Friday, 27 March 2009

Beat the Clocks

The clocks go forward this coming weekend.
Here in southwest France, spring is so much more advanced this year than last. A friend of ours, Monsieur Leo, exclaimed that 'this will be a bad year for fruit'! OK, so there's still time for a hard ruinous frost but it may not happen. As ever, most susceptible is the Peach blossom, fingers crossed.

I noticed these Iris blooming along side the road in St. Cyprien. Is it really March 27th? I know some bloom early but these seem extraordinarily so.
For me, Iris are just synonymous with France. They're grown everywhere. In a little over a month or so from now they'll all be in flower.
If you're an Iris lover and want to view some with a French accent, check this video out. It's a short news item featuring a specialist nursery not very far from here in the Lot.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Willy De Wilde

Now there's a great sounding name, worthy of a blog post title.

Monsieur Willy De Wilde is the owner of Pépinière du Lac des Joncs, a quirky and beautiful nursery near Rouffignac, some 20 minutes drive from here.

This is a small specialist business, a micro-enterprise .

It was following a recent search for various perennials that I've re-discovered Pépinière Lac des Joncs. I'd first visited last summer when they were having a doors open day. A bit like a Fête with other stall holders selling rare plants, handi-crafts and such like. I was taken with just how beautiful the place was. The honey coloured stone buildings, the little gravel garden, the complete non -manicured feel to the whole place. 'Shabby chic' as the Chelsea set might put it.

I've visited twice this week. The first time was a little strange as no one was there. I mean nobody. Karen and I walked around the place completely on our own, occasionally shouting bonjour, but nothing. It felt a little odd so we left and decided to visit again last Thursday.

Now places like this always seem to throw up something that you don't usually find elsewhere. Apart from the many succulents, sedums, grasses and assorted perennials all propagated at the nursery, it was the large and comprehensive collection of Ivies which I found so interesting.

This is beautiful stuff, delicate too. Sure Ivy gets a bad press. The common hedera we all know scrambling up trees and ripping mortar out of walls, but not this. There was just so many varied types. Large and small leaved, arrowed, cordate or pinnate shaped, sizes and shapes in many hues of green. Variegated or not, all very desirable.

Doesn't it make a great table decoration. This iron candle holder was one of just a few, all with a réservé ticket attached to them.

It goes without saying that I walked away with an armful of Ivy that day. I've put it into terracotta pots and dotted it about the place.

One other thing, If I want more , nothing is easier to propagate, I'll have lots of it.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Tales from the riverbank

I am very fortunate to have a pretty little river La Beune running through the grounds here at Le Banquet. I often take time out and just sit on the bank spotting fish and generally just observing whatever really.

Occasionally a family of Coypu or Ragondin, as they are known here in France will venture from the river and on to the lawn. Cute animals but sadly considered something of a pest as their burrowing can undermine riverbanks and they will eat corn if grown nearby. These and other activities cause their unpopularity with farmers.

Yesterday was the start of the trout fishing season and it seems the world and their dog have descended on the banks of the little Beune. It'll calm down. There's always this initial flurry of activity and then really not much else. I know the best trout spot, needless to say, it's a secret.

I've noticed the Iris pseudacorus emerging from the water's edge. Every summer there are pockets of brilliant yellow along the length of the river as they are well naturalised here. That said I'm sure there were more last year. I wonder if the Coypu have eaten them?

So I'm walking along the bank spotting the Iris's when at the bottom of the field I'm suddenly hit with a wash of intense blue. There's a large area that's been colonised by Violets.

I've never seen so many. They're just popping up everywhere. I can't possibly cut the lawn now! Incidentally, lawn cutting is a four hour activity which is tedious and leaves me practically losing the will to live. OK slight exaggeration but it is a drag.

The weathers been near perfect in recent days. Sunny, sometimes hazy, Soleil voilé and temperatures in the low 20's centigrade. Spring!

Monday, 9 March 2009

La Ville de Sarlat

Sarlat is regarded as the jewel in the crown of the Perigord. I'm lucky in that it's my nearest good sized town and that I get to visit it often. I popped there this morning to do a bit of shopping and was taken aback at the care and attention paid to pruning the literally hundreds of trees.

I know it as pollarding, you may know it under a different name. Either way, the result is impressive .

Some are very old and have beautiful bark. I think they're London Plane correct me if I'm wrong.

This is the little car park where I parked up this morning, opposite a hotel and beside another line of well pruned trees.

Even the trees that line the side streets have been neatly clipped.

Everything will look so different in a couple of months, not that they look bad now.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Hens and Chickens

A little pot of Sempervivums

These hardy succulents are sometimes called Hens and Chickens.
Apparently so named as the main plant is considered the hen, with the surrounding offsets being the chicks, right?

To whoever thought that up change your drink I say. In fact, considering that they are also known as 'Houseleek', how about stopping drinking altogether.

If anyone can fill me in as to how or why they got these names then please do. I wait to be educated and shamed for my ignorance. That said however, I think 'houseleek' is a terrific name as indeed is sempervivum from which the other common name, 'Live Forever' is derived.

I picked four of them up at a garden centre the other week. I've planted them in a shallow terracotta pot together with a Lewisia which I placed in the centre, another pretty succulent which I hope will flower in a few months, apparently they're a little tricky.

Drainage is the key to success with these plants. I've not come across horticultural grit in any of the usual places in this part of the world except for this product in the picture.

Pouzzolane is a volcanic rock. Not only is it really efficient at improving drainage and structure of the compost, it makes for a really pleasing decorative mulch as well. Sadly it is ludicrously expensive so my search for standard grit continues.

I'm going to leave this little pot just where you can see it on the wall in the courtyard this summer. My fingers are crossed that these hens will have lots of chicks and the pot will be brimful!