Welcome to Jardin Le Hot! My name is Elaine Fraser-Gausden and, with my husband Nigel, I created this garden.
When we bought the house in 2006, everyone told us that we were mad to take it on, but my husband was sure that we could restore the house, and I was excited about making a garden from the 2.2 acres of land we had acquired.
Entrance, Pond and Courtyard
This manor-house built round an enormous courtyard was in existence in 1498. The drive to our side of the courtyard comes past the remains of the moat which once would have surrounded all of the buildings, was very choked with weed and vegetation so we had this dredged in 2012. We decided to keep this courtyard fairly formal, and having spent many weeks clearing the rough vegetation, we have kept it as mown grass with just a few shrubs and trees. The house and courtyard walls are planted with vines, wisteria, clematis, roses and climbing hydrangea. The beautiful barn to the left of the entrance was once the main house of the manor-complex but has fallen into disrepair and is on the way to becoming a gorgeous ruin.
Very soon after we bought Le Hot, we re-opened an arch running between the courtyard and the back garden, so that we could easily get between the two. The swallows love it too, and spend the summer swooping through and building their nests there, as well as in the barn.
The land sloped all the way down to the back wall of the house, which was consequently very damp, so we excavated the ground and put drainage channels all along the back. We covered the area in a weed-proof membrane and gravel, and built the wall and steps up to the grass. This work was finished in 2008. This terrace is a lovely sheltered sun-trap in the summer months!
Back Garden and Pergola
Twelve years ago, there was a big group of large old pine trees here which obscured the back of the lovely house almost completely and made it very dark. We took these down and grassed the area over. We just left one beautiful red hawthorn tree, beloved by all the songbirds. The soil is poor here, because much of it is the sub-soil from when we dug out the terrace.
On the left side of the back garden we have planted a great many spring bulbs, so this area of grass is not cut until early July when the bulb foliage has been allowed to die back naturally.
All the rest of this area was rough meadowland with just a line of old apple trees on the right. It is south-facing, and sunny. In 2007, we create strong East/West, North/South axes, using mown grass paths; then erected a long pergola, inherited from my father’s garden running from the new terrace away from the house through the middle of this area, and culminating in a small metal arbour. It is laden with roses, honeysuckle and clematis all through the summer. In 2009, we linked the end of the pergola to the arbour with short double hedges of ‘Alnwick’ roses, and in 2012, we linked it to the terrace steps using posts and wires for pleached crab apple trees.
Arrival of Storks
There is a telegraph pole by the hedge on the left-hand side of the back garden, and to our amazement, a stork arrived and built a nest on top of it in the spring of 2014! He found a mate, and having migrated south during the winter, we were delighted to see them return the following spring and start to breed. We and our visitors have enjoyed watching them rearing a family of chicks every year since then. Storks are not very common in this part of Normandy, but ‘our’ storks have certainly been doing their part to increase their numbers!
I planned a garden full of perennial flowers and shrubs but one in which I would never have to step on the flowerbeds, which is so damaging to the soil. So we created 7 parallel beds to the right of, and at right-angles to, the pergola, each about a metre wide, with metre-wide grass paths between them. The soil here is a good fertile clay loam, which I enrich as often as I can with homemade compost.
I wanted the shapes and colours of the plants to be repeated again and again through the beds, so that seen from afar or above, the effect is of a tapestry – this is more satisfying and restful to the eye than single plants dotted about. As a Latin teacher in the south of England, the main season of the garden had to be the summer, when we could spend the long school holidays here. I wanted to take the colour-scheme for this section of the garden from a favourite fabric-design!
I have always been a very keen amateur gardener and have an award-winning courtyard garden on the English south coast – this has been opening once a year since 2001, for the National Garden Scheme and our local hospital. So I already knew a lot about plants, and I propagate many of my own from seeds, division and cuttings.
It was eventually extremely difficult to maintain the edges of the grass paths between the beds, so it 2015, we replaced these with paving.
The Purple Borders
After creating the beds on the right side of the pergola, in 2009 we dug 3 beds on the left side, parallel to the pergola, and I filled them with a range of different colours and shapes. This orientation of the borders was less successful than the right-hand side beds, so in 2013, we turned them round to be at right angles to the pergola, and added more.
There are now 18 beds in this area, 9 on each side.
Around the garden, there are various metal sculptures made by Nigel using the hoops from rotted cider barrels which were found in the barn. An arrangement of black-painted logs in the back garden is another of his creations, using branches which had fallen from the magnificent oak trees, by the southern hedge.
The Ridge, Pavilion and Orchard
We created an area for compost-heaps and lawn clippings under the oak trees. There was a long ridge running North/South behind the old apple trees, and we planted a thick Rosa rugosa hedge along it to protect the garden from the prevailing westerly winds.
In 2008, we erected a metal pavilion in the middle of the big rough pasture area to the west of the main back garden, which is now clothed in Virginia creeper, and then created a small circular orchard around it, by repeated mowing and planted a selection of fruit trees. We mowed grass paths radiating off this circle, and the circle is now backed with hedges of beech and, planted in 2018, Symphoricarpos (snowberry).
The rest of this area is only cut three times a year, and one section has been planted with silver birch trees, while another has some raised nursery beds, and a third now has a greenhouse, erected in 2018.
The Cottage Garden
In the quarter of this area nearest to the house, I wanted to try and create an English Cottage Garden similar to the one I have in England. This is a gentle relaxed style of country gardening, characterised by a medley of colours, flowers, small trees, fruit and even vegetables. First of all, we planted a beech hedge around the chosen area in 2010 to protect it from the wind.
I designed wandering gravel paths and we dug out irregularly-shaped borders edged in stone. The soil here needed a lot of improvement with compost before I could start planting. We dug a small pond to increase the garden’s appeal to wildlife, and the Cottage Garden is always full of birds, butterflies and bees in the summer. The colours are mostly kept pale, (making it rather magical in twilight!) and we have constructed small areas for soft fruit and vegetables.
In 2016, we built a summer-house here, so we could enjoy this garden whatever the weather. We erected a greenhouse next to the Cottage Garden in 2018.
Trees and Native Woodland
We have planted many ornamental trees all over the garden areas, and in 2016, we planted a small woodland of native trees in an area beyond the carpark, which is already taking shape and becoming a good habitat for local wildlife.
For more pictures of the garden as it is today, see the Photo Gallery