Inspired by The Patient Gardener, this post is an end of month meme of how the garden looked yesterday, 31 July. I've started at the bottom of the garden, in what will be our orchard and the hornbeam gardens.
Finally my Prunus 'Tai-haku' have re-emerged from the grass in what will be our orchard (you can almost see them in the picture). I've been preparing for the planting of the orchard by learning how to graft fruit trees (old French varieties). It's not as difficult as you might think. Last year I was 50% successful, this year it was probably only about 25%. I'd strongly advise anyone to have a go if they can get hold of good grafting material (the rootstocks are easy to get). I'm not particularly good at 'fiddly' things (that's Nick's department), but even I can achieve success rates like this - and I'm sure I'll improve with practice. Why should you try it? Firstly - it's fascinating and rewarding (and is teaching me patience). Secondly - you'll save lots of money and still have worthwhile plants. A good cultivar only costs me about €5 now as opposed to more than €30. And, if your graft fails, you always have the rootstock to try again next year. I'll battle on in spite of low success rates and write about the process in a later blog.
In this picture you can also see that we've reinstated the path down to the river (with a little circle around the young walnut tree).
Having sorted out a mower for down below, I'm hoping the extension of the garden will be much easier now. The Prunus have been planted in wire baskets to stop them being eaten by the rat-taupier/water vole beasties.
Next to emerge from the savannah will be my hornbeam hedge, planted in March. I was delighted - only four plants didn't manage to duck in time when Nick was strimming. Even more admirable - they've survived without water, in spite of the searing heat we've experienced here.
The Vegetable Garden is really not worth looking at this year - thank goodness the pleached lime hides my disgrace! - although you can just make out the weedy top of it at the bottom of this second picture.
I've only grown potatoes, broccoli, courgettes, garlic and pumpkins. But, oh my goodness, that bloody courgette fairy never takes a holiday! I'm frightened to look at my two plants now. Fortunately we've found a book that gives us a million things we can do with courgettes and yesterday a friend let me try a courgette crepe which was very tasty indeed. Top quality food from the garden is important to people in rural France. Later, whenever I catch breath, I'd like to start adding some vegetable/fruit recipes that I pick up locally.
The Long Border
I haven't any pictures of this yet (I figured no one would be interested in pictures of languishing hostas and Lonicera nitida being eaten to death by European chafer).
This autumn, however, I hope it will be up and running and will distract me from the Rose Walk - possibly saving the lives of the poor roses.
The border is only about 3/4 dug at the moment, but I've already planted six or seven shrub roses and some plants kindly donated by friends. Hopefully, in September, I'll be able to get all the other eager little future inhabitants, currently waiting in pots, into the ground. I have seed-raised herbaceous plants and cuttings of Philadelphus, Weigela etc. Then I'll do a posting with photos ...
The Rose Walk looks much as it did in spring. Gone are the biennials that made it so pretty. This was my only place for gardening with perennials when I first started making the garden here - everything was stuffed in, willy-nilly, to the detriment of the roses. The roses that the rat-taupiers/water voles didn't managed to subdue with their nasty little teeth, I managed to suppress with my clary sages and Dame's Violet!
But the roses are now in recovery position. Only 'Munstead Wood' (above) is doing anything interesting now, but 'Mme Isaac Pereire' (who didn't flower earlier because of black spot) is making a comeback.
More importantly, I've now decided on my list of plants that will partner the roses for the next few years. Tall, but with very light, 'see-through' foliage: Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant', Gypsophila paniculata, bronze fennel and Verbena bonariensis (which self-sows well if it doesn't over-winter). Lower growing: Achillea 'Lilac Beauty', Geranium renardii, 'Rozanne', 'Mrs Kendall Clarke', 'Baby Blue', Eryngium 'Picos Blue', Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue', Echinacea 'White Swan', Knautia macedonica, Stachys byzantinus. And lots and lots of tulips and ornamental onions. Many of these plants have already overwintered in the garden, but it will be interesting to keep a record of what thrives through very cold winters and very hot summer conditions on our soil.
I'll also be trying out some Artemesia species/cultivars, but I'm less hopeful of them, given the soil. Another plan for the future is to add a link on the blog, giving lists of plants that survive heavy soil, extreme summer heat and up to -20 in winter.
Nick's climbing rose, 'Lady Hillingdon' has put on a few fresh shoots with the rain last weekend. We never quite lost hope, but there were some dodgy moments! The new lavender hedge on the drop down to the next terrace is doing well - but not very photogenic at the moment. Next year perhaps.
Artemesia 'Powis Castle' doing fine - and right through last winter with -16 reached. But you can see from the picture that the gardener hasn't been to clip the box pyramids yet (!) I did notice some box blight on new box plants that arrived in the garden this spring (in spite of the fact that they had been in quarantine for several weeks). After reading up more on the subject, I concluded that tight clipping encourages the blight, so I'm possibly/probably going to leave all the box until next year before clipping. The young box have (mostly) grown out of the blight in the drier weather.