Tuesday View

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Unfortunately the gardener still hasn’t been to cut the grass (she seems to think that planting sweet peas, perennials and thinning spinach is more important), so the border is still looking a bit scruffy round the ears this week.

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Rosa ‘Canary Bird’ is going over now. Behind the rose is one of the few cool areas in my garden, where there are some hostas lurking in the shade of the hazels that were here when I started to garden (lovely with snowdrops, great for plant supports!).

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They were just fine until we had our recent heavy frosts – even the hostas and early buds on some of the roses were damaged. Pleased to report that now all are in the recovery position.

[A postscript 1 hour later! Just been for a walk around the garden – another heavy frost! I am not so worried about the hostas … there are other things, such as young shrubs, already badly hit, and potatoes. There was I congratulating myself that I was so up-to-date this year! One lives and learns.]

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A little frost damage – but recovering now. That is, until the snails come along!

Asphodeline lutea has it’s finest hour now.

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I love the spikey foliage and the emerging flowers, but later in the season the foliage goes brown in the heat.

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The foliage of the asphodeline has a very chic, swirly way with it, don’t you think?

Then, it rather joyfully produces some more of those fresh, spikey leaves with the autumn rains. I’m thinking it might be nice to introduce some blue camassias as well.

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Thalictrum flavum subsp glaucum is a big plant, but also starts to look terrific right about now and produces a little cloud of yellow flowers a bit later.

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I’m fond of it because it copes so well with the heat and the clay up here, unlike the majority of choicer thalictrums. I can also cut it back when it is looking messy/tired and I get a little carpet of bluey-grey foliage regrowing.

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Thalictrum flavum subsp. glaucum with just emerging weigela blossom

This year I’m trying one called ‘Elin’, which is a cross between this tough species and the more elite (and difficult to please) T. rochebrunianum. ‘Elin’ takes purple flowers and darker coloured stems from the classy parent. I’ll tell you how I get on – it’s looking a bit miffed at the moment!

You’ll have seen by now that I’m a big fan of giant plants and Angelica archangelica is something I tried repeatedly to grow from seed unsuccessfully. I’ve managed Angelica officinalis easily!

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It looks more or less the same – especially in flower, the most important thing – and I really can’t see much of a difference, except that it is not as big. It has started sowing itself over the border, thank goodness, so I don’t have to worry about germinating it again.

It gives kind of a lush jungly look at this time of year, especially when the flowers of the philadelphus and deutzia come on. These plants won’t flower until next year now. Or will they surprise me?

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I’m going to have to take two weeks off my ‘Tuesday View’ because I’m going away. I hope the border doesn’t rush on too fast for me!

With many thanks to Cathy at ‘Words & Herbs’ for hosting this meme! Do take a look at how everyone else’s border is developing this week. It’s the most exciting time of year!

But, before going, I couldn’t resist adding a couple of pics of my Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, now a little past it’s best. This is a romper!

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Only planted in 2013, it makes our house look rather like a stately home.

It most definitely is NOT! We live in the old Renaissance watchkeeper’s house in the village, and the tower that you can see here has been incorporated into our house, but was originally part of the medieval village ramparts.

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Have a good week in your gardens!

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In a vase on Monday: Celebrating on a budget!

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I must admit to a huge feeling of relief and low-key celebration on this Monday morning after the French elections. We are surrounded by villages that voted as much as 40% for the Front National in the first round – in Chatillon itself it was fortunately only about 24%.

And then there came the news that the Jewish cemetery in nearby Bourbonne-les-Bains was desecrated on the Tuesday night after that first round.

Sometimes you don’t sleep so well … until you pass through tiny places where the picture of Le Pen has been defaced with a Hitler moustache and it makes you giggle again.

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Wish I’d thought to move my vase over the umbrella hole!

Picking my ‘celebratory’ vase this morning, I was reminded of the fact that I’m in a bit of a ‘May gap’. Sure, there are roses and irises coming on. One iris in particular – ‘Forrest Hills’ – is just perfect at the moment, in spite of the rain, but I haven’t yet got the luxury of picking it for vases. It just looks too nice where it is.

