Monday, 21 November 2011

Footballs and Box

Well I managed to temporarily drag myself away from the seemingly never ending kitchen renovation project and focus a little dans le jardin.

The continued run of exceptionally mild weather has given opportunity to plant without any thoughts of frost or dank weather. In an average year, the last planting out date is usually assumed to be around the 26th or 27th November, the French Saint days of Saint Séverin or Saint Jacques. The soil is still warm enough for root development, there's little or no transpiration and evaporation, all in all perfect. Don't tell the weather though. It may at, or ahead of script this year, but back in 2007 we were having a run of severe frosts at this time, lows dropping to -7 and -8C, not planting weather at all.

For some time, in fact every year, I seem to always find myself dissatisfied with the border up by the barn gable end. This year was no exception, the hollyhocks grew into dominant triffid monsters shading and dwarfing everything else, reaching eight feet in some cases, way too successful, so I've dug them out, au revoir! But what a palaver. Seems the end of the tap root is pretty much equidistant south to the top growth north.

So time for a change. I've been picking up box balls whenever they've been available at a discount, although even then the price always feels stratospheric. I've planted a lot of Salvia 'monrovia blue', Lavender 'grosso' and two Cardoons that I started from seed at the end of the Summer.

To echo the 'boule' theme, and to get rid of the excess mortar I'd been using in the kitchen, I stuffed three different sized footballs full of it, waited twenty four hours and then peeled the balls away. Looks quite good. They needed wire brushing though. Rough them up and get rid of reverse imprints saying stuff like 'FIFA' and 'the road to Wembley'. They just need to 'weather' now.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Parasol Pine

I planted this Parasol pine, pinus pinea, exactly five years ago in the same spot where I lost a great Walnut tree which had blown down following a nasty little Autumn storm that avoided the weather forecaster's gaze, intensified in the Bay of Biscay and whipped across southern France.

It's grown quickly, much swifter than I thought it would, keeping a good, by and large, well rounded shape.

This is a tree that suits the landscape here, you see them all over southern France and across into Italy and many other parts of Europe, so when I was deliberating as to what to plant on either side of the path leading to the river, It made total sense that I plumped for another four of them. They are pretty small, but dug in with a bit of bone meal, I'm hoping they'll establish quite quickly.

As an extra precaution against wind rock, I've hammered in stakes which face the direction of the prevailing wind, so this should keep things stable over the coming Winter.

Just as a note, this is the tree that yields pinenuts often found in mediterranean cooking. It takes many years however, before it is mature enough to develop the edible seed, so I may be waiting some time before my first harvest!