Xeriscape Oceanfront Garden in Northern Brittany

This truly exceptional garden was created in the small village of Roscanvel, in Brittany, overlooking the ocean. It is terraced to accommodate a hilly lot and also affords some protection from the sea spray and wind, and of course winter storms that are commonplace in the region.

A variety of hardy and low maintenance shrubs and evergreens add visual interest with different shapes and foliage colors. A few flowering shrubs and perennials such as pink oleander or lambs ear add touches of color. The grey foliage of the lambs ear by the garden remains when they are finished blooming.

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Lambs ear and purple ice plant
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Amazing ocean view
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Hebe in bloom
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Mixed shrubs
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Various shapes add interest

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A French Wash House and Cottage Garden in Roscanvel

I came across this lovely cottage garden and old stone wash house or “lavoir” in French in Roscanvel, a small village on the coast of Brittany (I will be posting about other gardens in this area of the coast as well).

This is an example of a very simple wash house with a stone fountain going into a wash basin for women to do their laundry. Similar ones can be found all over French villages.

Note the extremely tall viperine, which in Brittany can grow well over 10 ft tall for some species. The valeriane growing on the side of a wall thrives in the poorest conditions and will not live as long in a garden border and richer soil.

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Viperine
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Back of fountain
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Roses in mixed border
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Valeriane

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Nantes “Jardin des Plantes” Part 1: The Scientific Garden

The Botanical Gardens (Jardin de Plantes) in Nantes have been awarded the title of “Jardin Remarquable” (garden of exception), and are also one of the four largest in France. They showcase 10,000 species/varieties, 800square meters of hot houses, and over 50,000 flowers are planted each year.

The collections have grown over the past 150 years, and are renowned worldwide, for camellias in particular.  The Jardin the Plantes also strives to protect and reintroduce rare plants.

A portion of the Gardens is dedicated to the green houses as well as a showcase for organizing, labeling, and experimenting with many species of plants.

Several greenhouses, both humid and dry, house tropical plants.  There is also a conservatory style café and a welcome center.

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A lawn arae is divided up to showcase individual flowering plants, all of which are labeled and referenced, lantanas, Buenos aires verbena, geraniums, begonias,  etc

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Another area features a meliferous “butterfly” garden, to foster pollination in the gardens.

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Other plants are grown in various grid combinations and organized by species (ferns,  grasses …)

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Raised beds include herbal and edible plants, as well as new varieties of grapevines being developed for wine growing.

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The edge of the scientific garden features espaliered trees and vines such as this kiwi vine (actinidia)

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Suce sur Erdre: Two Gardens With Vine Covered Arbors

Both gardens in Suce sur Erdre, a small town in southern Brittany, France, are designed around a long alley with an arbor, leading from the gate to the house. Wisteria is only starting to cover the  first one towards the house, while the second is covered from one end to the other in grapevines. Both arbors are made of metal, treated to withstand the humidity and rain prevalent in  Brittany, particularly over the winter.

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Note the crepe myrtles in full bloom framing the arbor towards the front gate, above, and the acanthus growing on the side of the arbor featured below.

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France: A Japanese Zen Garden on an Island in Nantes

The island of Versailles on the Erdre river in Nantes was man made in 1831 and originally used by naval builders. It was transformed in 1983 into a Japanese garden with three Japanese inspired buildings, one a café and the others used for exhibits about the river and its environment.

The garden features meandering paths, benches, a waterfall, bamboo groves, water features, and numerous shade tolerant plants including hostas, as well as spireas and a variety of evergreens.

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Brittany Canals, Cottage Gardens at the Locks – Part 2

This post features more of the lovely cottage gardens dotting the canal at the locks in Brittany near Nantes.

The first garden has a lush display of roses, palms, dahlias and perennials, as a large trumpet vine (Bignonia) covers the pergola (in the last photo)

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Next is an old fashioned garden mixing edibles such as the pumpkin patch with a cutting garden, and embellished with some perennials as well. Young apple trees are tutored and espaliered.

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In Blain: A Medieval Kitchen Garden

I came across a lovely medieval style garden in the town of Blain in southern Brittany (France). The beds are bordereded with a traditional edging of woven branches. Some are used to grow vegetables, others have  aromatics or medicinal plants of all kinds, as well as some old fashioned and all but forgotten plants. The garden is still fairly young, but grapevines are growing along the wall,  as well as on the arbor behind.

Woven edging is called “bordure en Plessis” in French, and is most commonly done using willow, because the twigs or branches are both long and very flexible. Wicker is also fairly common especially for tighter and more even weaves. Hazelnut branches may on occasion be used as well for a more rustic look.

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Chateau de Blain – A Formal Garden in a Brittany Castle

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In a typical small French town on a Brittany canal is the Chateau de Blain.  Built overlooking the water, it features a restaurant, formal gardens, a small round garden room built as a lookout for the archery tournament reenacted on the ground each year and some of the original 15th -16th century structure complete with a moat.

The formal border is done in a traditional French style, symmetrical with rounded and trimmed boxwood and large plantings of lavender as well as less conventional grasses.

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Brittany Canals, Cottage Gardens at the Locks – Part 1

While visitors may on occasion complain about the weather, the gardens of Brittany benefit from abundant rainfall and moderately high temperatures in the summer. The Brittany countryside is lush and green year round, and so are the gardens. I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days on a boat navigating the Canal of Nantes in Southern Brittany.

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The canal is dotted with locks every couple of kilometers, and each lock has a lockmaster house, many of which display lush front gardens in a casual cottage style.

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The next one mixes banana trees (musa basjoo probably) with perennial borders in shades of yellow and orange on one side (black eyed susans, marigolds), pinks and blues on the other.

The green circle on the sign indicates there is someone to assist you through the lock; a blue one would mean you can go through but it is self service, red indicates it is closed.

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Another garden contrasts the blue shutters so typical of Brittany with lush mixed perennial borders.

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The last one features a quirky bird sculpture in a mixed border next to red nasturtiums for a touch of whimsy.

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