Neuvic starts the round of flower shows

Neuvic Château with exhibitors
Château de Neuvic with exhibitors

Gardening in France is a very different matter from the UK. Gone is the wealth of advice on radio and television, the yellow-backed books of gardens open to the public, the suburban gardens lovingly tended, row after row. If you want gardening interest and advice you’ll have to hunt around for it.

There are of course beautiful gardens. In the Dordogne you can see a classic “green garden” with its sculptured topiary at the Manoir d’Eyrignac, while the Jardins de l’Imaginaireat Terrasson is an ambitious creation of a contemporary garden over six hectares. But in a way this says it all: in both cases the gardens are large-scale, and not necessarily helpful when you’re creating a one-acre garden in a former field.

There are also garden centres – the ubiquitous Jardiland can be found east and west of Périgueux, at Trélissac and Chancelade respectively. Between Bergerac and the airport of Roumanières is the excellent centre of Desmartis.

But these will usually have a limited and largely predictable stock. If you want something a bit different, keep your eye out for the flower shows and festivals.

Neuvic’s flower show

Neuvic exhibitors

One of these took place in the grounds of Neuvic’s imposing château on Sunday April 30. (If you don’t know the château or its botanical garden, I suggest you pay it a visit. The botanical garden stretches over six acres and will give you plenty of ideas for shrubs, in particular.)

The occasion highlighted yet again the difference between English and French habits. There were plenty of plants on show, of excellent quality, many of unusual species. A number of the exhibitors had travelled a considerable distance. But they didn’t seem to have the first idea of promoting themselves or their businesses. Since our garden’s still a building site, I wanted to collect names and addresses for future reference. The list of exhibitors we were given on entering the grounds had only the name of the business and a telephone number – no indication of where they were from. Stands hardly existed – plants were placed on the ground, with, somewhere at the back, an all-purpose table for coffee-cups, order books and, somewhere under the debris, a small collection of cards. It was by asking for cards that I discovered people had travelled up from neighbouring departments – Lot-et-Garonne and Gironde, in particular.

Find plants in your local market

Vivaces Simon
Mme Simon’s display

I noticed that one or two of the others mentioned that they were to be found in their local markets. I knew this was the case with the charming Madame Simon, the French widow of a Scottish plantsman – her stall is to be found outside our Ribérac house each Friday morning, with some beautiful and unusual perennials. Another exhibitor, Willy de Wilde, specialist in bamboos, has premises at Rouffignac and can be found at Rouffignac market every Sunday when not at events like the Neuvic one. So one answer may be to keep an eye out in your local market – if you ask the trader for a card they’ll be happy for you to visit their premises so you can see a full selection of what they have to offer.

But apart from this, I suggest you keep an eye out for events similar to the Neuvic one and go along armed with the most capacious bags you can find. I discovered a herb specialist who had travelled miles to get to Neuvic, which led to my adding to the collection growing in pots on the terrace of our rented house. But if the builders were not currently occupying our garden I’d have been like a child in a sweetshop.

The other things you’ll find at these events will be garden furniture and ornaments, birdboxes, books, and other garden-associated items.

Willy de Wilde: Telephone no. 05 53 46 78 18

Vivaces Simon: Telephone no. 05 53 90 42 57

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