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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