Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas in Sarlat

Take a Christmas stroll through Sarlat's medieval streets with me.

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

In the archives ...

Spent the day clearing and burning unfeasibly large amounts of leaves and branches which were cut away from an enormous lime tree down near the river at La Forge.  Hard work, but at least the weather's dry though overcast. I guess it's the December grey skies that turn my thoughts to spring, Dreaming of brighter days, dreaming of alliums, foxtail lily and euphorbia.

So into the archives I go, back to May, maybe the favourite month, certainly warmer and unlikely to offer a leaden horizon.

Roll on spring.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Walnut Glut

The Walnut trees here at Le Banquet have never been so laden. Karen and I must have picked up thousands of nuts strewn at the bottom of the car park.

There's always good and bad years and nobody's exactly sure why. Almost certainly the hot June and July was a major factor, but we've had hot June and July's before... There's always little nuances during a seasons weather that brings around a bumper harvest. This year the Summer has favoured figs too!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Sarlat Market

Yesterday was the first Saturday Karen and I could take off since the end of April. So it was off to the market at Sarlat we went and couldn't get there quick enough. The weather was great, the atmosphere the same, just the perfect way to start the weekend.

Sarlat is one of the most perfectly preserved medieval towns in the world, so as a window into 14th century France, there is nowhere better.

But market day is all about food and yes that is a Paella next to the Pommes de terre à la sarladaise. The French have adopted the Spanish rice dish with gusto and you can find it everywhere.

Walnuts are a major crop in the Dordogne and they are excellent - I'm not just saying that - held in high regard by the French, there are four varieties here, Franquette, Corne, Marbot and Grandjean, all of which make up the AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) Walnut of the Perigord, a controlled designation of origin status which is only awarded when something is particularly special from a given area. It's all based on the French concept of terroir, a lengthy subject to which you can find out more here.

The one notable absence at the market were mushrooms, notably the famous cepes, but that may change. I'll just have to go back.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Hydrangea paniculata plans

Everything's 'greened' up since late August. We had two belts of heavy rain pass by during the month which took the pressure off the worsening water situation and got things growing again. Now as we head towards mid- September everything is that bit more turgid and under a softer sunlight the garden looks so much better.

The low box hedge, growing by La Fermette which I clipped back hard in February is starting to leaf out nicely. This is such good news as it was a freebie - a rare thing - and even though there is every re-assurance that box is tough and slowly it will respond, there's always an element of doubt that there may be a casualty.

As a temporary filler  (it's a parterre remember) I grew annual cosmos which managed to look awful by the end of August. Quite how cosmos fails is a mystery as it's probably the easiest annual to grow, but fail they did, so I pulled the lot which gave more light to the self seeded nicotiana sylvestris - a bunch of volunteers courtesy of a disturbed seed bank -  and which now looks likely to run up to flower as we really get into Autumn.

I thought long and hard as to what would be the perfect plant(s) to provide a more permanent solution to grow in this particular spot, the old 'right plant, right place' adage which led me to hydrangeas. It's a part sun location, capable of better water retention than other areas by the river and a half decent soil which I'll enrich with composted cow manure!

Is a sack of dung worthy of a photograph?

As to the hydrangeas, I decided on two paniculata types, 'Unique' and 'Vanille fraise'

The blooms aren't exactly at their best right now. I had to trim most of them off to get the plants into the car, but fingers crossed, next year, planted with Japanese anemones (I am planting the dark pink 'Pamina') they should make a great association.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Blue to Magenta

I'm not sure what variety of Lavender this is, but every year it's an absolute triumph - initially the buds are denim opening to the purest blue and it flowers for ages. It's certainly not phased by this continuing hot Summer. Yesterday's temperature peaked at 39 centigrade, though one or two spots across the south west saw 40 degrees and Friday could be hotter as another blast of hot air wafts up from Spain and the African Maghreb.

The cardoon is starting to flower. The 'choke' takes on an almost electric quality somewhere between magenta and blue - luminous in the evening light and for a few short weeks my absolute favourite.

The Scotch thistle, onopordum acanthium, a pollinator magnet as common to so many members of the asteracaea family, stands around six feet tall and is a handsome beast. It's the thistle featured on the back of some £1 coins and as the 'crowned' thistle on the back of the 5 pence coin. A gem.

Sunday, 31 May 2015


Meteofrance seem pretty convinced we'll see temperatures between 36 and 38 degrees centigrade by the end of the week. That's 100 Fahrenheit!

We will all melt. Heat and high humidity - a Spanish Plume. Hot unstable air drifting up from north Africa and southern Spain.

There will be isolated thunderstorms too. I hope they miss.

The garden could do with some rain. But lengthy moderate rainfall would be preferable to torrential thundery downpours though unlikely.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Foxtail lily

They glow you know.  Eremurus himalaicus, the white foxtail lily shines in the evening sunshine. I love eremurus - so much so I bought about 9 or 10 roots of e. robustus last autumn - that's the big one, the 9 footer foxtail lily which is bound to draw a gasp. Bloody no shows - the lot of them. I have zero idea as to why not. I mean, the soil is right; the planting time was right; they had space.....   Maybe rodents?

Anyway, such is the way of things. Well almost.  That 'laissez faire' type statement belies my new motivation to grow Digitalis ferruginea as I need more spiky punctuation in my garden.  Blame it on Dan Pearson. I've just been leafing through his book, The Garden (again) admiring this sun loving biennial that he planted with such aplomb at Home Farm many moons ago.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Don't mow the meadow...

The 'meadow' area has been weeded and prepped as we've decided to continue to sow an annual meadow despite being a little disappointed with last years results. We've also decided to continue to use Pictorial Meadows annual seed varieties though this year we've changed the mix. For the last three seasons we sowed their 'classic mix' which for the first two years gave outstanding results - really beautiful. However, last season the same mix proved to be a little disappointing. I guess there are many reasons and factors that can explain why it was a little below par but life's too short to analyse the many ifs and maybes so this year we've sown 'blue wave' which incidentally was the mixture used outside the Aqua centre at the London Olympics - impressive eh? I hope so!

If we really can have a field of shimmering blue then we'll be happy, very happy though I can almost guarantee  some self seeders from last year will punctuate the colour scheme with a rogue hue here and there and that the - impossible to eradicate - bind weed will remain just that.

Above is the meadow in 2013 with its first flush of poppies following a sowing of Classic mix. Later in the year the succession changed to a yellow and gold theme as you can see in the photo below. This year's sowing, though altogether different promises to be really special if all goes well - I mean, who doesn't like blue flowers?