Sunday, 27 June 2010


I wonder if it's possible to have too much blue in the garden?

Borage, Borago officinalis is a true blue, anyone for Pimms?

I have it growing amongst pink Japanese anemones but may have to pull a few as it's vigorous and threatening to swamp them.

The first blooms of Cape Leadwort, Plumbago auriculata. I've seen this growing all over the south of France, huge specimens cascading over rock walls down in Provence, it just sings 'Summer' to me.

Geranium 'Jolly Bee'. Proven Winners describe it as having a 'Superior mounding habit compared to Rozanne'. I really don't know about that, but beautiful it is all the same and promises to bloom until Autumn.

Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'. Although it has a shorter flowering period than some, I think the colour is incomparable. I'm going to cut it back hard when the flowers have gone over, give it a feed and see if it'll bloom again by September.

Ground morning glory, Convolvulus mauritanicus. I love this plant, a real doer. It positively welcomes this current ninety degree heat, flowering unswervingly in the sun until dusk when the
the little saucer shaped flowers recoil into tight little cones, characteristic of all convolvulus.

Wildflower 'Vipers bugloss', Echium vulgare seeds itself around here and there. I'm quite happy for it to appear under the kitchen window as shown above.

Campanula muralis blooms profusely through June and then fits and starts through the rest of the season. It seems happy in sun or shade and spreads readily.

Hosta 'Wide brim'. In all honesty perhaps not the prettiest blue, really grown for its foliage but there it is, all the same. Behind are 'touch me nots' or Indian balsalm which although volunteer a bit too readily I find easy to pull, so any unwanted seedlings are swiftly gone.

Nepeta 'Walkers low'. I reckon catmint is possibly the most versatile perennial. It's hard to make a mistake with it.

Clematis Jackmanii. Ok, not really blue, purple in reality but still, a wonderful colour.

"Earth laughs in Flowers"

Ralph Wardo Emerson.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Purin d'Ortie

Stinging nettles, Urtica dioica and the annual Urtica urens, friend or foe?
Of course it all depends on your view, but as far as the French are concerned they're very much on side.

Being rich in nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, oligoelements, encymes, and trace minerals, they are held in such high regard that there is even a society devoted to them, the Association des Amis d'Ortie!

Purin d'ortie is liquid nettle manure. A wholly natural fertiliser which is popular even with non organic gardeners. A simple concoction which can be used as a drench or a foliar feed, I count myself lucky that I have nettles in abundance growing on waste ground near the river at the back of Le Banquet. A true compost mine

Making the 'brew' is a simple affair. I literally take the sheers out back and chop as many nettle tops as I can stuff into a large tub, fill it with water and let it ferment for anything up to two weeks. Once the bubbles stop rising to the top, it's ready. Be warned though, this stuff stinks, it really smells, think silage, so it's sensible if the tub has a lid.

To use it as a drench, I dilute it to about ten percent. For a foliar spray, a weaker solution is effective and easily absorbed.

Horsetail, Equisetum arvense, is also commonly used to make a similar preparation and indeed just about all weeds can be 'drowned' in this way and the resulting sludge chucked on the compost heap as an activator, nothing is more satisying than putting annoying perennial and annual weeds to good use.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A Few Roses

This is the second season for the roses growing along the pergola and finally they're getting some height. In rude health is 'Rambling Rosie', one of those rarest of things, a repeat flowering rambler. Introduced in 2006, this modern scrambler is unique to Peter Beales Roses in the UK.

I appreciate her saucer shaped flowers, not overly blousy unlike some of the roses I have, just a bit more subtle. That said, when she achieves maturity growing to some three metres or so, I'm hoping that the blooms en-masse will be really something.

Another multiflora rambler though non- repeating is 'Mrs. F.W. Flight'. It was a toss up between this one and 'American Pillar', but mildew fears and ultimately the quirky name led to the choice. She's slowly travelling skyward at either end, patience is a virtue.

Below is 'Danse du Feu' a rose which struggled for a couple of years. Entirely my fault, I planted her in place of an old rose which had been growing exactly where she is now, along side the tobacco drying barn and she almost didn't make it. Rose replant sickness I'm sure, but last year she started to pick up and growth has accelerated this season. Hooray.

The blooms are descibed as solid brick red, but in reality they're darker than that and have an almost 'crepe' paper quality to them.

Finally, growing through a gap in the terrace (really) is an as yet to be identified stunner. This is another rose, along with 'Golden Showers' that's been here for at least twenty years and is glorious in late May, early June.

Last year she'd started to succumb to powdery mildew and I feared the worst. Back in February I cut her back hard. Literally there were just three twiggy stems when I finished pruning and although most reliable wisdom dictates I'd done the right thing, still there's always doubt.

The blooms are profuse and in clusters. Very delicate, highly scented and a perfect blush. The show will be over soon as the vine thickens up, it's canopy limiting the light and things will get leggy underneath. Such is the way but then I'm always glad of the welcome shade on hot Summer days.

In many ways this rose resembles 'White Pet' excepting that she's at least double the size. I wonder.