When we bought the Chateau de Lalande, the entire walled garden had become a an overgrown meadow, with the exception of two desultory vegetable beds and a dilapidated greenhouse.
I am no gardener, but my mother is, and under her command we started to plan the potager. We divided the walled garden into three sections. The first (and closest to the kitchen) would be the chateau’s organic vegetable garden. The second, a cut flower garden, and the third, an orchard of fruit trees.
We got to work and created more beds in the vegetable garden. Mummy looked after them whilst Nic planned a pattern of box hedging to create the flower garden, and I ordered a multitude of fruit trees for the orchard.
I was so proud that first summer when we were able to pick – and pickle – our own cucumbers! It seemed miraculous to me.
Gardening is a slow process, and every year we advance and add new beds or features. Gradually our potager is growing and every season sees more produce than the previous year. It’s also becoming more beautiful! We’ve started to edge our beds with wooden borders, which looks pretty and helps with the weeding of the edges!
Last summer we added metal arches to create walkways between the beds, and this year we’ll add another 8 vegetable beds as we’re running out of space!
The most magical time is the spring when the first crops appear. As soon as the sorrel starts to appear the fresh, lemony taste feels like sunshine being added to our diet.
And it’s shortly followed by my absolute favourite – asparagus. I try to eat it every day in season!
From that point on our diet is heavily influenced by what’s in season. This was a new way of life to me, who’d always been used to buying whatever I wanted at any time of year in the supermarket. I find that I appreciate each fruit and vegetable so much more now. I look forward to the new arrivals with delight. As I type this in April, I’m even looking forward to the summer glut of courgette, though by the end of August each year I’m vowing never to so much as look at a courgette again!
Tomatoes are always popular and we grow them in all shapes and sizes, which makes the prettiest, most delicious salads.
Our salads are always fun, as we have so many different types of leaves and herbs to choose from – green and purple lettuces, frisee, rocket, sorrel, lamb’s lettuce, parsley, coriander, basil, etc, etc, etc.
In summer we have so much to choose from! Aubergines, courgettes, peppers, cucumbers, chillies, fennel, beans, peas, beetroot, radishes, strawberries, raspberries, red, black and white currants, blackberries, tayberries, blueberries, rhubarb, the list is endless!
In the late summer and autumn fruits become abundant, as we harvest apples, figs, pears, plums, quinces and walnuts and hazelnuts.
Even in winter we’re still able to enjoy our own produce, with sage, jerusalem artichokes, leeks, celeriac, parsnips and salsify.
And each year we have the pleasure of deciding on new exciting things to add. This year we’ve introduced sweet potatoes and – the thing I’m most excited about – blue potatoes!