Garden Plants to use in a French style garden

Favourite garden plants: a garden guide

Here are some particularly useful garden plants and tips on how to grow them and where to plant them.

Architectural Plants





Fatsia japonica



Mediterranean Plants

Acanthus mollis, bear's britches










Phormium Tenax

Prairie grasses

Shrubs and Hedging Plants


Sambucus nigra (Common Elder)

Garden Bulbs and corms


Liatris spicata

Climbing Plants


Campsis (Trumpet Vine)

Humulus lupulus 'Aureus' (Golden Hop)

Wisteria sinensis



Acacia dealbata (Mimosa)

Toona sinensis (Chinese Cedar)

My favourite plants in France are on the whole the same favourites I had in England.

Every garden needs a structure which can be given by hedges, shrubs and shaped box. A wide selection of perennials can then give seasonal interest and keep the garden looking beautiful throughout the year. Grasses are one of my particular favourites and stay beautiful even in the winter.

A few well placed architectural plants can then add the wow factor. I tend to use exotic looking plants near my patio but these could form the basis of a tropical or exotic garden. Living in the south of France I use Mediterranean plants extensively.

Water is a problem in my garden but I can grow bog plants and water loving plants at the output of the septic tank.

Shade is also a problem in my garden but I am planting trees in order to give us some much needed shade and to allow me to grow more shade-loving plants in the future.

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Dahlias: growing tips for dahlias

Dahlias are one of my favourite flowering plants. Partly because they are one of the few plants to flower continuously for months and partly because their jewel-bright colours are superb, both in the garden and as cut flowers in the house.

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Acanthus mollis; a great plant for mediterranean style gardens

Acanthus mollis, known as bears britches is an excellent plant for the garden. It has deep glossy leaves which are large and deeply lobed and in the summer has a tall flower spike covered in small white flowers each with a purple bract. These last for some weeks.

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Agapanthus, a stunning architectural plant

A very popular plant in the south of France. Indeed a little further south than here in the Mediterranean area they almost grow like weeds and I am always very jealous of gardeners in this area. But for those of us who live in areas with frosts it is still possible to grow agapanthus.

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Allium: popular garden bulbs

These have to be one of my top 10 favourite plants. Gorgeous globes standing high in the garden giving a slightly contemporary feel to your borders. Fabulous in pots too and many of them in my favourite colours of blue and purple though they are also available in pink, white and yellow.

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Bougainvillea, a growing guide

Bougainvillea is a gorgeous flowering climbing plant whose flowers are wonderful vibrant colours. If you are lucky enough to live in a region of very mild winters make sure you grow this plant. For the rest of us - grow it anyway but make sure you overwinter it indoors or grow it all year round in a heated conservatory.

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Campsis (Trumpet Vine), a very exotic looking climber

Lots of gardens in the south of France have a Campsis covering a pergola or growing up a wall.  Its leaves are very like wisteria (as is its triffid-like growth rate) but in the summer it is covered in beautiful deep orange, trumpet like flowers. It is occasionally seen with yellow flowers too.

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Cannas: a great tropical-looking plant

Cannas seem to grow everywhere in the South of France. Even, often close to the drainage ditches at the sides of the roads , probably because they do like water. They also like sun and grow into very tall, tropical looking plants.

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Crocosmia: add bold colour to your borders with crocosmia

This is a great plant to add bold splashes of colour to your garden. Its tall, arching stems carry vibrant red, orange or yellow flowers. It looks delicate but its wiry stems do not need staking and resist attempts of wind and rain to bash them down. Plant a few bulbs and your clump will grow into a large drift in no time.

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Echinacea, a wonderful plant to add to your border

One of my favourite plants. These plants are tall, have lovely daisy like flowers and with most varieties the petals drop back from the orangey coloured cone in quite a dramatic way. They do not need staking and make terrific cut flowers.

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Euphorbia: growing euphorbia

From March to May the bright green froth of 'flowers' on Euphorbia brings a freshness to your garden. This is particularly welcome early on when euphorbias are amongst the first plants in your garden to commence spring flowering.

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Fatsia japonica - a magnificent glossy leaved shrub

Fatsia japonica, known as the castor-oil plant, grows into a large shrub and has large very glossy leaves and is perfect to add an exotic almost tropical touch to a shady corner of your garden.

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Heleniums - a growing guide

One of my favourite plants. In the autumn when the garden starts to fill out with the orange and yellow colours of autumn leaves and berries these lovely perennial plants add to the display with a fabulous range of autumn colours.

