Amid the rolling hills and valleys of the Vendéen countryside, I have created a garden from what was once rustic pastureland. The style is informal…no careful flowerbeds arranged in geometric patterns for me!
Springtime sees a mass of daffodils in my garden, jonquils, hyacinth, crocus, bluebells and early roses. The air is fresh and clean after the greyness of winter. Brown, grey, black and white wild rabbits emerge from burrows to nibble the new grass and bound joyfully about the lawns. And my two dwarf bunnies also emerge from the warmth of their well-insulated hutch to exercise in their run.
During summer months, flowerbeds are crammed with a profusion of flowering bushes, roses, lilies, Japanese lanterns, canna, sunflowers and lavenders and Canadian maple, interspersed with clumps of perennial daisies. Wisteria winds its way up and over the front doors. Bushes sporting tiny pink roses encircle the shimmering blue waters of the swimming pool, and apricot, pink and white oleander blossoms flourish by the poolside. A riot of nature’s beauty!
The fan-shaped leaves of a fig tree shade one of our outside bedrooms, the other by the boughs of an ancient ash. Walking towards the garden gate, visitors are tempted by trees heavy with apples, cherries and hazelnuts. Blackberries ripen in late summer and raspberries canes continue to produce fruit until the end of September.
The arrival of autumn finds the garden equally colourful – this time with differing shades of russet, green and gold. Bushes are ablaze with berries and chestnuts litter the drive in front of the house. Buds on evergreen bushes burst into flower, the tiny white blooms delicately scenting the air. It is almost time to replenish the bird table with grain, grease balls and a dish of water. From the veranda, one can see an amazing variety of birds of all sizes partaking of the fare set out for them. One year, I saw a bird of prey arrive at the bird-table, and unsurprisingly, other birds chose not to be present during his brief visit!
And then it is winter. Plants disappear underground to sleep the cold months away, and most trees stand leafless and stark against a leaden sky. I am thankful for the evergreen fir trees that sit on the lawns, and the holly bushes sporting their bright scarlet berries. Snow might fall, but my donkeys are there every morning, waiting for their breakfast by the gate, looking like five little snowmen with long fluffy ears! I wield a pickaxe to break the thick ice on their water butt, so that they might drink. The months drag by, but I tell myself that it won’t be long before small green shoots begin pushing up from the earth, to signal the arrival of spring once again…