I obviously hope you enjoy browsing through the postings on here - do feel free to leave comments as it's always good to see who's visiting and to hear about other people's experiences - after all you never stop learning do you?

If you've any gardening questions or you live in Brittany and are looking for some gardening help - be it design work, planting or general gardening or you simply would like some advice, please don't hesitate to CONTACT ME or call me on 0033 661 77 23 89 (from UK) or 0661 77 23 89 (from France).

Happy gardening!

Thursday 29 May 2008

Great Tit finds home in Ashtray!

This was the headline that caught my eye whilst trawling the BBC news site for the latest... highly amusing!


Monday 26 May 2008

If you go down to the woods today you're sure of a big...

Surprise was what I got when at a client's property today - looking out of the conservatory of the old Moulin (Mill House) onto a rather soggy garden - to discover a water vole having the time of its life!

We had so much rain last night mixed with thunder and lightening that I was prevented from doing my normal twice monthly grass cut here and yet here was this little bundle of fur helping me along! It was totally oblivious to the fact that I was standing perhaps a couple of meters away at most the other side of the french door. It spent it's time busily munching away on grass and tugging away at it so it could get the roots as well and finally it swam away diving down in amongst the reeds and probably back to its nest... You can discover more on water voles from the following link -

It made my day!

Saturday 24 May 2008

La Belle France!

All times of the year in the garden have their highlights and it's the large Oriental Poppies and Aqualegias which I just love at this time of year. I never planted any of these - they were all here hidden under 9 years worth of brambles and many of the other garden menaces such as bind weed - but every year as I get to clear the garden more and more the flowering gets more prolific - certainly as good as an incentive as you'll get to get things cleared quicker!! Just so you get a sense of scale - this is the biggest I've ever seen in our garden - about the size of an average dinner plate!

The pollinating insects love these flowers with the ease of landing and flying away again... and I regularly see 2 or more bees at a time competing for the pollen!

Having said that when I looked a bit closer I discovered grass hoppers like them too!

Here are a selection of some of my other favourites at the moment...

Rosa "Arthur Bell" - a stunning rose and easy to grow - sure to brighten up any corner!

Astrantia major "Roma" is a beautiful plant - in fact there are some beautiful varieties of this plant... definitely worth trying if you've not got one.

Rosa "La Belle Sultane" is a rose I bought over here and would highly recommend - it is quite stunning and such an amazing colour.

This was another of the beautiful plants growing in the garden - I think it could be Rosa Mme. Hardy - any other suggestions? Its perfume is incredible.

And for the finale today are the Irises...

I'll try and post some more very soon... enjoy!

Thursday 22 May 2008

Vegging out...

Certainly no time for vegging at the moment with all that's going on in the garden - there have been various developments on the veg front... my "Stanley" Beans have grown on quickly and were planted outside just last week. I'd been reading up on ways to avoid slug and snail damaged and decided to try out one suggestion made in a wildlife gardening book.

Living in France we mostly drink bottled water and always feel it's such a waste just to throw bottles away but think I have now found a great use for at least some of them. Cutting a bottle into 2 or 3 sections - removing both the bottom and top so you end up with three "collars" - take a pair of pinking sheers to one edge - giving you a jagged edge - with this edge pointing uppermost place to surround young plants and firm the soil around the base so they don't blow away and hey presto these seem to work a treat! Certainly worth a try! I've been busy earthing them up this week to try and encourage more tubers to develop.

The 2 varieties of potatoes seem to be growing on well - I've done Desiree again after the success I had with them last year despite most people losing their potatoes to blight.... one tip which seemed to work was cutting all the diseased foliage down to ground level as soon as any signs of blight are detected. I'm also trying Pink Fir Apple for the first time - so will let you know what these are like.

My runner beans have also now been planted out - for some reason you can't buy these in France and have had to start buying them for my French neighbours after they tried ours last year!! I grew Butler last year which were delicious and prolific croppers and have added Enorma to the list this year.

Parsnips, Leeks, Rainbow Chard, Cabbages and Purple Flowering Broccoli all doing well too.

I've also recently planted out a number of Globe Artichokes - so far so good... will keep you posted on these!

Obviously time will tell regards the crop, but so far I've been really pleased with the v. early sowing I did of Broad Beans - planted deeper than normal in case of frosts, they are coming on in leaps and bounds and so far no attacks of aphids... so here's hoping!

I think this is going to be a bumper year for soft fruit - the strawberries look like they may have an exceptional year, raspberries are well on their way and the currants - more than we've ever had before... can't wait! For anyone who's not tried strawberries - I started these off last year from some runner plants that my Mum gave me. I'd not got a prepared bed so resorted to spreading my own compost over a small area (2m x 1m) to a depth of about 15cm and covering the area with breathable fabric and digging in the edges all the way round. I made small holes for the strawberry plants and planted them through the fabric and didn't have to deal with a single weed all summer - just lots of lovely strawberries - looks like we're heading for the same again this year - so nothing difficult I promise you!

Lastly, whilst on the subject is a picture of one of the Borage plants which successfully self seeded itself amongst others - the bees seem to love this one. The flowers are traditionally used to decorate jugs of Pimms - another idea is to take individual flowers and put them into ice cube moulds, fill with water and freeze - they look great in a jug of water when friends come round for supper - something a little bit different! You can also use Heartese flower heads too.

Seasons of change....

I always seem to start my posts these days apologising for taking so long to add articles to my blog - I really don't know where the time seems to be going other than on continually trying to keep on top of the ongoing growth spurts that the gardens I care for as well as our own seem to be taking on this year! Normally I tend to tackle the job of hedge cutting towards the end of June, but they're ready to be done already and we're not even at the end of May... added to which I'm sure a lot of plants are out considerably earlier than normal too - I'd be interested to hear from other people on their experience this year.

I've got a number of postings to add which have been in the pipeline and am going to start off with a series of pictures from my recent walks around the countryside here - it really is beautiful and so much to see - it's worth taking time to appreciate even the smaller things like this Bumble Bee attempting his early morning acrobatics and not just the bigger picture - the bigger picture is important too though - don't get me wrong!

Wild Roses are just on their way out now and with their open blooms and bright yellow centre a real target for pollinating insects!

Fields of meadow buttercups are a rare sight these days and quite beautiful in the sunshine we've had here this week - in addition the wet weather we've had on top has created perfect growing conditions!
The increased rainfall we've had this year has been perfect for these Irises which are thriving along the stream banks and ditches - these seem to be a favorite of all the dragonflies that are currently around but I've not managed a picture of one as yet.

Hogweed for all it's failings as a danger to us when strimming ( see my previous posting on this) it's a wonderful landing pad for many wonderful insects - so these plants aren't all bad!

My last picture is of the beautiful Hawthorn blossom which is just everywhere at the moment, but as you can see this one has turned from white to a pinky colour indicating that it has been pollinated and will carry berries in the autumn - something I learnt from one of my favorite blog sites - Cheryl's blog - you never stop learning do you and thank you Cheryl!!