will bear only leaves; in the second year, these canes will develop sideshoots which will then produce flowers and fruits, which ripen from early summer. Wineberries like a fertile soil and a sheltered position such as against a sunny wall. They may need watering in summer. Old fruiting stems should be cut right down after flowering. Can be propagated from seed, by hardwood cuttings in autumn, or by replanting sections that have rooted where a stem tip has touched the ground.
Laburnum (Laburnum). Laburnum are small dciduous trees with attractive bright green leaves composed of three leaflets, and spectacular yellow pea-like flowers that hang in long racemes in late spring and early summer. After this, slightly hairy seed pods are produced and stay on the tree for quite some time. Be aware that the seeds in particular (read My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier), but also all other parts of the tree, are poisonous. Laburnums can be trained to grow over arches and pergolas but are often grown as specimen trees, either as standards or multi-stemmed. They prefer well drained soil, although they are not too fussy about soil conditions. For good flowering, however, they do need lots of sun. Once established, laburnums do not require much care or pruning. They are notoriously short lived, but produce lots of seed that can be sown in autumn.
Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina). A useful ground cover plant, grown mostly for its leaves, which are which are velvety and silver-grey, and grow to about 20cm. It does produce flower spikes in summer, with inconspicuous pinky purple flowers. Likes a well drained soil in full sun. Easily propagated by division or by replanting rooted sections in spring. It also self-seeds. It is evergreen, and is deer and rabbit resistant. Little care required although removing flower spikes can improve the vigour of the plant.
Lavender (Lavendula). Lavender loves full sun, so a south facing position is ideal. It is also happiest in chalky/alkaline soils, which I have here. Whilst there is a lot of different advice about pruning lavender, and different advice for different varieties, the basic rule is to trim after flowering to remove the flower stalks and at least an inch of the current year’s growth. Avoid going into old wood as they will not produce new growth from old wood. Individual plants can last up to about 20 years.
Mexican orange (Choisya ternata). Evergreen shrubs grown for their attractive and aromatic foliage, and scented star-shaped white flowers which are borne in spring, but also fitfully into the winter. They like a sheltered, sunny position, although the leaves can start to droop if conditions are too dry. Grown in the shade, they get rather leggy. Mine is fully south-facing in a sunny location, and is remarkably healthy and happy. Mexican orange can grow to 6-8 feet height and spread and can be propagated from semi-ripe cuttings. Little maintenance is required – they can be pruned to preserve the desired shape, and will also regrow if cut back right to the ground.
Red valerian (Centranthus ruber). A long-flowering perennial with pink through to purplish-red flowers that are most profuse in summer but can be seen from late spring into autumn. Plants can grow up to 2-3 feet high. Often seen growing on walls, red valerian likes a poor, well drained soil (chalky or stony like we have here is ideal) and full sun. It is quite drought-resistant. Red valerian self-seeds freely so if this is a problem stems can be cut hard back in later summer after first flowering. Otherwise stems should be cut down in autumn. Seeds can also be collected and sown in spring.
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis). Rosemary is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, silvery-green needle-like leaves and pale white, pink or blue flowers. Should be grown in a sheltered sunny position in well drained soil – they hate wet roots in winter, and may not be hardy in extremely cold winters. To keep the plants compact, stems should be trimmed back after the flowers start to fade. This can be done as though you were picking springs of rosemary to use in the kitchen. Can be propagated by cuttings.
Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). Grown for its amazingly jasmine-scented flowers, this evergreen climber also has attractive glossy leaves, and will self-cling and twine itself around a support, if tied in initially. It does however need some sort of framework to grow up. A sheltered position in full sun or dappled shade is required. Any maintenance pruning should be carried out in spring. This could be shortening or removing wayward shoots, or thinning out shoots in congested areas. To renovation prune, cut back all shoots by two thirds, to a side shoot or flowering spur. This should encourage buds to break further down the stems. Note that Star jasmine exudes a sticky white sap when cut that is difficult to get off hands and clothes. Can be propagated by layering, or from semi-ripe cuttings in summer/autumn.
Wisteria (Wisteria). I have a very overgrown wisteria which does not appear to have had any flowers this year. Wisterias need regular pruning not just to keep them under control, but also to improve flowering. They should be pruned twice a year. In July/August, after flowering, the long whippy shoots of the current year’s growth should be cut back to five or six leaves/buds. As well as helping control the spread of the plant, this encourages the plant to put energy into flower bud formation for next year, rather than into green leafy growth. Then, in winter (Dec-Feb), these same shoots should be cut back to two or three buds to tidy up the plant and to help ensure that the new flowers will not be hidden by leaves. If renovation pruning is needed, wisteria can be cut back hard in winter (from leaf fall through to February). Hard pruning will result in strong growth, which can either be tied in or removed, depending on the structure required. It may take two or three years for flowering to resume.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). A herbaceous perennial that flowers repeatedly throughout the summer, yarrow is sometimes considered a wildflower or weed, but is growing in my garden like a cultivated plant. They can cope with heat, drought and poor soil. Yarrow is low maintenance. Deadheading can prolong flowering, and if the plants are looking tired by mid-season they can be sheared back to rejuvenate them. In ideal growing conditions the spread may need to be controlled somewhat. Can be propagated by division or from seed, or by replanting self-seeded plants.
(The following are waiting to be updated/expanded upon):
Rosa rugosa. (Roseraie de l’Hay?) I have a row of these planted alongside a wall, but many of them are half dead. They need an irrigation system and a good sort out. There are also brambles and other weeds growing up amongst them. An area I need to tackle soon, but have so far been put off by the thorns, the brambles, and a small snake that we saw lurking in there!
