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!

Sunday 14 October 2012

Butterfly bonanza...

Red Admiral on white Asters

 This last fortnight has seen the most incredible displays of autumn colour in the garden coupled with more butterflies than I've seen all summer!

The autumn sunshine had brought out an abundance of both Red Admirals and Peacocks in particular -  just loving the choice of Asters and Ivy flowers particularly.  They need to make the most of the available nectar from these flowers before the colder autumn and winter days start to set in before most of them over-winter.

Speckled Wood on Ivy
The Speckled Wood is seen here enjoying the Ivy flowers - a wonderful food source for insects late in the year and well worth growing to encourage wildlife into the garden - makes a fantastic nesting site for birds such as Thrushes and Blackbirds too.
Speckled Wood on Wild Rose foliage
Peacock Butterfly on Asters

It has to be said that the Asters in the garden at this time of the year are a real hit with the butterflies especially - there are many varieties of Aster available and heights to suit most gardens.  Easy to create more by waiting till slightly later in the season - once flowering is over, cut down the old stems and then carefully dig around the clump, ease it out of the ground and then divide the clump - some may pull apart whilst others may need the help of a good sharp edge of a garden spade to cut through all the roots!  These can either be re-planted in the garden or divided into pots to bring on and then re-plant.

Geranium Roxanne

I thought I'd add this photo of a really pretty little Geranium - still in full bloom - mid October which isn't bad going... also a favourite with insects and easy to grow.

Peacock Butterfly on Aster Marina Wolkonsky

This is a gorgeous tall dark purple Aster with a deep yellow/orange centre - worth getting if you've not got these.

Comma on pink Asters

The Comma butterfly - another favourite - easily recognised with it's ragged edges to its' wings - it's deep orange colour with brown flecks makes it even more attractive in the late afternoon Autumn sun.

Off out now to go and do some other jobs before the weather turns this week... first on the list is tidying up the greenhouse to make room for all my scented geraniums :-)

Saturday 4 August 2012

Helping to take the backache out of gardening!

A little while ago I was kindly given the Keter Realbarrow and I'll be honest am completely converted!  It's been a fantastic help in all the gardening I've had to do in Brittany this year - everything has grown twice as much as normal given the high amount of rainfall we had earlier in the year and whereas usually in August when everything in the garden goes a brown colour - everything is still thriving which is great in many ways but has meant twice the work, so as far as I'm concerned anything that helps take the strain of all the extra work is worth it's weight in gold! 

Here are some its' many selling points....

When transporting 50L bags of compost around which are generally heavy and awkward to get out of the car - they would normally need lifting up into a normal wheelbarrow - instead they can be slid out of the car into the Realbarrow which is sitting on the front edge  and  then by gently tipping it back down there is no lifting of compost bags necessary!  Great for anyone with a bad back which many gardeners suffer from.

Being plastic if it gets v. dirty it's easy to clean out using a hose and won't rust if not fully dried off.

There's no worries of the tyres on the wheels going down as they are solid!

You can sweep stuff directly into the barrow without having to lift this into the barrow - it has a metal reinforced edge making it more robust.

I love the fact it's so deep - it's great when it comes to pruning as loads of stuff will fit inside without tipping out and it has the added bonus of taking small bungee cords to hold the prunings in place.  No wonder that Keter won a Reddot design award for this in 2011!

When empty, it's lovely and light to wheel around too and well designed for storing upright - good for a small shed or even a bigger one!

It's quite narrow in shape which is great for getting through small spaces in the garden without spoiling the plants.

If you are in the UK this can be purchased at Capital Gardens.  

For further information on this product and where to buy worldwide, take a look at Keter's website.

