may in the garden – parterres and other delights

by Sharon Santoni

detail from flower bed in may


Of all the months in the garden, May is probably my favourite.  The speed at which the garden changes is amazing.  In just four weeks we go from the last of the daffodils, through the irises, and straight in to the peonies.

the-may-garden-my-french-country-home 13

Colours are spectacular as plants compete against each other to attract the bees, and although the roses are only just beginning to bloom, there is plenty of other stuff to keep us satisfied.

detail from flower bed in may

Some of my readers have been kind enough to write and ask how the parterres are shaping up.  You may remember that I wanted to create four parterre beds in my garden and was inundated with fantastic and generous planting suggestions.  You can read all the ideas here and here.

parterres in garden, my french country home

The beds were opened up and dug over last winter, but I held off on planting until the Spring.  Planting up 4 beds measuring 16 square metres each is quite a big commitment and I needed time to think and plan before reaching for a trowel.  The gardeners among you will know that gardening is a game of patience and anticipation.   We plant and sow for the months or even years to come.   I know that for the moment the beds look a little underpopulated , but by end of June they will look better and next year they should look great.

detail parterre beds

One of the biggest questions was the borders or edges of the squares.  Traditionally parterres gardens are edged in boxwood.   This was an option, but it would have added a very formal feel to our rather soft-around-the-edges country garden, and I wasn’t sure we were ready for that.  It would also have been a big cost, and I preferred to keep my budget this year for filling up the centres.

So while I make my mind up about the box, which I can always plant next fall, I simply propagated some Lamium from elsewhere in the garden , and I am glad to say that it is already well on its way to joining up into a soft line of variegated pale grey-green and white leaves.

The colour scheme for the parterres is white/grey/blue/ and black.  Centre stage in each square I chose to plant a tall white weeping rose, the White Dorothy.  I’m hoping that they will provide tall and striking interest while allowing me space to fill below.

The only plant that went into the ground last winter were the huge white alliums.  They have come through well, although their leaves have been attacked by a Horrible Beast – and incidentally if anyone has the solution to that one, then I’d be interested.

detail parterre bed

I planted a lot of aromatic plants, thinking that next year when they are fully grown, the perfume in the evening will be lovely.  In case you are interested, below is the list of plants that have gone into each square.  I’d be happy to hear your opinion on my choices.  Quantity in particular is always difficult to get right,  I know I need to leave space for each  plant to bush out, it is getting the balance right that can be tricky.

So far each square holds:

5 thymes

2 rosemary

2 sage

5 white Veronica

1 black and white ‘checkers’ oriental poppy

2 nepeta or catmint

9 allium

1 White Dorothy weeping rose

2 helichrysum or curry plant

3 lavender

2 blue perennial geranium

I have also sown a little

‘black’ cornflower

‘black’ annual poppies

Gibson and Ghetto asked me to thank you again for all the precious advice you have given me about the parterres, although they did add that now the planting was done, they’d far prefer to get out the gate and go for a walk in the forest

gibson and ghetto at the garden gate


Agnes Baboo May 25, 2015 - 10:51 pm

You did a terrific job ! Your garden is a piece of heaven !
By chance do you know the name of the light pink rose (1st pic) ?

Sharon Santoni May 25, 2015 - 11:02 pm

Thank you Agnes, I wish I did know the name of that rose, it is so generous! I have two in the garden, but unfortunately neither have a name tag. It is very perfumed, the only downside is that it flowers just the once

thank you for asking


Agnes Baboo May 26, 2015 - 12:04 am

Thank you for replying. Only one flowering means it’s an ancient rose. Is it a climbing one or a shrub ?

Suji Beckett May 27, 2015 - 8:18 pm

The Rose might be a David Austin called Constance Spry

Anna August 1, 2016 - 5:59 am

Possibly Souvenir de la Malmaison ?

Agnes Baboo August 1, 2016 - 2:39 pm

Thanks for your answer ☺
Souvenir de la Malmaison is a remontant one and Sharon said it’s flowering only once. This beauty keeps its secret !

Schwartz Nicole May 26, 2015 - 10:33 am

Sorry to interfere.
I think this could be a Rose Crescendo. I like also his perfume.

