Sunday, 27 September 2009

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

It's that time of year. The markets around France are brimful with the season's best produce, I love it. These are a few snaps taken as Karen and I wandered around Bergerac market yesterday morning.

Oysters are everywhere. There are even stalls by the roadside. Generally available when the month has an 'R' in it, the French LOVE oysters and so do I.

Down in Basque country, they like to eat them with sizzling hot little spicy sausages called lou-kenkas which have some resemblance to the chorizos of Spain.

I like them with a finely diced scrap of red onion, a splash of tabasco and washed down with a chilled sauvignon blanc!

Chestnuts were once something of a staple here, along with walnuts, both are highly calorific.

Oh for a duck sausage with chestnuts and fried green apple on the side.

A glut of tomatoes. Sensibly, this stall sold enormous buches of basil. The air was perfumed, I could smell the basil from fifty paces.

Gateaux, gateaux, gateaux! lashings of custard with mine, or should that be the rather nicer named Creme Anglais.

OK, so I know it's just a box of carrots, but the point is this was just one of the many small holders selling true garden produce. There's no interference from the wise ones in Brussels here. You know the types, passing laws to ban bent bananas etc....

Finally, I leave you with a nice collage of gourds and things, so, just a taster of a French market. I'm off now as there's a bottle of 2005 Bergerac rouge with my name on it. By the way of stating the obvious, the post title is from John Keat's (31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) Ode to Autumn.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Les Jardins du Manoir d'Eyrignac

Listed by the Ministry of Culture as a Jardin Remarquable, the formal gardens at the Manoir d'Eyrignac are an exceptionally fine example of the Italian influence that spread throughout French gardens during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The house and gardens have been in the possession of the same family for some 500 years and it's current glory today is the passion of owners Patrick and Capucine Sermadiras who, together with their son Gilles continue to live in the manor and oversee all aspects of the gardens development and upkeep.

Last Sunday was my fourth visit to Eyrignac this year. I'm fortunate in that it's only 25 minutes drive from here so it's easy to spend an afternoon exploring one of France's grandest green spaces.

Located over 4 hectares, Eyrignac contains fine examples of topiary and prides itself on using old methods wherever possible. Domed standards of White Mulberry are clipped expertly with shears as are striking 'cakestands' of Yew together with some 45,000 m2 of Box and Hornbeam hedges. All the clipping and mowing waste are collected and reused three years later as organic compost.

Even apple and pear trees have been shaped and trained into mature standards which looks quite something when they bear fruit.

Throughout, the gardens are punctuated with Cypress and prostrate Juniper, emblematic of Mediterranean lanscapes which together with gently trickling water features add a further dimension to what is really a very tranquil and calm place.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Things to do list

I always find myself just going through the gardening 'motions' at this time of year.

In Christopher Lloyd's The Gardening Year, he warns against it, quote, 'The danger in a September garden - you see it everywhere - is sleaze'.

I was almost mechanically deadheading the yellow rose up by the gable end when inevitably I drifted off into thoughts about changing this and that, what failed, what worked, what to do next really. Yes it's that time of year.

Having just read Anna's post over at Greentapestry I thought I'd jot down a non too exhaustive list.

1. I really should grow Verbascum. The cosmos up in the bed near the cattle barn ran out of steam too early. It bakes up in that border, the verbena bonariensis loves it, so will verbascum, I'm wondering if I start some from seed in the next week or so whether it'll flower in time for next summer?

2. Take more care over composting. I have three 'bins' made from palettes, I turn one into the other every three months or so and have to say that the resulting compost looks really good. Well, it would be if it wasn't so full of weed seed. Oh and nicotiana, why did I compost the entire plant? I need to insulate the heap better, make it hotter and take more care.

3. I will, will, will purchase a stunning agarve next Spring to grow in a pot on the wall.

4. Move the leaf mould from last season instead of piling up the new leaf litter on top. This is a vrai job of work as I have mountains of leaf compost (mostly walnut) from last Autumn and it only serves to make life more dificult having to dig under the current leaf fall to get at the good stuff.

5. Alliums, alliums, alliums. I'm going to plant ornamental onions along both sides of the pergola so I need to buy the bulbs sooner rather than later.

6. Aquire some more Miscanthus. I'm really taken with miscanthus sinensis malepartus.

7. Take more cuttings. I've currently got lots of penstemon and sedum cuttings, together with fucshia riccartonii, but it's never enough. I might try rooting hormone this time.

8. Sit down and read the camera user manual.

Well, there's the 'tip' of the Iceberg as they say...

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Busy at the moment

Summer continues in this corner of southwest France. Ok, I know September is officially Autumn, but I like to think of today as August 37th, still Summer right?

It's still busy here at Le Banquet. We've had guests from all over the world, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Oman, France, Germany, Italy,Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium, USA and of course the UK and Eire. You get to meet the most interesting people in this business.

Aside, I took a little time to create a couple of collages of things around and about the garden. Some you'll have seen before but a second go never hurts. Incidently, I've invested in a new camera, not that I'm getting full use of it yet, no, no, everytime I attempt to read the manual, all 40,000,000 pages of it, well it leaves me wanting to reach for the Hemlock. Eventually I'll get to it. Eventually!