Catching up and garden visiting

There has been a long gap since my last entry, I have been trying to catch up with the garden following several months of rain and then very hot, dry weather.  I have also been busy with garden design work.



The rain in the winter and spring had many different results – the shrubs in the woodland border have benefitted greatly, the Pitttosporum tobira has practically doubled in size and the Buddleia had much bigger flowers than usual.  I had a great display of roses in May, unfortunately the deer also appreciated them and one deer in particular kept returning day after day to sample the latest blooms. It’s very unusual here to see a deer in the middle of the day. It eventually disappeared,IMG0549A perhaps an irate vigneron got tired of it eating the new growth on the vines. My hairdresser kindly kept a lot of hair for me, I put it in bags around the roses as it is meant to frighten the deer due to the human scent.


My vegetable garden did badly early in the summer and recovered later.  The heavy clay soil was constantly full of water and the roots of the small plants were unable to breathe or take up nutrients. I lost a lot of plants but had to replant more lettuces, chard, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.  The irony then was that after 4 months of intense sun and no rain the ground became very hard to plant. After the difficult start, I had huge crops of Mediterranean vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergines, courgettes, and melons.

Chateau de la Mercerie, Charente

In the early summer, I visited 2 gardens. The first was at the Chateau de la Mercerie in Charente, with the local Club de l’Amitie in Gardonne.  The Chateau was mainly interesting for the building, which is slowly being restored by the commune, and the beautiful setting. However they have also started to restore a rose, garden, I was puzzled by the names against the roses then realised they are the names of the people who have sponsored them rather then the names of the roses.Then I visited the Jardins d’Eyrignac with my local gardening club in Eymet.  These formal topiary gardens are in the Dordogne but some 2 hours from here.  They are one of the few French formal gardens still in existence, and date from the 17th century. The gardens were turned into romantic English style gardens in the 19th century, but restored by Gilles Sermadiras de Pouzois de Lite and his son Patrick from 1965 onwards.




Jardin d’Eyrignac, Dordogne

The gardens are very green, with hornbeams, box, yew, cypresses and lawns. They consist of several garden rooms, including the hornbeam alley, avenue of vases and the green room, neo-Gothic arcades, the manor courtyard, the mirror (a 40m long pond), French parterre, white garden and olive tree garden.  There are also new gardens, a topiary farmyard, garden of water sources and flower meadows.  In the topiary gardens and the mirror gardens there is considerable Italian influence.

All the pruning of the garden is done by hand by the team of 6 gardeners.

I loved the atmosphere of the garden, the tranquillity and the beautiful setting in the dramatic landscape of the Perigord Noir in the eastern Dordogne. My favourite part of the garden was the white garden, full of many different white flowers in formal beds with ponds and fountains.  Including Petunia, Gaura lindheimeri, roses, Hibiscus ‘Diana’, Hydrangeas, Cleomes and Dahlias and bulbs in spring.




July 2016-lots of catching up!


The weather has really affected the crops on the potager this year. Although similar things have happened in England – here is an account from my friend Mike in Ealing, London.

This year so far has certainly been a very weird year as far as the weather is concerned. We had a very bad spring this year; an exceptionally cold April with a lot of northerly winds produced temperatures well below average. Many of the seeds that we sowed in pots and trays in our greenhouses in April failed to germinate, especially the courgettes, sweetcorn and runner beans, the things that we particularly enjoy in the summer, and the leeks, salad leaves and beetroots that we sowed directly into the earth have taken an age to mature. In fact the leeks are still so thin that I haven’t been able to transplant them, a job that I normally do at the end of the first week of July. With so many seeds failing to germinate we had to resow and of course you can guess what then happened; they all germinated. So as I type, we have some 30 courgette plants in three of my raised beds producing an endless supply, so now we are able to give courgettes to anyone who wants them, including your former allotment neighbour Michael, whose courgette seeds also failed.