For most of us gardeners, we spend a good deal of time in the outdoors and are more than aware of the pressing need to take care of the environment - so thought  it was worth mentioning a section of Keter's mission statement here too -
  • Our mission is to create and produce our products with minimal impact upon the environment, so that our lines of products will meet maximum design impact measures using minimal resources.
  • We use non toxic and 100% recyclable Polypropylene (PP) to manufacture   our products. 
  • Many of our products are being made from recycled material (whilst upholding the REACH standards). 
  • We chart our ecological impact to reduce our carbon footprints.
All in all an excellent piece of gardening kit - and I cannot recommend this enough!


Friday 15 June 2012

Owl have news for you!

About 2 weeks ago I was working from home with the windows open to the garden when there was lots of commotion going on down in the small piece of woodland which lies in between our garden and a small river at the bottom - the Jays and Blackbirds were making such a racket!  So with great curiosity I ran downstairs and went outside as quietly as I could with camera in hand and to my amazement discovered an adult Tawny Owl feeding her two babies in the branches of one of the oak trees - all in broad daylight - amazing!  So for the next 2 hours I crept around the wood trying to get myself into a suitable position to capture the young owls on film - unbelievably difficult due to the fact that as soon as they saw me they were off!  But these were three of the best ones I could manage...

This was certainly not an experience I'd have missed and a complete first for me!  The owls were regulars in the woodland during the day for about a week following and each day the commotion started up and I begun to realise that they'd returned but for the last few days things have returned to normal and have been loving our other garden visitors - newly fledged Great Tits and Blue Tits and young Great Spotted Woodpeckers who are very comical to watch!  I realise quite how lucky we are with such a variety of birds in our garden and privileged to see so many bring up young here too.


I thought I'd give you a quick tour around our garden - these photos are about a week out date now and will update again as soon as I get the chance.... with all the added rain my gardening work has been taking up every spare minute of my time so apologies that you've not seen me posting much recently or visiting your own blogs... will be back as soon as I can!

 And then to the woodland where the owls were hiding!

 This was my Jubilee Weekend project in the garden in an attempt to get my sweet peas planted - this year I'm trying "Rhapsody in Blue", "Juanita" and "Fragrant Skies" so will report on these once they get a bit bigger.  The framework is using hazel sticks from our woodland which the birds love, the wood chips below which I've used to much the area are from a friend's garden and much appreciated and the lovely box hedging plants are from small plants I got from my Mum who started these off in Cornwall a few years ago.  Each year they've been transplanted into bigger pots and this year (and about time too) they are finally being planted... watch this space for what will happen to the others!

This last photo is one that I took on the side of one of the lanes whilst enjoying a sandwich before heading off to another garden to do a pile of weeding... so lovely to see the poppies amongst the corn and they were humming with bees too which is great to see!

Sunday 20 May 2012

Honey makes the world go round!

The time of year has arrived for bee swarms here in Brittany - last week I was out gardening for one of my clients - when I arrived heard the light hum of bees, only to discover the rather large beginnings of a nest behind one of the bedroom shutters - this was a close up and the next photo was the view from the bedroom!  It's true to say I'd never seen so many bees together in my life!

Wasting no time, I called up a friend over here who is not only a fellow gardener but who has also taken up bee-keeping quite seriously - you should check out his blog.  We agreed it was best to get the swarm removed as soon as possible before it got too big and established... so these photos show you the wonderful entertainment we had last Thursday evening... a first for me and quite amazing!

As the swarm had chosen a first floor window, the first part of this rather delicate operation was to open the bedroom shutter from the inside so that we could get to work on the outside of the house without half the bees coming indoors - only 2 made it into the house which was a relief and that bit done, the work started from the outside.

We put up a ladder to the side of the swarm and as you'll see in the photo below, Richard went up (suited-up of course) to inspect the job that lay ahead! 

It was certainly a decent size of what he felt were relatively docile bees - I was keeping my distance at this point!

He then moved the ladder over and brought up what is called a nuc box - which acts as an interim home before they're transferred to a proper hive.  He tied this on to the balcony railings to hold this in place.


