Greenfingers: A weeks gardening retreat in France at La Jugie
I am beyond thrilled to be collaborating with Clio from La Jugie this year. When Clio first contacted me about her Greenfingers gardening week, I was so excited at the thought of a week in the French countryside, learning about all things gardening. Whilst I love gardening and have been tending to my own garden and allotment for many years, I am getting increasingly frustrated with my lack of knowledge as my desire to grow more challenging plants increases. I see gardening as an ever evolving practice, nature never sits still and neither must we when it comes to our own outdoor space.
I asked Clio a few questions about her house in France and what we can expect from our time at La Jugie.
La Jugie looks absolutely stunning can you tell us a little more about the house and the gardens?
Manoir La Croix de La Jugie (which is a bit of a mouthful!) is our beautiful family home in France - I dreamt of a wonderful rural hideaway in the French countryside since I studied French in Paris, so it was a dream come true to buy it 6 years ago. The house was the manor farmhouse of the hamlet in times gone by and now has far less land, but more than enough to keep us busy with 6 acres! The grounds include a natural but more formal gardens, wooded areas, an small orchard, veg patch, a field, which we leave relatively wild - brilliant for wildlife, and more.
Where in France is the house situated? What is the climate like and the growing conditions?
It's in the Haute-Vienne, part of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, or the old Limousin region. It's famous for its cows which produce very good beef. It's very farming focused around here, and it's one of the least populated regions of France, which means a fairly relaxed vibe! It's about 5 degrees hotter than the UK in summer and 5 degrees colder in the Winter, so a little more extreme. We're also lucky to get lots of rain as the air coming in from the Atlantic starts to rise around our area as it's lifts to go over the Massif Central which is just to the East. This means lots of dramatic thunderstorms but it also means we usually stay verdant during the long hot summers
Greenfingers week is all about gardening who is it best suited to?
We've got something for all levels - if you're a complete newbie who's just acquired some outdoor space or a garden, or someone more experienced who wants to practice some new techniques (we set great store by practice to cement theoretical knowledge!) or learn from experts. The beauty is that groups are small and there's plenty of one on one time to ask questions and perfect use of new tools / techniques.
What can we expect to learn whilst on the greenfingers course?
A bit of everything! We spend time on the background of gardening and why certain things are done at certain times of year, as well as getting out and practicing pruning, propagation, planning and planting (all the Ps!) as well as things like balancing fruit/veg with flowers and borders and designing the right balance for your garden depending on it's soil, positioning, and how easy to maintain you want it to be! We provide all the equipment and seeds/plants too so you don't have to bring anything with you. Though if you have your own gloves it's nice to use those as they tend to be comfier.
Will there be downtime to enjoy the surroundings during the course?
Absolutely! We're all about balance. We're led by the group so if you want extra sessions in the afternoons we can do that too, but otherwise you're free to explore the surrounding areas on walks or go further afield to beautiful medieval Limoges or some of the closer villages and chateaux. There's plenty of time for a glass of wine and some cheese in the evenings too!
What sort of a gardener are you?
The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants: try a bit of this and a bit of that and see what sticks! I have a lot of help in the Manoir and I'm always learning - which is what's so fabulous about the Greenfingers weeks, I'm learning from the best too!
Can you tell us a little more about who leads the course?
Adele is fabulous - she's a born gardener and just seems to be at one with plants and horticulture! She trained with the RHS and used to work in Hyde Park before setting up on her own and now she has a really loyal client base, and you can see why. Adele is also really fabulous at explaining things in layman's terms, so you don't feel out of your depth, which is perfect for beginners and more advanced alike.
What is your favourite flower or plant and why?
I adore lavender and sweet pea. They're both really easy to grow, fast growing so they fill out a bed pretty quickly, colourful and they attract a lot of bees. Lavender also smells heavenly and you can keep it dried for scented bags or use it in cooking. Perfect!
Will you be attending the course yourself?
Absolutely - there's so much to learn and practice! Plus I love an excuse to get outdoors - it's really easy to spend too much time hunched over at my desk or running around after kids, so some fresh air, outdoor activity, brilliant views and the sheer moving meditation of gardening are excellent for me (and most people!)
Will greenfingers be a yearly course that you hope to repeat?
We are aiming to do two next year and going forwards, so hopefully we'll get people coming back for their annual top up of wholesome holiday time, plus an injection of gardening knowledge.
What's your favourite thing about France?
The readiness of people to take time off! You just don't get that in the UK plus their dedication to a slower way of eating, drinking, gardening, relaxing.
Can you tell us a little more about the food and accommodation?
We always try to use locally sourced food, mostly grown within about 30miles. As we're in the middle of a big farming region, there are plenty of local suppliers, as well as the wonderful plants and produce we have on our own land of course. Local specialities include lots of rustic, hearty meals, perfect for post-gardening sustenance, like cassoulet, pates, pork, beef, apples, chestnuts. Our Manoir is a beacon of stylish and down to earth luxury in the countryside (there aren't many boutique hotels around here!) and I've married local vintage pieces, with family touches and modern design. Our beds are heaven!
How can people find out more information about the course?
All the information and pricing is on lajugie.co.uk/greenfingers or just give me a call! I'm always happy to chat 07739 413 835. Call or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book or ask a question too. Hope to see you soon!
This is a collaboration between La Jugie and Botanical Tales, the stay is an exchange of skills, which will see me running an autumnal foraged wreath workshop during one of the evenings at La Jugie.