If you love the pretty cottage garden style of gardening and haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting Tanguy de Toulgoët’s home and gardening/cookery/language school at Dunmore Country School in County Laois, I’d highly recommend it.
It was the first garden of several that the Kilkenny Community Garden Network have noted on their ‘places to visit’ and I’m really looking forward to seeing more gardens with them over the coming months, though this will be a difficult one to beat.
Tanguy’s pretty kitchen garden is open by appointment and situated on an acre site surrounding his home. It’s based on the typical French ‘Potager’ or country garden style where annual, perennial and biennial flowers, herbs, fruit bushes, trees and vegetables mingle and grow alongside one another.
It’s lip bitingly pretty.
On first impression the garden looks muddled, particularly if you’re used to very straight and ordered vegetable beds as I am, but when you slow down and really look at it, when you feel the leaves and petals brush upon your skin as you pass them by and stop to watch butterflies chase each other through the stems and branches, it reveals so much more.
If you glance below the Achillea, Rosa and Papaver that immediately catch your eye, you’ll spot regularly spaced ridges that host a variety of healthy vegetables of all descriptions, whilst the valleys in between them are planted with Phacilia, Echinops, Cyanus and other bee attracting plants. Tanguy’s bees aren’t kept in the usual wooden boxes that we’re familiar with, but in hives developed by Abbé Émile Warré offering an economical, bee friendly, natural approach.
Tanguy primarily grows food for his family and his bees and his no dig, biodynamic approach to his kitchen garden is extremely productive, providing edibles for almost twelve months of the year.
As I wandered around the paths with flowers and vegetables of every description catching my eye, from dainty sweet lathyrus to blousy lilium that nestled among the garlic and chard, breathing in the delicious scents that hovered around the entire garden, it made me want to throw away my ‘rule’ books and start again.
Tanguy’s approach to his kitchen garden is clearly a healthy one. The recent drought has caused very little damage to his crops despite barely any watering. Tanguy mentioned a French saying “one hoe equals two watering” and an oscillating hoe that he demonstrated is now top of my Christmas list!
Unlike Tanguy who was a child when he began, I was late to discover my real passion for gardening but I’m sure he’ll agree that we never stop learning, that there are many styles and methods, lots that work, some that don’t and that we each have to find the way of working with nature that we’re comfortable with.
Having spent a short time in a French potager garden in Ireland I’m now hoping Tanguy can offer a gardening course that might help to expand my own knowledge of biodynamic gardening. It would be a pleasure to learn more about my vocation from a teacher who’s such a charming gentleman.