 The next job was lighting some dry grass inside the smoker - from the photo this looks highly dangerous but it was all under control!

The smoker was then used by puffing smoke around the area where the bees were which helps when moving them and keeps them a bit calmer - apparently. Once some of the bees had moved, we got a glimpse of the comb that they'd made - this is essentially wax cells in which they lay their eggs - in thin circular sheets.

It was a pretty delicate operation for Richard to remove these wax sheets and place them in the frames that he had prepared - initially held in place with rubber bands... fascinating!  Not long after this he spotted the queen - not easy with all the thousands of bees :-) - she was caught in a small device and placed in the box and she is what then attracts the rest of the swarm into the nuc box.

Bit by bit as you'll see in this next picture the original "rugby ball" shape of the swarm was lessening and as the remaining wax was moved into the nuc, the bees were all walking down the window - literally - following each other in search of the Queen... this transformation was incredible!

The swarm continued to move down the window - the last few needing a bit more help from the smoker.
You can see from this photo the last of the bees going into the bottom entrance of the nuc box...

And this really was the last of them... and finally we were able to pack up and they went off to their new home... I love a happy ending!

 Having so enjoyed Sarah Raven's TV series on the BBC a couple of months back this made me realise even more, how incredibly important bees are to everyone, and really without them, there would be a very small selection of foods that we would be able to choose from in the supermarkets... even chocolate & coffee depend on pollination!  So next time you're thinking of what to plant in your gardens... think of the bees and pollinating insects... if you need any hints and tips on suitable plants, let me know and I'll happily tackle this topic in a future posting! Bon weekend and hope you enjoyed something a bit different.

Monday 30 April 2012

Our Brittany garden springs into life....

Despite all the rain and stormy days, we've had the odd moment of sunshine... I took this a few days ago in between showers and since then it's done nothing but rain! 

The Geranium phaeums are some of my favorite flowers at this time of year... I couldn't recommend them enough and are easy to grow.

 This is the view from our garden looking through the woodland... it's full of bird life at this time of year.  We're very fortunate to have such an amazing variety of birds but here - helped with lots of trees and the small river that runs at the bottom too... it's a lot of hard work to keep looking nice but well worth all the effort!  On my way out with the dog this week, I  was surprised by the sight of a little Tree Creeper - about 3 meters from where I was stood flitting up and down one of the Oak Trees - such a tiny but beautiful bird that you don't often see close up like that. 
There are so many beautiful colours in the garden at this time of year - it was hard to choose which photos to add to today's account of our garden... so I just added most of them to share with you as it's been a while since my last posting!

This is one of the many Oriental Poppies in the garden and not far off bursting into life... hopefully the stormy weather will be over before it's open!

  This is a fabulous tree, even for a small garden - Malus Everest is a crab apple with beautiful blossom at this time of year and then small brightly coloured fruits which last all the way through to January/February and the birds love them!

This is a plant that I bought recently - infact it's a third of it... when I got back I split it up as it was very pot bound and all three plants are doing well! I must admit I often look for plants that need dividing up - I bring them on in pots and then plant them out.

 Lily of the Valley has special significance in France - On May 1, 1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer a lily of the valley each year to the ladies of the court. At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of springtime, on May 1. The government permits individuals and workers' organisations to sell them tax-free. It is also traditional for the lady receiving the sprig of lily of the valley to give a kiss in return. Nowadays, people may present loved ones either with bunches of lily of the valley or dog rose flowers.

I had to share a picture of this - the latest site for a breeding pair of Blue Tits - they have their nest in the top part of the pump - luckily it's not in use!

Last but not least a picture of the Camelias and other spring flowering plants under our Walnut Tree.... do hope we get some more sunny spells this week!  This year the weather has gone from one extreme to another.  Our Swallows haven't even started nesting yet - this time last year we had swallow babies by now... all said and done though I did hear the Cuckoo for the 3rd day in a row so perhaps warmer weather really is on it's way!