My vase is, florally, composed of:

Centaurea montana. I wish I’d had more, but in a newish garden like ours it’s the same problem as the iris. I grew it from a friend’s seed (it was a weed in my previous gardens) and this year it has flowered for the first time. I didn’t realise how much I had missed it until I saw the nice little clump this morning.

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Red valerian – Centranthus ruber. My husband will kill me when he sees I’ve been at ‘his’ valerian before it flowers properly. Currently I have to climb over the little mountains of soil around the building site of ‘his’ greenhouse to get at it at all. Those little mountains of carefully sieved soil are no doubt full of bindweed seeds – another of his favourite plants.

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There are also the chives (which are becoming almost traditional for my vases).

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Glowering chives on a wet Monday

The final floral element is my sworn enemy – Ranunculus repens. When I started digging the clay on my veggie plot in 2012, I egged myself on by declaring the ‘Buttercup Wars’. Now I’m a bit more relaxed when I see them. But really, they are much the easiest flower to ‘cultivate’ here. They are like cats, doing exactly what they please.

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I added foliage of Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, a small, dark-leaved geranium that I’m becoming very fond of because it seeds everywhere, and little spikes of Asphodeline lutea leaves.

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Leaves of my new favourite sweetie – no name, just pretty!

Finally Alchemilla mollis. I know this probably grows like a weed in your garden. But here? Two roots went in in 2012 and it’s taken until this year for them to give that ‘raindrop pleasure’ that we all anticipate. I think it’s too hot high up on our slopes.

Generally, I’ve had disappointing experiences of dividing perennials that, in the past, I would have been cutting up with a spade after just two years. The divisions peter out in the summer. Since my previous gardens have had clay soil too, it must be the heat.

Anyway – my little celebration on a damp Monday morning. Enjoy your week and don’t forget to go on over and have a look at the other vases on Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme at Rambling in the Garden. Her own vase has a rather saucy theme …

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Tuesday View (and an End of Month View for April)

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Rose ‘Canary Bird’ in the Long Border

Cathy’s meme at Words & Herbs is such a good idea (you show the same view of your garden as it changes through the seasons), but I’ve always hesitated to join in with it because I felt my pictures would be too boring! Now I’ve found a reason.

I’m not very happy with what I call the ‘Long Border’ in my garden. It’s ok, but it fails to please me later in the summer when all is baked hot and dreary with the 30 degree C temperatures we usually get at some stage or another.

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Earlier there were some rather nice tulips and Narcissus ‘Actaea’. Now the border’s moving on to the next stage with philadelphus due to flower along the bank.

Until 2013 it was just a slope of rough grass with three hazelnut bushes. I added cuttings of philadelphus and deutzia that I made in the town where we used to live. Then I started growing plants from the Hardy Plant Society seed list every year.

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Looking up the border from the other direction, it’s clearer that there are also iris and hemerocallis living here.

I was less successful than I used to be in the past, but I still had plenty of Thalictrum flavum ssp glaucum and Asphodeline lutea to plant out. I’ve added yellow and white irises and there are quite a few tulips.

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Artemesia ‘Lambrook Silver’ (from cuttings), Asphodeline lutea (from seed) and Thalictrum flavum ssp. glaucum (from seed) were repeated a little along the border for good foliage effect – now some of the excess thalictrum is due for removal down below to allow space.

Now I want to create a much hotter border for later in the summer – because of the clay soil and the heat, I am trying to bump up the grass and helenium population. Both seem to do well, even with little watering. Grey plants (which I love) don’t do very well here and I make the most of those that are thriving.

Currently a rather nice little ‘Canary Bird’ rose is finally getting away below the purple berberis, embellished with a little Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fern Cottage’ at its feet. The rose has died back a little each year since planting – this seems to be what always happens on this clay soil – but finally this year it is getting its toes in.

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Last year the Long Border still didn’t look right. I’m hoping that in joining in with Cathy’s meme I can work out how to really change it so that I’ll enjoy it in the summer months too.

Anyway – here I am now, Cathy, with my boring border pictures!

The photos were taken on the last day of April – I took them originally to link in with Helen, at The Patient Gardener‘s End of Month View. 

So there are a few more pics of two other areas in the top (nearly completed – continually evolving!) part of the garden.

In addition to the Long Border, I’ve taken a few of the Rose Walk (no roses yet!). I lost my four large bronze fennels in the winter … a pity, because they were so lovely when the alliums came along. Now replanted with the seedlings they threw all over the shop.

