Monday, 29 June 2009


This is possibly my favourite village. I say possibly as there are so many other favourites in this area but for now this place is firmly numero une.

Listed as one of the Plus Beaux Villages des France, St Leon is midway from Les Eyzies on route to Montignac Lascaux, so roughly ten minutes drive from here.

It's an absolute gem. It is so utterly charming and so completely timeless that on a warm
Summer's day you feel that you've practically found paradise.

I stood looking, gawping at the ten feet tall giant Hogweed whilst listening to a choir singing in the church and watching people picnicking on the banks of the river and simply thought, 'this is it, this really is it, the true vie Francaise'

Picnic is a French obsession, and a jolly convivial one it is too. People picnic everywhere, all things stop for lunch. Out comes the wine, cheese, sausicon, bread and olives, all of this in 'pinch myself, I must be dreaming' surroundings . Incidentally, we take the word picnic from the French pique-nique.

I spent the afternoon lazily mooching down the impossibly quaint narrow streets, appreciating the self sown Hollyhocks, Evening Primrose and Touch- me- Nots (Impatiens balfourii).

Did I mention Hollyhocks?

Unfortunately I didn't manage to snap a pic of the beautiful Chateau de Chabans in the Village centre. Bluddie battery ran out on my trusty point and shoot. Another time....

Ah beautiful St Leon. It was just one of those days that will always stay with you.

'Summertime an' the livin' is easy'

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Gardener's Boot

I think Bob Flowerdew (UK gardening personality who sports a large ponytail and gardens organically) coined this phrase on the BBC's Gardener's Question Time. He's right of course. Walk around the garden and take stock of everything. Sometimes you get so into the act of gardening that you don't see it. I've been doing exactly that. Needless to say there are hits and misses and like many, I'm already planning for next year.

The Cosmos 'Versailles Tetra' has seemed a little slow growing to me. Mind you, so has the Amaranthus 'Marvel Bronze'. Now either everything has conspired to leave my annual bed a little 'tardy or perhaps I'm simply being impatient. I'm pretty sure it's the latter.

This is Cosmos 'Purity'. It's a really nice white which just glows in the evening light. I'm hoping it'll get to four or five feet in height and really look impressive. Again, that can't come quick enough.

Overall I'm pleased with the gable end. The Catmint just billows and flops over the gravel under the yellow rose, a rose that remains nameless for now as it's easily over twenty five years old and was here before both myself and the previous owners. I'm going to have to put more effort into a positive ID.

The walk down into the courtyard looks pretty this year. The grapevine which shades the terrace to La Grande Maison is much healthier. I picked off a lot of moss that was clinging to the main stems and it seems to have helped matters. I guess there are less places to harbour disease.

The Clematis Jackmanii is flowering like crazy. This is it's fifth year and it has become a large shrub. If only I hadn't forgotten to prune it. The new flowering growth has toppled over the old woody stems but hey, I can live with it.
The Campanula muralis is a sea of blue at this time of year and frankly won't be happy until it's achieved world domination. It is SO EASY to grow! I literally pluck rooted clumps from it, stick them into the ground and let it do its thing. On the subject of easy propagation, you could do worse than visit Cameron's excellent post about Sedum. You may never have to buy another plant!

Geranium Johnson's Blue looks good with Campanula takesimana Elizabeth. I'm going to cut back this Cranesbill once flowering is over and see if I can get it to flush again later on.

Finally the planting along the pergola is starting to fill out. There have been one or two changes from my original plan. Notably the addition of Penstemon 'Mrs Hindley' which are both hardy and long flowering. All the rambling roses are healthy, disease free and are flowering. One slight problem in that they are all vertically challenged. They need to grow upwards! I guess they're settling in and next year they'll head in the right direction.

Sometimes it's nice just to step back, take stock and let your boots do the walking.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Plants in Pots- part 1

I like growing plants in pots. Every year I somehow manage to end up with quite a large collection despite promising myself that I must take control, limit it, remember all the watering, lugging can after can around the place.

I think my short term memory span must be in query as I've just come in from, well, lugging can after can of water all around the place.

So anyway, here's some of the stuff I'm growing at the moment.

Above is Foxtail barley, Hordeum jubatum. I love the way it sways in the breeze with pink tinged nodding infloresences.

Below, a bronze sedge. Carex. Exactly which one I'm not sure, but it's a colour that really harmonises with blue such as the catmint growing behind.

I'm really knocked out with this tobacco below. Nicotiana 'Tinkerbell', Nicotiana x hyhrida.

At the time of sowing, back in March, I was not entirely sure that it would work in the tubs I had in mind. I couldn't have been more wrong. My photo doesn't do it justice but I can tell you that I love its structure and those blooms! Thompson and Morgan's description that 'Nicotiana Tinkerbell demands closer inspection, as the clusters of dusky-rose petals have lime-green backs and unusual azure blue pollen in the centre of each flower' is absolutely spot on.

Below, this Asparagus fern, Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri' , sits at the bottom of the wall as you walk down into the courtyard. I'll be honest. Sometimes I really like it, other times I think it looks like someones bad hair day.

Finally, growing in a stone planter near the living room window, this is my 'bling' thing. Canna 'Phasion', also known as 'Tropicana' or 'Durban'.

In a month or so, these will send up shocking orange flowers, but really it's the foliage I like. Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't miss them.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Les Jardins de Sardy

Un jardin romantique en Dordogne

I've been meaning to visit the garden at Sardy for some time now. Why did I leave it so long?

Situated at the western edge of the Dordogne near Castillon-la-Bataille, in the heart of wine country, the present garden created in the 1950's was the life work of English couple Betty and Bernie Imbs.

Whilst the foundations of the domaine actually date back to the middle ages, the winery and pigeon house were constructed in the mid 1600's and finally the main house and long canal were built around 1750. However, it was the Imbs who together with an architect, Louis Aublet and garden designer, Jacques Desmartis that created a small but perfectly formed Italianate paradise with twists of English romantic charm in the heart of south west France.

Rather than bore you with an exhaustive plant list, suffice to say that prostrate Juniper, Provence Cypress and Olive gave structure to the garden. Self seeding Valerian, Erigeron and Euphorbia softened the edges. Silver and glaucous foliage provided the background for the muted tones of pink, mauves and blue, plus there was the best little wheelbarrow I've seen. So good I shot it twice.

Of the many roses growing at Sardy, I was particulary taken with Pierre de Ronsard. There's something about this rose that just suits France.

Here's another view of it growing through the railings above the old cellar entrance.

A rose I've not encountered before, 'Mermaid' really made an impression. I'd decided that I was 'off' yellow roses and that any potential new purchases will be pink or cream, you know, rose coloured. Mermaid put paid to that. She is simply the best yellow rose I've seen and appreciative my photo doesn't do it justice you'll just have to trust me on this one. The big blooms with no more than five petals together with the dark saffron stamens (do they call that a central boss?) made this a real wow. It's on my list.

I'll visit Sardy again. I sat looking at that water feature (top photo) for a good half hour in the 30 degree heat. Some gardens really just take you away.