Salles de Villefagnan, Charente

Brief:

We had undertaken a lot of garden renovation at this property prior to this small project. Having removed a considerable amount of material from the overgrown trees and shrubs, the client understood and appreciated the value of also bringing in new planting.

The client desired some new planting at the front of his house to improve the presentation to visitors. The client, a nature writer, specifically desired a high impact, low input planting that would be easy to maintain, be drought tolerant and yet attractive to insect life. The client originally had lavender in mind.

Design:

The client was easily persuaded to select Nepeta instead of lavender given its similar foliage and flowering colouration. Nepeta is less fussy when it comes to matters of pruning and will reliably flower twice a year. It is on the menu of bees and butterflies, and if the top growth is not removed until each February it provides a winter home to insects.

Flower and foliage colours also work well with the honey and blue/grey tones of the local stone.

A simple monoculture of Nepeta was proposed to provide the strong statement planting the client was desiring.

The soil at the base of the wall was extremely poor, almost gravel like. After stripping the top growth, removing large stone and cultivating the soil, it was heavily mulched to improve water retention, weed prevention and long term soil improvement. For the first year netting was laid over the top, through which the herbaceous planting would grow, to prevent the many local cats from using the beds as their convenience. In their second year the netting could be removed, by which time the plants will have bulked up in size to occupy more of the bed and the ground will have consolidated.