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 6 October 2011

A special gift for all plant and nature lovers...

I just had to add a posting for the benefit of all who read my blog on a beautiful gift that we received from our lovely friends Liz and Mike Fraser who spent 12 years living at the Cape of Good Hope.  They have just published this truly stunning book on the amazing variety of plant life at the Cape, together with the stories of  plant collectors'  expeditions to the Cape over the last 300 years - entertainingly written by Mike, whose "day job" is a Conservation Officer for the RSPB and with gorgeous illustrations by professional artist Liz.

You can see some sample pages of the book and find further information on their website.

To buy a copy - you can purchase this through Amazon UK or at a number of other websites

If you're looking for a special present for a friend or family member for a birthday or Christmas or a wedding present even... look no further - IT'S FABULOUS!

Thursday 29 September 2011

Look on the Blight side!

Whilst watching the TV programme Coast last weekend I was reminded of  the horrors during the Great Famine in Ireland during the mid 1800's or perhaps better known as the Potato Famine?  It was said that approximately one third of Ireland's population were dependant on the Potato crop for food and as Potato Blight ravaged their crops resulting in over 1million people dying and another million emigrating - cutting the country's population by up to 25% causing devastating effects.

Phytophthora infestans is the fungus responsible for Blight and can affect both Potatos and Tomatoes alike - brown patches develop on the leaves, and the fruits of the tomato start to go brown in patches until the whole fruit shrivels and unless the affected leaves of potatoes removed in time, the fungus will get into the soil and wipe out your whole potato crop as it did in Ireland (although maybe on slightly smaller scale!).  The fungus seems to strike predominantly in moist or wet weather in mid to late summer and does not take long to take hold.

With potatoes, I've found that if you remove all the foilage above ground, then usually the potato tubers will carry on and develop okay without being affected.  Obviously there is the option to spray the plants but I prefer not to.  With tomatoes, many people will opt for growing them under cover or if grown outside the best thing is to remove as many of the diseased leaves and fruit as quickly as possible and in many cases plants will recover.  ONE IMPORTANT THING - do NOT compost any of the diseased plants or fruits - dispose in a rubbish sack.  If this goes into your compost, the disease is much more likely to become a real problem especially where the compost is added to planting areas where you will grow potatoes or tomatoes the following year.   

  • Do not to grow these two crops in close proximity to one another.
  • Try operating a good crop rotation system which helps avoid pests and diseases getting established.
  • Ensure the plants are correctly spaced out.
  • Try growing more blight resistant varieties if this is a problem. 
  • For potatoes; earth up the tubers well - this will offer greater protection for your crop.

Monday 26 September 2011

A walk on the wild side along the south Brittany coastline...

Amazing how the weather really does play such a large part in the gardening year and this year has not been a typical one by any means!  Usually July/August is much quieter on the gardening front leaving me ample time to share things on my blog; with the rest of the time taken up with watering a very thirsty garden... This was not the case this year however, and by the end of August the grass here was growing more prolifically than during the month of May!  After persevering with both the grass and weeds in many of my clients' gardens not to forget our own place, we did manage to get away for a break - the first in two years!

Somehow we managed to pick the stormiest week we could have done and it even managed to rain pretty much every morning we were there :-( No lovely lazy days on the beach with a book or swimming in the sea as I'd envisaged, but we did get some good beach walks in and enjoyed many of the sea birds which  were happily feeding along the shore line.  It's a beautiful stretch of coastline near to the Pointe de Trevignon (lying between Concarneau and Pont Aven on the south Brittany coast) with deserted white sandy beaches at this time of year incase you're tempted!

So out came the bird book ... amongst the birds we saw were the little Sanderlings who were extremely entertaining to watch as they scurried along the sand at incredible rates - any wonder the poor little birds didn't get cramp in their legs! Others we saw were Turnstones also smallish in size with much darker plumage than the Sanderlings.

There were plenty of gulls around too - here a pair of Black Headed Gulls!

And not to forget the Cormorants who seemed to fair well being battered by waves on the rocks out to sea!

Having been down to this area before we decided to explore a new section of coast line going towards Concarneau one day - equally beautiful and more deserted white sandy beaches...
Out to sea, we spotted Oyster Catchers as well as little Plovers - you'll need to click on this photo to see them properly!