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Hostas- a growing guide

Hostas, with their huge leaves in every shade of green and many with white or yellow stripes or edges, add a touch of the exotic to shady parts of your garden. They are a very rewarding plant and in spring when the leaves start growing and unfurling you can almost watch them grow.

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Golden Hop, Humulus Lupulus 'Aureus'

Humulus Lupulus 'Aureus' (Golden Hop) is a great climbing plant. It is very easy to grow. It grows very quickly and so if you want to cover a pergola this will do the job. It also has large golden leaves that positively glow in the sun. In the autumn the leaves turn even more golden and the golden hop becomes covered in small cream coloured, unusually shaped flowers.

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Iris: a very popular garden plant

Irises have got to be the most common plant in French gardens. Every garden seems to have a clump of them somewhere and some gardens have great long Iris beds that look absolutely fabulous in early spring. Though sadly not very nice the rest of the year. They are a plant that really needs to be mixed in with other plants as their leaves tend to get slug eaten and wilted as the season progresses.

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Kniphofia (red hot poker) - a growing guide

Red-hot pokers became very unpopular in the garden for a while but whilst I do have some of the more common and slightly vulgar red and yellow flowered varieties the more subtle orange and yellow (as pictured below) or the completely yellow ones such as Kniphofia 'Percy's Pride' take some beating in the garden.

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Lavender: growing lavender

A must have plant particularly in the South of France.  Lavenders have a fabulous scent, attractive grey green foliage which remains over winter, flower colours including white and pink but more commonly a range from pale blue to a gorgeous purple, and they can be dried for their scented flowerheads.

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Mimosa: a garden guide to Mimosa (Acacia dealbata)

Drive around the South of France in February / March time and you will keep noticing the gorgeous yellow flowers of the Mimosa trees. Open your window and you will notice their delicious perfume as well. Just when you are sick of winter and can't wait for the first signs of spring these trees burst into bloom and add instant brightness to the days.

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Phormium tenax: a favourite plant

Phormium Tenax originate from New Zealand and have long strappy leaves which are quite sharp and pointed - make sure not to plant them where people may brush past! The leaf colour varies from green to variaged to deep purple and when they flower the flower is a tall spike.

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Prairie Grasses and the creation of a prairie garden

Prairie style planting is very popular now and rightly so. Prarie grasses are vital to this kind of garden and add movement, informality and late summer/winter interest to any planting scheme.

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Roses: a garden guide

Always one of my favourite plants when I lived in England but here in SW France the combination of lots of sunshine and heavy clay soil seems to work wonders for roses. A spring addition of manure and my roses are simply stunning.

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Salvias - a growing guide

During the middle of the summer when my pots were all looking a bit dried out and very low on flowers I went to a friends house. On the steps next to her door there were perhaps 10 medium to large pots all a mass of colours, mostly blues and a wide range of pinks. I was amazed, most gardens were in that mid-summer period where spring flowers have all finished and the autumn bloom of asters, heleniums and  rudbeckia had not yet started. Yet her pots, and the same plants scattered throughout the garden, were a riot of colour. The plants in question were salvias.

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Wisteria sinensis: growing tips for wisterias

Wisteria sinensis, also known as Chinese wisteria is a very vigorous climber. It can be used to grow against a house wall, using wires to support it, to cover a pergola, to climb a tree or you can create a standard which in spring will be like a purple lollipop in the garden.

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Aquilegias - a growing guide

Aquilegia vulgaris, commonly known as 'Columbine' is one of my favourites. Often referred to as 'Granny's Bonnet' because of their bonnet shape, they are a mainstay of cottage gardens. Aquilegias are easy to grow and have a wonderful range of colours.

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Clematis - a growing guide

There are an enormous range of Clematis and they have long been one of the favourite climbing plants of many gardeners.

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Liatris Spicata, a great addition to your garden

Liatris, also known as 'Blazing star' are a cheap and easy way to add a lovely purple colour and an attractive upright growth to flower borders.

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Common Elder - Sambucus nigra - a growing guide

Sambucus nigra (Common Elder)

Sambucus nigra is also known as the common elder and whilst this shrub whose fruit is the elderberry is common in our hedgerows it is also very useful in the garden. The common variety makes an excellent hedge or can be added to a cottage garden to add height. In late spring early summer it has large flat-topped clusters of tiny white flowers and these are followed by the black berries used for making elderberry jam, cordial or wine. They are also very popular with birds.

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Toona sinensis 'Flamingo' is an incredible tree with bright pink leaves

I came across this wonderful tree for the first time recently and was so struck by it that I just had to find out more about it. It has had its name changed recently and used to be known as Cedrela sinensis 'Flamingo' and it is also known as Chinese cedar or Chinese magogany.

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