parterres in my garden, a summer update

by Sharon Santoni


I’ve had quite a few emails asking me how the parterres are doing … thank you!

parterre beds in front of my french country home

Here are some pictures taken today.  It rained all night so it was all a bit squelchy this morning, but you can see that the Lamium has filled out well around the borders, although I’m still not sure that I’ll be keeping that next year.  It will die back completely during the winter, whereas an evergreen like Ilex Crenata, or even Box, will create a clear outline all year around … Can you believe that a year in to this project and I still don’t know what I want around the edges!

white dorothy rose, my french country home

My White Dorothy weeping roses got off to a slow start, adjusting to their new home, but they have filled out a lot now, and seem to be giving slightly timid repeat flowerings.  Hopefully next year they shall come into their own and burst into white flower that will carry on all summer.

In case you weren’t around when I started talking about the parterres last summer, here are a couple of compare and contrast shots from last  July, this spring and today.


I scattered several packets of black Scabiosa, thinking they’d be great against the white veronica and blue geranium, but I only got a few plants, so I shall have to pay better attention next year.


And I have to report some illegal immigrants in my borders, in the tall and spiky shape of these Verbascum.  I am not a fan of yellow in the garden, but because I had some empty space , and because their leaves are a beautiful soft grey, and despite the fact they have self-seeded in a most haphazard manner, I have granted them asylum, on a three months non-renewable permit … after that they shall have to make other arrangements!


Voilà, a few flowers to give you an idea of how things are progressing, oh yes and a couple of photo bombs by you-know-who …  I don’t ask them to pose, I swear, they just see the camera and line up centre stage – anyone know a good animal agent?!



Jeanne McKay Hartmann August 14, 2015 - 4:29 pm

Ghetto looks very proud of the parterres – you would think that he had planted them himself! They are quite lovely and it’s fun to see their progress since the beginnings of this project. Gardening takes patience, doesn’t it? But the rewards here are just gorgeous! Happy weekend, Sharon! XOXO

Ruby August 14, 2015 - 11:56 pm

Sharon…I am very faithful to reading each and every of your “projects.” I have sent your website to many friends here in the USA. I love everything French!

Thank you immensely for sharing your life with those of us who dream of coming to your beautiful country to explore!

R. Inez Phillips Harpst

Isla August 14, 2015 - 4:34 pm

I have been enjoying your blog. Thank you. I suppose I am a voyeur because I don’t comment, but your comment about “a year into the project and you still don’t know what you want” compelled me to respond! My little partarre garden in my courtyard is in its 22nd year and it still isn’t exactly right! I started with dwarf English box. They promptly died Too hot here in MS I guess. After several seasons of “this still isn’t right” plantings, I put in Wintergreen box. I may have created a monster. It takes a lot of trimming to keep it under control, but overall, I am fairly pleased. So, chin up! By-the-way, have you ever known a gardener who didn’t say “you should have seen it yesterday” or “just wait until next week”?
P.S. I love verbascum in my garden, but your comments about it tickled me!

The Enchanted Home August 14, 2015 - 4:52 pm

Your garden is dreamy and I am sure your patience and vision will provide many many years of wonderful memories in your gorgeous storybook garden!

Lynne Beattie August 14, 2015 - 4:58 pm

Love your blog and your dogs! Wish I was sitting in your beautiful garden right now!

Kate Dickerson August 14, 2015 - 4:59 pm

What a perfect combination of your two selves – an English country garden in a French parterre format! Just beautiful!!

Sharon E August 14, 2015 - 5:09 pm

Have you considered thyme? It can be a border and seasoning for your meals.

Karen Titterton August 14, 2015 - 5:20 pm

Those “tall and spiky shapes” (now about 7′ tall) popped up in my garden this summer too and no-one in my village (I’m in the Dordogne) could tell me what they were. Now, thanks to your photos, the knowledge can be shared! Not weeds!

