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  • Writer's pictureDebi Holland

Gardening at Sainte Foy

Sainte Foy Station is a small picturesque alpine ski resort in the Tarentaise valley at 1550 metres. It is one of Savoie's little secrets. Favoured for its quiet ambience and excellent off-piste. The resort sits four kilometres above the village of Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise and in summer is a wash of colourful blooms both in chalet gardens and municipal planting.

Sainte Foy station facing Mont Pourri

Although there has been construction over the past 15 years I've visited it still retains its genuine authentic charm with local stone and wooden chalets discreetly nestled in the trees on the mountain and boasts breathtaking views across the valley.

I love exploring gardens and planting schemes on my travels so alpine gardening has been a real delight and surprisingly diverse. Armed with a camera I like to document and share my finds.

The petite commercial area had a series of bold planters which exploded with colour and notably vegetables. French municipal planting often interplants Brassica oleracea kale in borders.

Purple & green kale sit alongside salad & marigolds

Kale's intricate foliage and vibrant colour compliment marigolds and pelargoniums but here not only do you find kale but each planter had a different feature veg. Cabbage, peppers, celery alongside lettuce, aubergine and tomatoes.

The end result was an impressive colourful display that was also providing some local produce. Why not try planting some vegetables in your flower borders and pots at home; pride of place.

Some of the resident's chalets had exquisite kitchen gardens and hosted a diverse collection of homegrown food and flowers. Utilising the short season and limited light every inch of garden and window sills were crammed full of pelargoniums and vegetables. Lilium speciosum, Rudbeckia fulgida, Papaver somniferum, Eryngium (sea holly), Gypsophila paniculata, rosemary, chard, squash, garlic and lettuce grew prolifically.

Snow usually melts in April and then does not return until November, although one thing is for sure, weather can be unpredictable so the French Alps can have snowfall in May and October but generally there is a window of six to seven months of prime growing time.

Alpine kitchen garden at Sainte Foy Station

Every effort had been made in Sainte Foy to ensure all pots, windowsills and hanging baskets were immaculate. If you have only ever experienced the Alps when it is covered in snow then you were in for such a treat in the summer. The plethora of colour was sans pareil.

Balcony boxes of Pelargoniums

The summer Alpine temperatures average high 20s with mountain breeze which provide ideal growing conditions. The flora erupts from the ground to grab every available drop of light and warmth.

Wooden boxes of Pelargoniums don the mountain terraces

Flowers line the streets and hug every inch of space around chalets. Rosa rugosa thrives and was a big hit with the local pollinators. There were also Hydrangea paniculata and Rudbeckia in abundance.

Bee pollinating Rosa rugosa in the Alps

My most precious moments were the daily meander down to the local Sherpa to buy a baguette and pain au raisin. I love the anticipation of the new day awakening, what adventures it may bring and just taking the time to inhale the far reaching views, reflect and process thoughts.

Hydrangea paniculata at Sainte Foy

St Germain Chapel was one of the original hamlet's buildings and has been under restoration. The Chapel sported pristine planters of pelargoniums and a charming border which surrounded half of the building. Sprays of Gaura lindheimeri wafted in the mountain breeze alongside evergreens.

St Germain Chapel Sainte Foy Station

Sun rise over the peaks bathed the village in light each morning. One of the most wonderous natural events was dawn and dusk. The ever changing light and shadows as sun beams strained against the towering Alps was a breathtaking sight I will never tire of.

Sun rise at Sainte Foy bathing geraniums in light

Gardens, gardening and the great outdoors certainly uplift the soul.

When everyday life can be very hectic, rushing from one place to the next, always with one eye on the clock then taking time out to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures in life are treasured times.

Here's hoping for more views like this in 2018!

Sun down in the Tarentaise valley

All photos taken by Debi Holland ©

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