Sunday, 30 May 2010


The unknown rose (though likely 'Golden Showers') at the gable end has been blooming magnificently. Each Winter I dig in good amounts of manure together with compost and this constant soil improvement pays dividends. It's likely that the Catmint, Nepeta 'Six hills giant' is less floriferous than if it had been grown 'hard', a bit like Lavender, but the rose is a greedy feeder so something has to give.

I'ts been damp and muggy in recent days, perfect weather for aphids and blackfly and goodness knows there are millions of them at the moment.

In an effort to thwart the little buggers I've had considerable success using the soap and oil mixture pictured above.

Savon Noir is an organic product. A combination of soap, olive, linseed and lavender oil, it seems to do the trick. Diluted to about 2 percent, or 100 ml to 5 litres and applied with a pump spray on a dry day, et voila, problem resolved.

Of course there are hundreds of natural recipes to be found on the net, some work, some don't but always worth a try. To be frank, I'd shift rather than be drenched in soap and linseed oil

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Bluish, Pinkish, Mauve

The onions, Allium aflatunense are a little past their best now. They continue to look good 'bobbing' amongst the catmint, Nepeta racemosa Walker's Low and the pheasant grass Stipa calamagrostis growing along the base of the pergola.

Pink Sea thrift, Armeria maritima, grows under the roses along the tobacco drying barn. It's really multiplied this year and thus earns its keep.

There's a big swathe of Catmint 'Six hills giant' planted around the gable end. It's the perfect partner to the un-named yellow rose which 'cloaks' this area and looks perfect when the Echinacea and Globe thistles appear behind and to the left of the stone head who we affectionately refer to as Brian.

Myosotis or Forget-me-nots have really seeded themselves about this spring. I've noticed that many more 'gardened' looking types are appearing for sale. Some have really stunning variegated foliage and I reckon worth a punt. The name was likely calqued from the French "ne m'oubliez pas".

Geranium 'Johnson's blue'. I have other blues that flower for much longer but I still reckon this to be the best blue of all, a true blue.

Geranium sanguineum 'Max Frei' growing with Gypsophila repens 'Rosea', sometimes known as 'Baby's breath' or Soupir de bébé .

On the subject of Cranesbill, it seems almost by accident that I've accumulated quite a few varieties without any conscious effort to do so.

Still to flower is G. psilostemon, G. oxanianum x psilostemon 'Patricia' , Geranium endressii ' Wargrave's Pink'. The low growing G. cinereum 'Ballerina' and Geranium x riversleaianum 'Russell Pritchard' are making an appearance and very late is the the true wildflower Geranium phaeum 'Somobor'.

Blue and pink aquilegia or columbine. These do fine in the shady fern border down by the river and eventually get replaced as the Japanese anemones come through.

Finally, above, last week was one of the last 'hurrahs' for the spring flower fetes with the bastide of Monpazier hosting one of the later events, time flies.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Merry Month of May

New shoots of the hardy banana Musa basjoo. Each year this grows into a 15 to 20 foot beast, depending on rainfall. It looks great against the stone back drop of the old cattle barn, never out of place and interestingly, not particularly tropical-esque, just great foliage.

The first frosts of winter cut it down and that's where I leave it until the following spring, the blackened foliage self-mulching and protecting the crown until April when I clear it away and cut it back close to the ground. It's a ritual at this time of year to keep checking for new shoots wondering whether it's survived and voila!!!

Lilly of the Valley or muguet de bois makes an appearance. Today is May day and in France it is the equivalent of Labour Day or Fête du Travail. The French have a charming tradition on May one of giving this little flower to friends and loved ones as a porte-bonheur, literally, a bringer of happiness and they are sold in little bunches on many street corners.

The unfurling fronds of Holly fern are a wellcome sight. I like ferns as mentioned in a previous post, The Filicarium, and give it a couple of weeks, the sight of all the croziers reaching to the sky simply says spring to me.

Corydalis has self seeded with abandon this year. I reckon it's something to do with the cold winter we've had. The Lilacs (of which failed to get a photo of and now past their best) are the same, somethings really come back with renewed vigour following a harsh season, I can't see any other explanation.

Not strictly relevant though it was nearly May when I put it together, my Ivy sphere. Hopefully there'll be a lot of growth this season and the frame will almost disappear.

Finally, my favourite thing in a pot, Convolvulus mauritanicus. A tender perennial, The first blooms are out and it should continue on and off until late September. I plan to try to take as many cuttings as I can this year as I simply can't get enough of it.