Madonna/aka/Ms. Lemon August 14, 2015 - 5:48 pm

So beautiful, both profuse and prolific. It is difficult to believe it is only a year old. If I lived there I would never leave the garden, well maybe to the kitchen, but then back to the garden.

Sergent August 14, 2015 - 5:56 pm

Your garden is so nice and clean!! I know how hard it can be to create something from nothing….

Janet Howell August 14, 2015 - 5:57 pm

I have been enjoying your blog for some time now. I also have a French garden in Mayenne so it’s a bit further south than yours. I think the previous comment about using thyme is an excellent suggestion. I have it in my garden and it has survived the drought very well. The tiny pink flowers attract the bees and I have found that after a good haircut it comes back as good as new. I have a smaller verbascum than yours. It is white and has small pink flowers so it goes well with the thyme. Tall gaura wafts around in the late summer breeze and colourwise fits in well with the other two plants. Mauvy blue delphineums……..oh dear I could go on and on. I’m a gardening addict.

LA CONTESSA August 14, 2015 - 6:14 pm

I like the TALL yellow……………re-think that!It adds height at the moment, but you have your vision I do understand that.THOSES DOGS are something…………..STARS in their own right!So, fun to see the progress…………..keep us up to date.I have totally ignored my garden this year…………….we are in a very serious drought.I need to pop outside and deadhead this weekend…….you inspire!

Colleen Taylor August 14, 2015 - 6:16 pm

Your garden is So lush & beautiful Sharon. I think your pups are quite the celebrities already, adorable as always!

denise August 14, 2015 - 6:18 pm

Sharon, Its looking good. The pups well they are beautiful, love them and miss. Its been a while.

PEGGY BRASWELL August 14, 2015 - 6:19 pm

thanks for the update + your garden is beautiful.

Pamela August 14, 2015 - 6:23 pm

Your garden is beautiful., your little story is too cute. You just got to love those fur babies..
Have a great day!

Karena August 14, 2015 - 7:10 pm

Sharon your parterres are so lovely. I like the various floral elements and even the yellow boarders!!

The Arts by Karena

Ruth August 14, 2015 - 7:50 pm

Thanks for sharing beauty, it’s inspiring inspiring and brings joy. Also, thank you for allowing me to be inspired with some of your photos for painting. My dream would be to bring my Senior Painting class to paint in your back yard

Barbara August 14, 2015 - 7:54 pm

I can smell the flowers, mmm.

Lin Powell August 14, 2015 - 9:14 pm

Photo bombers…you are lucky. When our dogs see the camera, their ears go back and they slink away. You would swear that the camera had done something bad to them. Honestly girls…your pictures were not that bad….

Pat F. August 14, 2015 - 9:34 pm

I love those boys and it is so good to see them in your beautiful, amazing garden! Your home is so gorgeous also! Sigh…. France is on my bucket list and do hope to visit your beautiful country one day!

Emm August 14, 2015 - 9:45 pm

Oh, thank you! I was thinking about these the other day and almost asked you about them. Then I said to myself, “Self, Sharon’s been pretty busy, so maybe they’re farther down the To-Do list.”

And I’m glad to see that Da Boyz have your photo session well in hand. Er, paw.

Jennifer August 14, 2015 - 11:16 pm

Such a lovely garden! I wish I could sit down for aperitif some afternoon… My poor garden in California is in dreadful shape from the drought. 8 roses dead, grass brown and patchy. I will say the savory, sage and rosemary look good.

Enjoy your garden, Sharon!

Vicky from Athens August 15, 2015 - 2:48 am

Love it, love it, love it!

Nancy Brantley August 15, 2015 - 5:06 am

A lot of progress Sharon…..everything looks pretty. I think a garden is never finished. I love to garden and always find something to add or change. This year has been a Baaaad year for me because of drought. My grass is brown. Love those photo bombers……

Jae August 15, 2015 - 5:43 am

The verbascum is usually called mullein here in the US. I had some hitch in a package of wildflower seeds, and grew to 8 feet tall. We loved them, but they are biennials here and did not reseed, so you may not have them repeat.