Oleander. I wanted an oleander bush, and it seems I’ve got one. Unfortunately it seems to have self-seeded almost under the tap by the front door. Seeing as they can reach tree-size, this is most definitely not the right place for it. I might take some cuttings from it before attempting to transplant it to a more suitable location.
Sempervivum. This seems to just grow, on the stone walls and in stony crevices, so again I’m not sure if it should be classed as ‘cultivated’, but some of them are nicely placed, and a bit of a feature, so I have included them here.
Stag’s horn sumac. Some would say garden plant, some would say weed! I may have to keep on top of its suckers, but I do like them, especially for their beautiful autumn colours.
Grapevine. I have three of these, planted as fruit-producing ornamentals, growing up various pergolas and balconies etc. I don’t know if they are all the same variety or not.
Mint. There are several patches of mint here which have done what mint does – ie. they have taken over the flowerbed or are spreading out into the lawn. Luckily there is plenty of space, so they are welcome to spread.
Climbing rose. It’s smallish, it’s semi-double, it’s a pinky-red. I’ve no idea what it is! I have seen photos where this rose is flowering abundantly, but when we arrived it was overgrown and half dead. I have pruned it and given it some TLC and it has rewarded me with a smattering of roses. Hoping for a better display next year.
Photinia. Photinia has been used in several places as a bit of screening hiding a bit of fencing or the side of a shed. Whilst not one of my favourites it is doing a useful job.
Box. Box grows in the wild in France, and can grow to great heights. I assume the very informal box ‘hedge’ by our entrance was planted, but it fits in well with the local environment. It is 8 or 10 feet tall, and so far I have just loosely clipped the outer side to tidy it slightly, while still allowing it to sprawl naturally.
Helianthus. A few straggly helianthus have appeared, giving a welcome splash of colour. They have grown a bit tall and then flopped, but hopefully I will be able to give them a boost so they come back stronger next year.
Purple hazel (Corylus maxima ‘Purpurea’). A large deciduous shrub with dark purple leaves, yellow catkins in late winter, and edible nuts. It can reach 6-8m if grown as a specimen tree. They grow well in most soils in sun or partial shade, although they grow greener in shade, and are very hardy. Hazels can be pruned or coppiced to control their size and height, but can also be left to their own devices. Propagation is best by grafting.
Fig trees. I have two mature fig trees, as well as a number of saplings growing up where they shouldn’t be. I do not yet know what variety they are, but going on the evidence of the breba figs on one of them, they are fairly large and golden yellow when ripe.
Apple trees. I have three apple trees, which have between them produced a grand total of four somewhat diseased apples this year. Two of the trees look relatively young and healthy, whilst the other is small and stunted, the main trunk having broken off or died at some point in the past. Some TLC needed, I think.
Apricot tree. The apricot tree looks relatively healthy, but again has borne no fruit. I am guessing that this is because the blossom got frosted in the spring.
Almond tree. The almond tree looks a little bit fragile – spindly and brittle branches, and again no sign of any nuts. It has been very tightly tied to its stake, which has started to damage the bark and may also have prevented it from producing strong anchoring roots.
Mulberry. The mulberry tree is a more mature specimen than most of the other fruit trees. It did have developing mulberries on it this year, but something seems to have eaten them before they got anywhere near ripe.
And these are more recent additions that I have acquired:
Chasmanthium latifolium (grass)
Eleagnus ebbingei Gilt Edge
Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Applause’
Shrubby sage (under window)
Abelia × grandiflora ‘Compacta’
Geum chiloense ‘Lady Strathenden’
Lagerstroemia – X2 different
Japanese anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’
Scilla peruviana -Portuguese squill
Hemerocallis ‘Howard Goodson’
Oenothera (pink and yellow!)
Thyme and lemon thyme
Grapevines – cardinal? other two white ones?
Plant swap grass –
Cistus purpureus ‘Alan Fradd’
Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’
Thyme thymus nitens
Salvia greggii Sungold
Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’
Pittosporum tobira nanum
Helianthemum x ‘Ben Hope’
Part 2 – Wish list
This is probably a dangerous thing to do, and could grow arms and legs, but I thought I would start to make a list of some of the plants that I have seen growing in the area, that I might like to have in my garden one day (if my garden conditions and layout allow).
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’. I love purple leaved shrubs and trees, and this one has done well for me before. Sounds like it should thrive in France although I haven’t seen it here yet.
Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’. Slightly tender for UK so I hope it would do well in France. Or maybe Solanum jasminoides ‘Album’, although I do like the purple colour.
Viburnum Opulus, which I love for its bright red berries, or perhaps Viburnum Opulus Sterile/Roseum, which doesn’t have the berries but comes highly recommended with an AGM. I am not sure which one I have seen growing here in several places. The just-opening pale green pom-poms look fabulous entwined with purple wisteria.
Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ – not because the name is French but because it’s probably my favourite flower/shrub of all time. I have seen other Philadelphus growing in gardens, so hope that I will be able to grow this one.
Thyme – this may be Jekka’s Thyme (after Jekka McVicar). The bees seem to love it, and the leaves are very strongly aromatic.
Purple Bearded Iris (Iris germanica). This seems to grow everywhere around here so hopefully I might inherit some. It would look good along the base of the stone garden walls, either inside or outside the garden. Gorgeous scent.
Monk’s pepper plant (Vitex agnus-castus)
Cotinus coggygria- Grace? Royal Purple?
Cyclamen for woodland
Phyillyrea – “evergreen privet” (Mediterranean) – augustifolia=narrow leaf, latifolia=broader leaf