More Sanderlings!

A lone Herring Gull...
Stormy seas...
From the Birds to the local flora and fauna... of which there is an amazing variety - and lots of late flowering wildflowers were a welcome sight - the colours of some of the lichens quite amazing too.

Spot the lizard basking the sunshine... a rare thing that week!

The pale pink Armeria was easy to spot against the bright orange background provided by these lichens.

Chestnuts ripening...
More Armeria and stormy seas

And finally our last evening the weather was starting to improve!

So we decided to go into Pont Aven to have that traditional French dish... Pizza on our last night!  After finishing our meal we left the restaurant we met one of the local residents who clearly knew where he was going!!

He finally headed off into the sunset and we did the same...
If you like the look of this area and are interested the place we rented - La Maison Rose was fabulous - a 5 minute cycle to the coast, 5 mins cycle to the local boulangerie and yet in total seclusion and peace and quiet - take a look!

Since returning back home there has been masses to catch up on in all the gardens I look after not to mention here and with the abundance of fruit around this year I've been very busy making fruit Jellies - it's the first time I've done this and love the results... will do a further posting on this in the next day or so - watch this space!

Thursday 28 July 2011

July in our Brittany Garden...

You are never short of surprises in a garden - each day often producing new ones - plants that have just come into bloom, new bird visitors, a hidden bird's nest discovered and it goes on!  It's been a busy month work-wise with some complete extremes of weather to deal with but was so grateful for the week of rain we had about 10 days ago now and plants & trees have really been given a new lease of life with things looking surprisingly green for this time of year but then with temperatures due to go to 25 degrees next week it is probaby just as well!

As well as some beautiful blooms in the garden - one of my favorites being the Black Peonie Poppy - seeds were sent to me very kindly from Cheryl - they are quite stunning (big thankyou to Cheryl and hope you're having a good summer too)  but I'll be honest haven't found them easy to grow here for some reason... practice makes perfect!! 

Swapping seeds is a great idea and if anyone would like to swap seeds from their garden I've quite a lot of Aqualegia seeds and Oriental Poppies too as well as other cottage garden plants...  let me know if you're interested!
A friend over here who runs a similar type of business had mentioned to me that he'd spotted a Cirl Bunting recently - having never seen one I looked it up in my book and literally 2 days later we ended up with this little chap in the garden - I'm pretty sure it's a young male Cirl Bunting - anyone know?

Also very excited to see this young Green Woodpecker in our garden too - we get plenty of the Great Spotted but have recently had the pleasure of the daily company of this one... and such beautiful colouring too.

 This was one of the Delphiniums that I grew from seed a few years ago and faithfully comes up every year - for some reason the slugs seem to leave them well alone! Curious!
 These are the fluffy parts of the seeds from Cotinus Grace - commonly known as the Smoke Bush... the dark leaves make a fantastic contrast with the vibrant blue of the Delphiniums and the lively red of the Oriental Poppies earlier in the year.
 Anyone know what this little insect is which I spotted on some Mayweed - not one I've seen before... do let me know.

The seed head from one of the large Oriental Poppies - even without the petals they do add something to a border!
 Astrantia - one of my favorites.
 I wouldn't be without all the Geraniums which never stop producing flowers for most of the year round.
This golden leaved Cornus (Dogwood) is a must - it's planted with Cotinus Royal Purple - very dark leaved and they go very well together.

Out on a walk through the lanes around here this beautiful Meadow Brown butterfly on the bramble flowers caught my eye - think this year will be a great year for Brambles as well as all the other fruit... I do wonder if this is a sign of yet another v. cold winter as the berries and nuts are in equal abundance here.
There's loads of Purple Loosestrife in the ditches along with Meadow Sweet too - so pretty. 
 Going down into our woodland area is a lovely cool place at this time of year but home a good variety of  wildlife - I make a point of not using any chemicals in the garden and I've no doubt that this helps keep things in equilibrium on our plot.
This is the area of woodland where we've started to coppice the Hazels - what a lot of lovely wood we've got just from one clump... great too for bringing more light in and for giving a good natural habitat for such animals as Dormice and the Wren's love it too!

Last but not least the gateway back to the house... and time to go and take the dog for a walk now so hope you've enjoyed your little taste of what July has offered here in Northern Brittany... take care and enjoy the summer - x