Back from a weekend in La Petite Afrique, the sheltered nook between Beaulieu sur Mer (as opposed to Beaulieu sur Rivière in Hampshire) and its awesome limestone cliffs, where ice never happens – and where over the last ten years I have had the happiness of designing my daughter’s garden.
Suddenly last week it dawned on me that the first phase is over. The plan is realised. Now we must just watch the seasons paint it in their different colours, certainly make adjustments to the planting, but above all control and guide the surging growth that happens when water, heat and light are all abundant. A development that in England will keep you watching and waiting for five years happens here in one. Between our previous visit, last September, and this, young olive trees have put on nearly two feet of new growth.
The latest, and perhaps final, groundwork operation was planting the tiny symbolic vineyard, a mere nine vines to be trellised in three rows on the little terrace in front of the temple. The temple shelters the (notional) spring at the top of the garden, that then appears as a series of water spouts on three successively lower terraces.
We have kept the planting to a simple ‘Mediterranean’ palette, not necessarily native, but long established and conventional. Agapanthus that would still be settling in at home have entirely populated their beds. Echiums are stout purposeful rosettes, their flower-spikes ready to go. Hydrangea quercifolia loves the heat and has made great solid bushes in two years.
At this season the tangerines, lemons and grapefruit are the main attraction, the lamps of their fruit shining above the just-opening purple irises. Rosemary tumbling down the walls is dotted with brilliant blue. Pale yellow oxalis with big soft flowers on long stalks is smothering the stone walls, while far below the sapphire sea is wrinkled by the cold east wind and Cap d’Ail, round the headland cliff, is vague through a low sea mist.