Agnes Baboo May 26, 2015 - 2:34 pm

Don’t be sorry 😉 Thanks for this info, I’m going to check.

suzanna May 25, 2015 - 11:07 pm

BeautifuL Sharon, “just” what I needed today, to see your gorgeous flowers and adorable home…..simply divine, truly “lifted my spirits today” of more inspiration! Simply wonderfuL~~ they are all so beautiful, sweet, I love them all ! I love those white hydrangeas, your sweet pink peonies, & the sweet faced pups, awww ~~
Merci Beaucoup ! xoxo

Laura Keane May 25, 2015 - 11:11 pm

Beautiful Sharon, just beautiful feel good pics, and I just love the dogs! Blessing to you…

Zelda Angel May 25, 2015 - 11:17 pm

l planted penoies three years ago, this year is the first time they have flowered and the colour is between a deep pink and purple,. just wonderful. unfortunately l will not be seeing them next year as l am moving home in October.
l do hope to visit France and your region this year, reading your emails and seeing the pictures l cannot wait to visit the antique markets.

Shirley Ryan May 25, 2015 - 11:54 pm

Love the lamium for edging on your parterres. FYI….checkout Kevin Lee Jacobs at “A Garden For The House.”

He has a place on his site/blog for propagating your own boxwood very simply and very inexpensively! You take several(3-5) 6″ new cuttings, strip the bottom 2″ or so and plant them in these little clusters. In a couple of years you have a fabulous small edge. I could see you starting these between your lamiums. He has pictures & fabulous directions. Check it out-it is so worth it. I’m trying it myself this year!

Love your blog and all things French! Hope it hoes on and on. I read every one!

Vicky from Athens May 25, 2015 - 11:59 pm

Everything is simply beautiful! It looks like you have some really good dirt to work with and makes a world of difference. I’m envious – here in Georgia we have alot of red clay! I like your choice of lamium for the border. Parsley makes a nice border, also.

Colleen Taylor May 25, 2015 - 11:59 pm

What a gorgeous garden Sharon! I would imagine the scent is magnificent! Wonderful & hard work!

Sally May 26, 2015 - 12:01 am

What a charming and beautiful garden.

Lisa May 26, 2015 - 12:01 am

Is your Dorothy rose a rambler? If so do you just cut it back?

Florence May 26, 2015 - 12:02 am

Your garden is amazing! A true inspiration. I can’t wait to see more pictures come June, when the roses are in full bloom.

Carol Jane May 26, 2015 - 12:31 am

Just heavenly. Looks like a story book. What are the white ball flowers? So pretty.

Carol Jane May 26, 2015 - 12:44 am

Oh. There hydrangea s.

Vicky from Athens May 26, 2015 - 12:50 am

Or could they be viburnum? Our hydrangeas aren’t open like that yet but the viburnum are.

sally May 26, 2015 - 4:25 pm

Sometimes known as the ‘snowball bush’, this is Viburnum Macrocephalum – the white one

But I would love to know the plant name of the green version, here in the uk it is often called ‘guelder rose’

Heather Caddy May 26, 2015 - 12:54 am

Hi Sharon

I note that you were wondering what the name of the rose was in the first pic of today’s post …I think it may be Pierre de Ronsard which only flowere the once. Hope this helps.

I look forward to reading your posts each day.

Best wishes

Laura Hearn May 26, 2015 - 1:34 pm

This rose resembles the one time bloomer that I have on my wall. Mine is The Eden rose…….Just another thought.

Agnes Baboo May 26, 2015 - 2:52 pm

Thanks or this info. If I’m not mistaken, “Eden Rose” is for “Pierre de Ronsard” by Meilland in english catalogs, it flowers several times, it is nicely scented but not intensively. I have it in my garden.

Karena May 26, 2015 - 1:51 am

Dear Sharon,
The parterres are shaping up beautifully, won’t the scent be glorious!!
I love all of the choices you are making with such thoughtfulness!

The Arts by Karena
Coco Chanel: Three Weeks

Judi May 26, 2015 - 2:04 am

Who cuts the grass? Everytime i cone to France i never see anyone cutting grass!