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The box balls have been rather badly damaged by our late frosts. I’ve kept them shaggy so far as a measure against box blight while they grew, but they are now just about the right size to keep a bit tidier (out of the typical box blight weather). The roses have an edging of chives and an underplanting of Stachys lanata, Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’, dianthus and Achillea ‘Lilac Beauty’ – which still isn’t quite working, but I’m getting there.

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From the other end, there’s a good view of my new greenhouse (still under construction – green umbrella marks the labourer’s shelter).

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There were not as many tulips this year because 2016 saw a lot of tulip fire in this part of the garden, so nothing was added. But these ‘Sorbet’ tulips were still rather jolly.

…. and my tiny little mini-woodland. This last is going to sleep now. I used to adore woodland plants in the past, and this little shaded area at the end of the Long Border is the only place I have (so far) to grow my favourite plants.

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Do go and look at Cathy’s Tuesday View and enjoy what other bloggers are showing us.

Similarly, the great pictures of Helen’s front garden in her End of Month View. She’s renovated it in the last couple of years and I’m in awe!

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In a Vase on Monday

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Today is the la Fête du Travail in France and the symbol of this public holiday – in honour of workers’ rights – is the lily-of-the-valley. Lily-of-the-valley swamps us with its appearance everywhere at this time of year.

Not just in our gardens: on street corners in towns there are people offering little bunches of it (a change from, ‘Buy some lucky heather?’), and Aldi and Lidl dish it up to us in small pots by the hundred.

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The custom is said to have started on May 1 1561, when an unknown citizen presented King Charles IX with a bunch of lily-of-the-valley as a token of prosperity for the coming year. He began a tradition of presenting ladies at the court with lily-of-the-valley each May Day.

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By 1900 French lovers were exchanging bunches – and the habit began to spread amongst close family members as well. So today, when you go to visit your maman or mamie, it would be very bad form if you failed to take her some lily-of-the-valley.

I planned to use my own (flowering, amazingly, for quite a few weeks now) in a vase this May Day – the rhizomes came originally from my mother’s garden in Scotland and are now slowly establishing. But not nearly as well as they do in Scotland! The little vase is one I call my ‘snowdrop’ vase – so long with me that I can’t remember where I got it.

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I popped some of its own foliage into the vase with a little sprig of the vetch Vicia sativa. I love the vetch when it’s flowering, but later on when it starts bouncing up amongst the rhizomes of irises my delight turns to curses.

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And then I was kind of inspired to go on an make a trio of vases.

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Taking a walk out in the garden on this slightly rainy May Day, I felt like picking a little of Exochorda macrantha ‘The Bride’ and Victor Lemoine’s lilac ‘Belle de Nancy’. If you want to know more about Lemoine, a breeder who came from the city of Nancy (our capital in Lorraine), have a look at this old post.

Here is his lovely deep purple lilac, just beginning to really do its thing chez nous.

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My shrubs are all so small here that this seems rather cruel. However, it IS raining and there are other flowers, so I dared. The Exchorda is not at all happy being told what to do in a vase. The flower stems are drooping and I noticed this morning that it starts to flower from the top down, so the leading flower on the spike is always the oldest – a nuisance if you are arranging it, when you want the freshest, sweetest at the top.

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I also used Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, whose flowering stems are just as difficult to place in a vase, although it looks so graceful draped down a stone wall.

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Finally, almost for foliage, the young shoots and buds of Spirea betulifolia It was in the garden when we arrived here, and named for me by another Monday vase-maker last year when I used it. Thanks so much again – it’s a fluffy little sweetie when the flowers open!

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I did think that the rose looked particularly delicious with the purple of ‘Belle de Nancy’.

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Hop on over and see what the others are doing at Cathy’s meme at Rambling in the Garden.

And thanks so much again for hosting, Cathy! This meme is really forcing me to slow down and ENJOY my garden.

Happy May Day to everyone!

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In a vase on Monday

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We had a very heavy frost again last night. So many young shoots destroyed! My Magnolia soulangeana ‘Lennei’, which has just flowered for the first time, is a mass of drooping, sad leaves. As is the little Cercis silaquastrum. I do hope they come back again.

