my parterres - an update - MY FRENCH COUNTRY HOME

digging the parterre at my french country home

Back in July I asked you for advice about parterres, you may remember my sketches that helped me visualise how they may work.

sketch for parterre design

Well the big news is, they are happening!

We have cut out and dug over the four symmetrical beds, that was the easy bit!   Of course the next step is to fill them, and I wondered if you’d have some more ideas for me please.

digging the parterre at my french country home

Each bed measures 4×4 metres, with a cut out corner in the center.   I therefore have over 60 metres of edging to plant, and then of course I need to fill the beds to give interest through the spring and summer.  I’m not looking for anything happening during the winter, the beds will be shut down around November time, in preparation for our winter when temperatures can drop to -15°, or sometimes even -20°.  Ugh!

These are the lines that I am thinking along, but I love to learn from other people’s experience so if you have some alternative suggestions, then I am listening!   I am looking for blocks of colour, probably white and blue as an echo to the bed in front of the terrace.  I don’t want it so tidy that it looks like a garden outside a town hall, but neither will I go for the cottage garden planting that I use elsewhere.

First of all the edging.  There is a problem with box blight here in Normandy, so I won’t be risking that one.  I am looking at Ilex Crenata for a box equivalent.  I was tempted to go for a much softer look with for example a Nepata, but it may be more difficult to keep tidy … Also, the Nepata, or catmint, will flower blue in May/ june, and I’m not sure I want that competition with the peonies …..any thoughts on that one?

catmint border

So I was wondering about  putting in tulip bulbs for the first touch of colour in April/May I am looking at tall parrot tulips in black and white.  Does anyone have any experience of growing these, do their heavy heads make them flop over, or will they resist and stand straight?

black and white parrot tulips

Moving right along from the tulips, May will see the peonies come into bloom.  I am looking at Duchesse De Nemours, as it flowers early and grows to about 85cm high, perfect!

Paeonia Duchesse de Nemours

At this point I could have some white or blue alliums pointing their heads above the foliage of the peonies once the flowers are over

blue and whiye alliums

And then we come to the roses.  Roses are my best bet for seeing me through the summer and into the autumn.  I need a repeat flowering, around 1 meter high, disease resistant and white or cream in colour.   I am looking at  Margaret Merril, Iceberg and Snowdrift, shown here.  I love the very slight tinge of colour in the Snowdrift, but it may not flower for quite so long as an Iceberg …. still researching that one.

white rose snowdrift

With my busy summer and fall , I am probably too late for buying the tulip and allium bulbs, in which case they’ll go in next year.  But I still have plenty of time for the edging, the peonies and the roses.

Planting and maintaining these beds is not going to be the easiest thing, I know that.  For now I am concentrating on how many plants I can include, how close to plant them, and how to persuade the dogs not to dig them straight up – you know, the everyday stuff.

peonies in parterre

I look forward to reading any suggestions you may have for me, and I’ll try to answer each comment or email, thank you so much.


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