Jeanne Henriques May 26, 2015 - 2:41 am

I love the natural lines of your gardens Sharon and I think you are wise to take patience as your lead. You have a wonderful eye for beauty…one step will follow another under your gentle hands. You will know when it is right…and any time you are not sure, take your two, GG’s, for a walk in the woods. I always find some of my best ideas come from the woods, it is a great space for clearing the mind clutter. Happy Gardening Sharon…xx

Leslie in Oregon May 27, 2015 - 12:54 am

I second what Jeanne so inimitably says! We have a large forest nearby, which neither our two dogs (Henry and Bob) nor I can imagine not walking in every day.
Now, off to take advantage of the beautiful gardening weather, Leslie

Linda May 26, 2015 - 3:12 am

Your photos of your garden always inspire me. These new beds are pretty already, but in a short time will be glorious. Thanks for the inspiration.


LA CONTESSA May 26, 2015 - 3:36 am

WHITE DOROTHY!!!!???I need to see a photo of that!Never heard of that rose…….
IT will ALL be MAGICAL……………can’t wait to see!

Andrina May 26, 2015 - 3:44 am

Sharon, what a fabulous job you have done. The scent will be magnificent.

Deborah May 26, 2015 - 5:30 am

I am all but positive this rose is Constance Spry.I have it in my garden and it came from an avid gardener.It is a David Austen rose.An old beauty with a remarkable scent.

Jan Drury May 26, 2015 - 7:12 am

The white bush is (as we called it Aust. is the Ball Tree or Gilder Rose (viburnum) they are just beautiful. As a youngster growing up, these were very popular in the ’50 and ’60. We used to love spreading all the petals over just mown lawns. The Rose is not Pierre de Ronsarrd. I have 2 Pierres and that is not it. Sorry I can’t help with its name. Love your posts Sharon, really look forward to them.

Emily May 26, 2015 - 8:24 am

Sharon, I think your rose is Constance Spry. I have the same one in my garden – wish it bloomed more than once but it’s quite lovely and smells divine.

Agnes Baboo May 26, 2015 - 2:32 pm

It seems Constance Spry colouring is a little more vivid to me.

lucy May 26, 2015 - 10:40 am

I`m really thrilled every time I read ur blog & look at the brethtaking pics of the garden , the flowers ,the wonderful cottage!I love ur dogs!!!
Thank u 4 sharing!God bless u & ur family!

Lee May 26, 2015 - 12:26 pm

Beautiful garden….great planning. When I had a garden I used Listerine for a pesticide. Yes, the mouthwash! Half water and half Listerine. You have to reapply after it rains. You might want to add a little dish detergent. I used it to repel Japanese Beetles on my rose bushes.
Enjoy your garden and your sweet dogs. Blessings.

Agnes Baboo May 26, 2015 - 2:01 pm

Hello Lee,

Sorry to interfere… “Japanese Beetles” you means these detestable bugs that eat roses from the inside ? And adding – what kind of – dish detergent, it works ? OMG tell me “yes” !!

roses pour toujours May 26, 2015 - 1:59 pm

Very nice parterres. Des jolies idées. I have so many lawns. Should like to make some lavender parterres. I live in the Drôme, originally dutch. Very nice page do you have. Thank you,

Pat Crowder May 26, 2015 - 2:14 pm

Your garden is just beautiful, magic in the making Sharon!

Patricia Cowan May 26, 2015 - 3:51 pm

So many things to comment on…first, the rose does appear to be an old spring blooming Bourbon, or, it could be a David Austin but his usually re-bloom. As to Japanese beetles, I have quite a number of old roses in my garden and I typically hand pick the nasty critters every morning and throw them into a small bucket of soapy water with a bit of olive oil. After 2 wks they are usually gone. The JB hatch from grub worms which live in the soil feeding on microrganisims, worms… and roots when soil is dead [due to synthetic chemical use]. Try building up the organic material in soil, use milky spore to combat the JB in soil. Pests attack plants and roses that are in stress but also just for “food-fun” at other times! In your lovely new garden, the Lamium is a nice edging but I’m not sure it stays around during winter…which is why I would consider adding some alternating French thyme and make a nice deep v-trench edging…I typically start with small plants in a new bed and let the root systems establish and by the 3rd spring…WoooHooo!

