Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Landlady's Earrings



I've always had a sneaky regard for Fuchsias. There are so many types of them, not all to my taste I might add but numerous all the same and over the centuries literally thousands of cultivars have been developed. Leo B. Boullemier, former President of the British Fuchsia Society recorded and detailed some 10,000 in his world wide acknowledged Check List of Species, Hydrids and Cultivars of the Genus Fuchsia, but for me I think it is hard to beat the Triphylla types with their characteristic clusters of slim tubular flowers.

Pictured is a Fuchsia 'Thalia' taken in October '07. There are three plants growing in the tub, all taken as cuttings from a friend in that Spring. As you can see, they all grew really well and now I'm hooked on this cultivar.

They are notoriously difficult to overwinter but luckily I got them through to Spring '08 after housing them in a frost free unheated room through the worst months grabbing every opportunity to 'air' them during mild spells. I kept the compost just moist and would bring them outside during the day if the temperatures would allow. The occasional spray with Bordeaux Mix kept mould/mildew away and other than that it was fingers crossed.

Come March I re-potted them with multipurpose compost and started a feeding programme using a universal feed initially at half strength. I have to say that in all honesty I didn't feel confident that they would do well. They were practically defoliated, not much more than several 'stick like' things in need of a light prune to give them any shape. However, I persevered and they flourished. I was chuffed to bits.

Anyway, the reason for this Fuchsia snippet is that today has been mild and this afternoon I ran around opening windows and doors diligently transporting pots of various overwintering tender plants to benefit from sunlight and fresh air. But those Fuchsia 'Thalia' really must get through. They're beautiful, not all dangly and blousy like that Landlady's earrings.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Keep 'em clipped

I love the effect topiary adds to the garden. It brings depth and structure, breaks up monotony and creates a mood. It seems to fit any scheme, formal or informal.

I've invested in a number of clipped spheres in recent years which are dotted around the courtyard and down by the river. I like the way they add dimension and scale and continue looking good in Winter.

There are many plants other than Box (Buxus) which lend themselves to be shaped or trained.

The 'standard' in the middle of this photo is a Privet (Ligustrum). I clip it every 6 weeks or so in Summer so it's a little faster growing than Box, but that's no hardship.

The spheres on either side of the pic are Golden Leylandii (Cupressocyparis Castlewellan Gold). They have both a beautiful colour and a superb texture.















Here you can see two shaped Thuya Aurea Nana, a golden conifer which I planted down by the river. Its' foliage changes from bright green to golden through Summer taking on a more burnished hue in Winter.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Funny how the acoustics change

Today felt Christmassy.

I don't know why and have to admit it is somewhat delayed in these credit crunched times. I've found some great pics of a snowfall we had back in '06. OK, not exactly up to date but great photos all the same and yeah, Christmassy.



















There was a level 30 centimetres that day. That's a foot in old money and a real snow event, particularly in this neck of the woods.

What great fun it was walking around in the middle of a snowstorm, something I've not done since I was very young. I'd forgotten how different sound becomes after a heavy fall. It was oh so quiet, strange for a Saturday.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Herbs


Warmer days.
Back in September I built a stone raised planter to grow herbs in.
The stone was recovered from all over the garden. There are bits of rock everywhere, the same material that was used to build all the houses here at Le Banquet and indeed all over this part of the Dordogne.
The 'thing' you can see in the centre is in fact a clay pineapple which has been 'antiqued' if you follow. Sounds strange I know but it looks well and adds that finishing touch. I picked it up in the little shop within the ticket office at Les Jardins du Manoir d'Eyrignac, a beautiful formal garden here in the Dordogne.
I have planted trailing rosemary, thyme, tarragon, mint and so on but not all the herbs have huge culinary significance. For instance there's santolina purely for decoration. Another one I've only discovered recently is Melisse (Melissa) which is added to drinks and can be made into an infusion. Whether I ever use it remains to be seen, however it has good looking foliage and therefore qualifies for a spot!
Come spring, I'll sow some basil and coriander dotted between the hardy stuff.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The roses have arrived


Tuesday morning and the factrice from La Poste presented Karen with a package.

The mail order roses had arrived ahead of schedule so Christmas has come early here in the Dordogne.

I didn't ever think the prospect of digging large holes and mixing bags of horse manure with loam could ever have been so exciting- but it was!
Finally, for the record, I should point out that I am absolutely knocked out with the quality of these roses. If you squint at the picture you can see lots of fibrous 'feeder' roots and numerous stems, all in all really healthy looking plants so thanks Peter Beales roses.
PS. If you right click on the pic and open it in a new window you will be able to view an enlarged version and see what I'm getting at with regards the root system.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Coming up roses














Well we finally did it!

After some deliberation we went ahead and built a rose pergola.

It straddles the path leading down to La Forge, one of our holiday cottages which you can see with the large Pampas grasses in front of it. Although some think Pampas grass to be a bit 'naff' we really like these. When you consider it's nearly December they make an impact and the plumes look graceful in the weak winter sunlight.

On to the construction and with wood sourced from various builders/DIY stores we aimed to build the pergola with a rustic feel. The timber used is in fact designed for other purposes. For example, the poles across the top are actually tomato supports which have been shaped and turned by hand so in no way do they look machined.
All the joints have been bound with rope which hides the screws and further adds to the rustic theme.

As for the planting, I've (Rob) ordered six rambling Roses from Peter Beales in the UK who ship to France. The original colour plan was pink and white but I stumbled across a red rose which not only looked stunning but was a repeat bloomer, rare in ramblers, so I had no choice but to order it! It's named 'Rambling Rosie' and is a relatively new introduction. I also ordered two 'Mrs FW Flight' and two 'Moschata' so this adds the pink and white. All the roses are being sent as bare root plants and should arrive in a week or two, so armed with a spade and a couple sacks of horse manure I intend to give them the best start possible when it comes to planting.