• Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
At this time of year many of us want to make the most of the outdoors by having a nice garden which is practical and can be used for entertainment purposes, preferably all year round. In other words what we really need is a low maintenance garden.
Black Sheet Weed Control
I am planning to have a go at a low or no-maintenance gardening since I actually have two small gardens located in different areas and it’s difficult to maintain both.
In fact my English garden is the main focus of my gardening efforts whereas my Mediterranean French garden really needs to survive on its own.
Whatever works for my dry Mediterranean garden should also be useful and applicable to my English cottage style garden particularly since climate change seems to makes us prone to extreme weather with spells of dryer weather and hose pipe bans.
So where do I start?
I have found some inspiration in a great garden which I visited last year whilst on holiday in Morrocco: the Majorelle garden. more…
• Tuesday, June 02nd, 2009
It seems that the UK is not the only country to be experiencing an increased interest in Grow-your-own and gardening as a whole. While in the UK many initiatives are currently taking place to encourage people to get involved in gardening (BBC Dig in campaign for example), in other European countries such as France there seems to be a similar revived interest in gardening this year.
An example of this is the Rendezvousauxjardins initiative which is the French equivalent of the British National Open Gardens Scheme and is organized by the French Ministry of Culture.
The aim is to encourage people to make their garden open to the public and it also gives the opportunity to combine the visit with a musical, theatrical or cultural experience.
And this year the theme for the garden scheme is related to land, soil and territory. The purpose of the theme is to highlight the importance of the Land in all its characteristics.
This Open gardens event will take place this week on 5, 6 and 7th June. So if you are planning a trip to France and enjoy discovering new garden ideas do look out for the gardens taking part in this scheme: Rendezvousauxjardins.
So we are not alone doing our bit in our garden and contributing to a better, greener environment, our neighbours are doing their bit too!
Last week I visited a great bamboo garden in Southern France called the Bambouseraie. Just outside the pretty village of Anduze, this bamboo garden is located only 15 miles from Nimes in the French Languedoc Roussillon region and not too far from my French garden.
The bamboo garden was designed in 1856 by Eugène Mazel who was a keen French botanist. It is a picturesque and mature garden which includes a comprehensive collection of bamboos but also many other oriental plants and trees of interest.
I followed the guide who provided useful information about the plants and trees in the park, and I learnt some interesting horticultural facts about bamboos. I shall always remember that bamboos shoots grow like piles of plates stacked upwards and growing at a speed of up to 1 meter a day.
All in all it comforted me in the opinion that some species of bamboos can be difficult to contain since they have a tendency to spread quickly whilst other smaller varieties can be used as bushes in order to provide handy green borders. more…
• Thursday, April 30th, 2009
April was a wet month in Languedoc Roussillon and therefore a lot of weeds have cropped up in my French garden.
I missed the almond tree blossom but I was delighted to see that the tree was full of newly formed green almonds.
The apricot tree has also finished blossoming and I could see a few small apricots amongst the green leaves. Unfortunately one of the main branches appears to be dead and will need cutting probably in the dormant season. I am a bit concerned about this dead branch since I also found an unsightly 2 inch grub which you can see on the picture below. It was nestled underneath a rotten mimosa tree stump which I dug out to clear some space.
I think that this type of grub feeds on cellulose and therefore is prone to weakening trees.
My nectarine tree which I only planted last November seems to be growing well despite the cold and wet weather which we had during winter. Trees are an important feature of my French garden since I am aiming for a low or no maintenance garden (since I am not often there to look after the plants).
Casualties happen however and I was disappointed to see that my bougainvillea didn’t make it through winter. I did protect it with a special garden fleece but I made the mistake of adding some newspaper sheets at the base of the plant in an attempt to protect the roots from the cold. I think that my bougainvillea did not appreciate the cold wet newspaper treatment so it’s a lesson to be learned about frost tender plants and bushes.
• Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
Following from my Garlic trial 2009 article I recently traveled South to check how the garden had evolved since I last visited back in January.
Garlic Trial in France
As you can see below the garlic grown in my southern French garden is doing well and has grown bigger shoots than the same varieties grown in my East Anglian plot (UK).
Back in November 2008, it rained a lot in Languedoc Roussillon with near floods (5cm of water covered my garden area). Then the first half of 2009 was also a cold winter for the region including some snow.
I also tried to do a newspaper mulch around some of my garlic plants, which was effective in so far as it prevented to some extent the growth of the horsetail weeds. However there were a few annual weeds growing on the soil on top of it. I am really looking forward to the forthcoming period of growth and the result of my garlic trial.
• Sunday, February 15th, 2009
Garlic is a bit like marmite except that I love garlic. Personally I cherish it not only because it revives any dish with its potent flavour but also because its health properties have been praised for thousands of years. It is characteristic of Mediterranean cooking and is also said to prevent heart diseases and cancer.
I have tried to grow it in our fenland garden but unfortunately it does not grow so well. I guess the issue partially lies in the nature of the soil which is heavy clay. I read that for heavy soil it is advisable to grow garlic on a ridge, which I have tried and it has grown better but the size of the cloves still is nowhere near what I can buy in supermarkets anywhere. And I so much long for those long plaited magnificent garlic heads which adorn so many Mediterranean kitchens.
So this year I have decided to put it to the test in both by Fenland and my Mediterranean garden, 780 miles apart. I am not a very experienced gardener but I will try to grow the same variety in a similar way in both gardens. Obviously the climate and the soil are different so it will affect the way the garlic grows and I am keen to see how certain factors influence growth.
We do get some frosts in Languedoc-Roussillon which is actually good for the growth of garlic but there is also more light and sunshine and my garden soil is apparently adequate for growing vines.
The garlic varieties which I will put to the test are: germidour and garlic thermidrome.
Last year on the Gardeners’ World programme I watched Alys Fowler grow garlic cloves in pots to get them started in the greenhouse and then she will plant them outside in spring. So I shall also try this method here to see if the garlic cloves fare better than those directly planted in the ground.
If you have any tip on how to grow garlic in heavy clay soil or have other preferred varieties, I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise watch out for my next update on the garlic trial 2009!
• Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
One of the first tasks when you have a new garden is to take stock of what is already there and growing well and what needs sorting.
Unkempt Olive Tree
Looking at the olive tree in my Mediterranean garden and comparing it with other specimens growing in so many gardens and fields in the area it is clear that it hasn’t been looked after for a long period of time. In particular the long shoots growing from the base of the olive tree need to be cut right back. Or so I was told by the locals who probably had never seen an olive tree so neglected.
This olive tree was not grown for its olives but because in Southern France it is supposed to bring good luck – so most Mediterranean gardens will have at least one olive tree. The gracious Olea europa (as per its latin name) is also the symbol of peace and wisdom in many countries. My tree is likely to be a local Picholine variety which is quite versatile in its use.
I have started to remove these long shoots and I think that I will probably need to trim the top a bit too but it is already starting to look better as you can see in the pictures. People in Provence say that the right shape of the olive tree should allow a little bird to fly through the tree without his wings touching the branches.
I have noticed that the olives were stained and I have been told that the culprit is likely to be a little fly that damages the fruits if you do not treat your olive tree.
Pruned Olive Tree
The harvest season has already passed but I will need to find out more on that subject so that I can make the most of my olive tree. Apparently you can use a special Bordeaux mix treatment to act as a fungicide to start with. I need to find out more about the best way to grow olives trees organically.
My top tip: Ask local people who have similar conditions and plants to yours their tips on what to do for plants which you may be struggling with. Their personal insight and the fact that it is straightforward advice which has been tried locally are highly valuable.
Was it tip-top for you? Please leave a comment – thank you!