The barn garden in spring

I thought we might have a photo essay today. Otherwise you will get action shots of bindweed which I have been pulling out of the garden paths in the potager. That delight awaits.

Instead I offer you colour and landscaping that is working well.

You’ve seen the shade garden at the top of the path (near the potting shed) now you get the garden at the bottom of the path.

The Barn garden. I ought to have been braver and called it the Calabert garden, as that is the Ardèche name for this open-sided stone barn.

It was one of the first areas I planted up twelve years ago. If you dive into the Farm Tour section you can have a good laugh at the disastrous planting schemes I tried in this tricky spot.



Steep slope, a deer track wending through on the flat which I gravelled. One tiny narrow bed to the left, falling away to the next terrace. (And that’s an emphasis on falling away. I can’t step anywhere near the edge of this bed on the side close to the lawn bank as it is held up by air and crumbling logs.) And on the right side the bed is in deep shade half the day, and obscured by a walnut tree above in high summer. And a manky apple.

In short, I wouldn’t start a garden from here.

But I did.

And even though I am struggling to photograph it properly, I thought we could have a look in detail at some of the winners here.

In short; rosemaries and iris. Stalwarts. Mighty good do-ers.  And the star in the rosemary bunch is Miss Jessop’s Upright. That’s the one that flowers so vividly blue. And actually stays upright.



I have learned you really need to think carefully when pruning rosemaries.  Hack back too enthusiastically and you get a spreading girth in no time.  And as my rosemaries have to hug this narrow path and garden I try and keep the secateurs well away.

Irises. My irises. I will spare you the lyricism.  They are just darn good plants.  I decided that these redundant stone steps (concrete infill, I fear, not by me) needed to be de-commissioned. So what better plant to put in the gaps than my favourite weed.

and I find them useful in shoving into spaces while I wait for the shrubs to grow.


Where else works well without too much shrieking and tweaking? Nepeta. Thuggish but great.  It has already started its work in the flower bouquets each market day.  And I have decided that next year I will do a more radical lift and divide and save these irises from being swamped.

If you look at the Farm Tour section you can see that this whole garden area started from three santolina plants from my friend Andrew. They still survive. As do the cuttings.  But it’s an almighty battle.

If I look critically as this space I would have to say that the only reliable shrub for the busy and neglectful gardener is this one.  Santolina chamaecyparissus. The grey one.

It’s on the left of this shot in front of the flowering rosemary.

Every other santolina will break your heart.  Primrose Gem has gorgeous green foliage, but has alarming dying habits.  You have to go at it with secateurs every single year just to keep it going.

But the cypress santolina just keeps growing ever so slowly and only needs one hack back a year.   [look on the Filippi website for the gory details: ]



And speaking of Cypress, here I am trying out the cypresses for a bit of height

Early days, but I’m having fun.