Seasonal temperature changes here in France can be extreme, in many parts going from well below -10c in winter to well over 40c in summer, making gardening in France somewhat of a challenge. Today I received a wonderful question from Barry in the Tarn-et-Garonne region of France, as the question is pertinent to so many of us I thought I’d make my response into a new blog post.
“Hi there, this is a request for assistance. My garden is really a terrace with a border all round, 6 metres wide by 16 metres deep, facing south-west. It is situated in a hill-top village with a panoramic view, which I do not wish to interrupt with large shrubs.It has a 2 metre high wall on the south side which makes that side shady and exposed to the north-westerly wind. I am now ready to plant it out, and would very much appreciate advice/recommendations for dwarf plants and shrubs together with climbers, suitable for the climate here in Tarn-et-Garonne, which can be -12c in winter and 40c in mid summer.
As you may have guessed I am not a gardener! Thank you in advance for any help you can give. Barry”
Here in La Corrèze we experience exactly the same weather conditions as Barry in the Tarn-et-Garonne. Below I have listed a few shrubs and climbers which have performed well in my French garden over the past 3 years. Whilst they are not in the main classed as dwarf shrubs, they are all easy to keep maintained and low.
Pyracantha angustifolia ‘Saphyr red’ French name: Buisson-ardent ‘Saphyr rouge’. Although happy in full sun, Pyracantha is equally happy in shady, cold spots and will be perfect for an exposed, shady wall. This is a compact, evergreen Pyracantha, which is fully hardy and has white flowers followed by an abundance of red-orange berries.
Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple. ’ French name: Arbre à perruques. Although happy in full sun, Cotinus is equally happy in partial shade and performs well in exposed aspects. It is a deciduous hardy shrub which has deep purple leaves which turn red in autumn.
Jasminum nudiflorum. French name: Jasmin d’hiver. Although happy in full sun, Winter Jasmine does equally well in shade and will tolerate cold winds. A lovely climbing plant which has bright yellow flowers from January into March.
This is my third winter here in France and all of the above have survived well, even through last year’s winter which was particularly extreme with temperatures reaching as low as -20c.
Over the years I have had a couple of casualties of the varying weather temperatures, and would therefore perhaps recommend that you avoid these plants; Choisya Ternata and Sarcococca confusa. I do also have a Fatsia japonica which is a great shrub for shady areas. Last year I was foolish enough not to cover the Fatsia over winter and I almost lost it. Fortunately it is a fighter and it grew back well even after loosing all its leaves. This year I have not made the same mistake and it is nicely tucked up under a fleece frame.
I’d love to hear your hardy shrub suggestions for gardening in France (as I’m sure Barry would) so please feel free to use the comments box below.