I did manage to grow just 8 runner bean seedlings and these are now doing well around the bamboo wigwam that I constructed and thankfully, we are now harvesting a few ounces of beans each day for dinner. May turned out to be little warmer and so helped things grow, but June was a disastrously wet month, with many frequent heavy rain showers. The result was that our plots have all been infested with literally scores of snails and slugs, to the extent that my favourite shop Wilkinsons sold out of their little blue slug pellets. The slugs have attacked and eaten everything, and especially our dahlia’s which they seem to particularly enjoy. Fortunately, July has turned much better and temperatures in the past 10 days or so have soared to over 30 degrees C on some recent days, and so we have taken advantage this to lift some of our rows of potatoes. These have been much better than we dared hope, especially our Charlotte potatoes which we love, but we have been amazed at the number of slugs lurking below the surface of the earth. It has been a real plague year like some Biblical Egyptian disaster. All of the bad weather has had a disastrous affect on our strawberries and summer raspberries; in short, we’ve had the lowest crop yields of both since we started work on the allotment back in 2004. However, we are now having a few successes, and especially with blueberries. We’ve just had the best crop ever and we think this is due to spreading acidic wood chip around the base of the bushes – they like an acidic soil – and carefully netting the plants to keep the birds, and especially the pigeons at bay. Our autumn raspberries are also looking good and a few are already beginning to ripen, so we may get to enjoy some raspberries this year after all that we have been through.

tomato and eggplant close-up

My experience in France has been similar, with a lot of rain from the beginning of January to about the middle of May. My heavy clay soil was saturated for many weeks, and now is baked hard by the sun. It seems that the vegetable plants are not  able to access nutrients in the soil, with the result that the plants are not growing properly and are more vulnerable to disease, especially French beans,tomatoes and spinach and Swiss chard. I am trying to remedy this with liquid feeds and cultivating the soil. However on a happier note the pepper plants and cucumbers are producing fruit and I already have a small melon. I have never grown melons before.



However although the potager has its problems, the front garden with the roses, lavender and other shrubs I planted  over the winter is really looking good. I have 21 different roses, both old roses, gallicas, bourbon roses and David Austin English roses, together with 3 different varieties of lavender planted formally on either side of the drive, and various shrubs and herbaceous plants in the border behind the front hedge. It is lovely to sit there in the evening, looking towards the vine fields, the sun and the stunning view of Saussignac the neighbouring village, with the scent of the roses and the bees, humming bird hawkmoths and butterflies busy in the lavender. The white lavender near the house is particularly attractive as it has a spreading habit and falls through the roses creating a lovely picture.

East border next to wood





The garden in May (2)

The grass is growing very quickly and around the trees in the front garden is getting very long. Too long for hoopoes!

I bought some plants at the plant fair at Chateau Neuvic on Sunday, together with 2 metal hoopoes as my grass is too long to get the real ones in my garden. The plant fair was lovely, very cold but most unusual herbaceous plants. I have been collecting the metal birds and animals at various plant fairs, the next one being in Saussignac in 2 weeks time, and now have a lapwing, 2 magpies and a cat as well as the hoopoes. When I have made my pond next year I will buy a heron.

May in the garden

Le Petit Martinaud south border cypress trees
Looking south to vines 
Le Petit Martinaud south border
South view with Liquidambar tree
Archie 1407(2).JPG

Since coming back from London the garden is burgeoning with new growth. The 21 roses I planted before Christmas all have buds and Harlow Carr is flowering . However some small creature has been creeping up and eating the buds at night, so I have been putting down organic slug pellets and keeping my fingers crossed.

On the potager the spinach, Swiss chard, and spring cabbage, red cabbage and cauliflowers are still cropping. I’ve planted potatoes round the second (new) potager and have just been weeding round them.

The existing shrubs in the woodland border are all flowering, white and yellow flowers – broom, choisya and spiraea. The new shrubs I planted in March are all thriving, so all the rain has helped them to establish.

I have a lot of vegetable plants waiting in the plant house for planting. I’ve already planted 12 bean plants and am covering them every night or if it looks windy/stormy with a plastic tunnel. Archie my cat is always keen on getting into tunnels and sitting inside.