Your garden is lovely! Thanks for sharing.

Deb August 15, 2015 - 6:00 am

Such a pleasure to see a proper garden. I am so used to looking at extremely sparse gardens with dead lawns due to over mowing and water restrictions that I forget what a pretty garden looks like. Your garden is a delight to my Qld Australian eyes. Thank you.

Niccy August 15, 2015 - 7:26 pm

The Verbascum is called “bouillon blanc” in French.
It’s one of the oldest “plantes médicinales”. Essentially used for herbal remedies as syrup or pectoral tea. I love that smell especially in winter when it’s cold!

Deborah August 16, 2015 - 12:32 am

Sharon, Your parterres are lovely. I do have a suggestion however. Do you grow Germander in France? Well, it makes a lovely border like a miniature boxwood on a much, much smaller scale and makes a stunning border. It is in the herb family. Your fur babies are absolutely darling! Be careful though, I may just have to make a trip to visit those two beauties! Have a lovely weekend! I have been a faithful reader for a very long time and I enjoy your blog tremendously! XO

Annie Maurer August 16, 2015 - 2:43 pm

Looking beautiful Sharon….I can’t believe how much they have filled in since we were there in the Spring. And those gorgeous, rascally, photo bombers…..well they just fit right in to the scene.

Annie Maurer August 16, 2015 - 2:50 pm

P.S. I received your gorgeous book in the mail this week and it is just divine! Well done on such a beautifully written and photographed book. I am loving reading about all your interesting and talented friends and was especially pleased to read about a certain lady, we met in May, who made us feel so welcome to her lovely shop and tearoom.

FRANCESCA August 17, 2015 - 10:05 am

Hi Sharon,

I’m wowed..your parterres seem like they’ve always been there…and not planted just few months ago… you are an extraordinary woman!

Comforting to notice I am not the only one whose wisteria covers almost all the windows and shutters!! I cut it sometimes…but most of the time it is like that.

I simply adore your home!


Sue J. August 17, 2015 - 3:02 pm

a delightful post!

Marian from UK August 17, 2015 - 9:46 pm

Hi Sharon. Still enjoying your story and really hope they keep the house!
Parterres – well for what it’s worth, I feel that parterres just cry out for a low Box hedge. Somehow they don’t seem like parterres without that pretty green edging which contrasts so well with the lovely colours of country flowers. They define the shape well and can be straight or curved. And really, they are so easy to look after, only two trims a year. I think they would suit your beautiful house so well.
But gardens are nothing if not individual, so in the end it’s entirely what makes you smile.
Happy gardening!

Carolyn August 19, 2015 - 1:05 am

Your garden always looks lovely and your pups add to the beauty. Interesting to see the verbascum. We call it mullein over here (mountains of North Carolina, USA), and, though it isn’t native, it’s a weed that shows up everywhere. I think the leaves are pretty and like seeing their rosette design on a young plant, when viewed from above, but they get huge. I don’t have formal gardens and it slips into the mix along the edge of the woods here. I remember using a tincture of the flowers for my son’s earaches when he was little.

Patricia Wilson August 23, 2015 - 4:52 am

Sharon, I’m behind on viewing my e-mails, but I’ve been a long-time, silent admirer of your blog. I think your parterres are beautiful, soft, romantic, and unique. I love their casual elegance, so very lovely. I can only imagine them glowing at night in moonlight.
I read and loved your Christmas story and have read Part I of your summer story. Wonderful. Being behind in my e-mails, I’ve decided to save however many parts your current story has, sit down with some wine, reread Part I, and read the rest as though it were a novel. You are obviously multi-talented as a writer, a gardener, pupper lover, and creator of an exquisite home.

Becky July 18, 2016 - 5:37 am

I feel saitefisd after reading that one.

Janet July 18, 2016 - 5:57 am

I never thought I would find such an everyday topic so enialhrltng!

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