Our French Oasis May 26, 2015 - 3:51 pm

Isn’t May just the most amazing month in the garden, every day after feeding the chickens and letting them out I take the same route back up the garden and every day something new has burst into flower – the month of may could turn even the most non interested gardening person into a gardener! Interestingly just a few hours further south here in the Charente Maritime our roses are out in full force and have been for about three weeks, all the locals are saying they have never known such an amazing year for roses!

Patricia Cowan May 26, 2015 - 3:54 pm

Whoops, forgot…use a tablespoon of dish soap in a gallon of water mixed with garlic juice and liquid seaweed as a bug deterrent…soap acts as a surfactant!

Denise. Ryan May 26, 2015 - 4:02 pm

Hi Sharon,

Your garden is so lovely, natural and relaxed. The parterres are going to be wonderful and love your color scheme. A suggestion for a border would be the low growing Nepeta, Kit Kat. Comes in white as well as blue. Stays compact and has lovely wispy flower spikes. Would define the parterres without blocking any of the other plants.

Love your site . You have made such a beautiful haven.

Best wishes,
Denise Ryan

Nancy May 26, 2015 - 4:41 pm

Oh it looks wonderful….That is a lot of digging….it will be stunning I’m sure.
please keep us updated….

Tracy in Colorado May 26, 2015 - 6:21 pm

I’m not sure what “horrible beast” you are referring to, but I am trying blood meal around my plants this year at the suggestion of a neighbor. Apparently rabbits and other critters don’t like it.
Your gardens are lovely.

Sophia Home May 26, 2015 - 8:06 pm

Your garden is looking gorgeous Sharon….as are your lovely dogs! May is my favourite month in the garden too….my Alliums are in full bloom! I am looking forward to ordering my copy of your new inspiring looking book. Many congratulations!

Sophia x

Esther George May 27, 2015 - 11:35 am

Hi Sharon, your garden looks beautiful, I can imagine the perfume in the air. I looked at your blog last night and was inspired to add another miniature rose to the garden. I officially have 6 mini roses they seem to be more bug and disease resistant and long flowering. I have to put my 2 cents worth but could the pink climber be David Austin’s Mary Rose it’s so delicate looking and the colour seems to go through different shades of pink. Thank you for sharing beauty, I know there’s more to come. Regards Esther from Sydney.

Agnes Irene May 27, 2015 - 3:45 pm

I too love the month of May for its flowers and am always a bit sad when it’s over. I stroll through Central Park to find a wide array of blooms – and my neighborhood, Sunnyside Gardens, NY, has a lot of old plantings, such as lilac bushes and quince. There’s nothing like the beauty of flowers.
Your garden is a true gardener’s delight – I don’t know if it’s the lighting or if you find the perfect time of day, but the colors in your photos are always breathtaking!
Agnes Irene

noreen May 27, 2015 - 8:43 pm

Hi Sharon, your garden is so generous, love the beautiful soft colours!

Iris May 28, 2015 - 4:44 pm

Hi Sharon
May is a magical month for us gardeners. I don’t know the name of the rose but it is beautiful. My daughter has a climber that has thrived quite well but really suffered over the past winter. We have trimmed back the dead canes and have noticed new shoots from the bottom. Let’s hope it bounces back as my husband has built her a new trellis to support it’s beauty. Can’t wait for the work day to end so I can get back to my planting.
Happy digging!

Jennifer May 29, 2015 - 5:35 pm


You’re killing me with these beautiful photos of a beautiful garden! I’m in California, so, not only are we in a severe drought, but I have a gopher infestation of epic proportions. My grass is dead, my poor Seckel pear appears to be gopher damaged and I’ve got holes all thru my flower beds. I’ve given the cats a talking to about their non-feasance and they swear they are trying. Sigh….

That first photo of the roses and the foxgloves is a thing of beauty! Thanks for posting!

Doré @ Burlap Luxe May 29, 2015 - 7:20 pm

Oh I have just taken a holiday with my visit to you. The next best thing to physically being in France is a visit here with you and all things French.

Breathtaking beauty, and love those iron Bleu gates.



Michelle May 30, 2015 - 6:55 pm

Thanks for sharing your plantings! I am so fortunate that most of these plants do so well in California where I live. It reminds us how small this great big world can be. So happy to have found your blog, it’s delightful!

Gina June 2, 2015 - 8:20 am

Oh I love


Leave a Comment