French Riviera Secrets


French Riviera Gardens

One can be forgiven for thinking that the French Riviera, with its supposedly hot and dry climate, is lacking a bit in terms of plant diversity, when compared to cooler and wetter places.
However, this region combines a very high annual amount of sunshine (nearly 2800 hours) with a slightly higher than average annual amount of rainfail (730 mm).
Then again, to be fair, rainfall is not evenly spread out over the year, and it's quite normal for the Mediterranean regions not to receive hardly any rain for a prolonged period (2-3 months) during summer.
So, plants have had to adapt to this, and you will notice a curious phenomenon: from March to May, plants will grow very fast, like their lives depend on it; then , as the summer heat sets in, growth comes to a near stand-still, to preserver precious water. And then, when the rains start coming back in September, plants undergo a second growth phase!

Poppy flowers Poppy flowers

As for your garden, if you have plants that are not native to the region, you will have to water your garden during the summer months. Grass in general is very resistent, and although it may look like it has died completely, and turned into brown and yellow stalks covered in dust, the moment it receives a drop of water it will turn green again.
There are many excellent garden centres that offer a very large range of plants and garden ornaments, as well as excellent advice.

Native plants

Olive trees surrounding a medieval chapel Olive trees surrounding a medieval chapel

Olive trees
The olive tree is one of the best known trees of the Mediterranean gardens; this beautfil tree, symbol of peace, can live for up to 700 or 800 years.
Despite their longevity, they can actually grow quite fast, and will need regular pruning.
If you visit one of the famous gardens on the French Riviera, you will see some beautiful examples of artistically pruned olive trees.

Palm tree Palm tree

Palm trees
Right from the moment you land at Nice airport, there's palm trees lining the perimeter, indicating you have landed in a clime where it is sufficiently mild in winter for these trees to survive.
They decorate many a Côte d'Azur garden, and lend it an exotic air.
There's many varietes , from the large and tall species lining the coastal boulevards from Nice to Cannes, to smaller species, some even tiny enough to fit into a beautiful earthenware pot for your terrace or balcony.
They don't like frost,obviously, but sometimes have to endure some snow.

Towering cypress Towering cypress

Another quintessential Mediterranean plant is the Cypress. It is a slow growing tree, with very dense foliage once fully grown.
It is also extremeley flexible and bends with the wind, which can be strong at times, especially when the Mistral blows.

Plane trees in a square in St. Ttropez Plane trees in a square in St. Ttropez

Plane trees
Majestic, iconic, well known from picture post-card images of village squares, Plane trees are a beautiful means of protecting people and animals from the heat of the mid-summer sun.

Tiny oregano, basil and mint plants Tiny oregano, basil and mint plants

Wild herbs
Thyme grows in the wild nearly everywhere in the region, wherever you go for a walk , you can smell its scent in the air.
Oregano, basil and mint are examples of herbs that do really well, even in tiny gardens - nothing better than fresh herbs in your salad, on your pizza or in your pasta sauce!

Cherries Cherries

Fruit trees
Orange trees, cherry, apple, pear, and lemon trees, you name, we've got it!
From late autumn /early winter, when the oranges are ready to be harvested, to the cherries turning ripe in May.

My orange tree, and harvest My orange tree, and harvest
Flowers of the Cherry tree Flowers of the Cherry tree

Many flowers do really well in the Riviera; they make the most of the spring-time rains.
Wild roses, poppy flowers, oleander, to name but a few: they colour the landscape and the gardens in beautiful colours during April and May.

Red roses Red roses
Wild roses Wild roses
poppy flower Poppy flower (or coquelicot
Oleander flowers are starting to appear in early June Oleander flowers start to appear in early June


Princess Pauline garden, Grasse Princess Pauline garden, Grasse

The Jardin de la Princesse Pauline in Grasse is a small public park, set in tranquil surroundings, overseeing the town of Grasse, the wider region, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

Monaco gardens

Sculpture in the Gardens of the Musée Océoanographique, Monaco Sculpture in the Gardens of the Musée Océoanographique, Monaco

Monaco has several beautiful gardens open to the public, the most famous being the Princess Grace Rose Garden , the Jardin Exotique de Monaco, which is a botanical garden, and the Japanese Garden.

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