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I’ve chosen Narcissus poeticus for my vase today. Included is foliage of Thalictrum flavum ssp glaucum (which I persist in calling Thalictrum speciosissimum!) plus some rather jolly spikey shoots of Campanula persicifolia.

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Thalictrum foliage

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Upright shoots of campanula

The narcissus look like they are about to fly away. I hope the campanula and thalictrum anchor them a little!

Then there are chives, just waiting to go ‘pop’ in the garden …

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and the reddish stems and flowers of blue aquilegias …

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I’ve just read that the scent of the poet’s narcissus is so strong that it can cause headaches and vomiting. Let’s hope not, because they are now sitting on the kitchen table! Someone noticed their scent as soon as I put them outside in the sunshine to photograph this morning.

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N. poeticus is the type species for the genus Narcissus. It is thought to have originated in the Middle East or the eastern Mediterranean area, but now it is naturalised all over Europe.

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In Britain (where it was reputedly brought during the Crusades) we know it as  ‘Pheasant’s Eye’ narcissus. Possibly taken directly from the French ‘Oeil de Faisan’? It is widely used in the perfumery industry here in France – a staggering 11% of perfumes include it as an ingredient.

There are vast natural fields of it in the the Massif Central and the Haut Var region of Provence. Many gardeners in our area of Lorraine advocate planting narcissus around special things if you want to ward off vole visitors (which eat roots and can kill plants almost overnight). So I was  bit distressed about a year ago to read that voles are decimating those wild populations of the Massif Central. The photo below is courtesy of the Fauna Flora Fonge website dedicated to the wildlife of the Massif Central.

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Have the voles changed their tastes?

Whatever – we have voles here, but I am slowly increasing the plantings of this lovely, late-flowering narcissus in the garden. So far, so good – and we do have a lot of voles!

I had imagined it under my four Prunus ‘Tai-haku’. This year the penny finally dropped:  I’m going to have to use the cultivar ‘Actaea’, which flowers a lot earlier. The cherry blossom is a memory by the time the species Narcissus poeticus makes an appearance.

I made an interesting discovery this morning: my ‘new-to-me’ iPad takes better pictures (automatically!) than I can with my camera.

Here’s the picture I took with the camera in the kitchen …

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And here’s what my clever iPad can do (without any of the deep thinking my camera requires!)  …

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Of course, I had to work out how to share the pictures with my computer. It took an age. The eventual solution – works niftily – was via Dropbox.

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Now go on over and see what the others are doing for Cathy’s addictive In a Vase on Monday meme at Rambling in the Garden. I’ve just taken a peek and those tulips are luscious, Cathy!

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In a vase on Monday

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This is probably the most luxurious (and expensive) bunch of tulips I’ve ever bought myself. They are bulbs of ‘Carnival de Nice’ bought from Peter Nyssen last autumn and planted in my cut flower garden.

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It’s a fancy tulip that speaks to me of the period of the Dutch tulip boom in the early 17th century. The ‘broken sorts’, like the famed ‘Semper Augustus’, fetched the highest prices. I I think ‘Carnival de Nice’ must be a distant relative and that’s possibly why the flowers in my home make me feel as if I’m enjoying something particularly decadent.

These broken types with the white streaks on a pink or red background were known as ‘Rosen’.

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It’s just as well I wasn’t around then, because I expect I would have gambled all I have and not even ended up with the kitchen table where they are now being admired and mused over every hour.

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I tried to do quite a few things with them. Nested them on a little bed of purple berberis and then arranged them with Thalictrum speciosissimum as foliage.This is what I actually did with the thalictrum and its young flowerbuds – far too nice for the compost heap, so it is joined by red campion (Silene dioica).

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Foliage and incipient flowerbuds of Thalictrum speciosissimum

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Red campion – Silene dioica

In the end I felt that the tulips looked the part on their own in a vaguely Dutch-looking vase (also another vide grenier find last summer).

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And I couldn’t get it out of my head that they would look just right in my old kitchen that dates from almost exactly the same period as the tulip bubble. The kitchen is pretty impossible for photography, but the flowers really do look their best there.

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As a little addendum – here are my valiant anemones from last week, joined by Tulip ‘Flaming Spring Green’ (this flower refusing to ‘flame’, but nonetheless pretty).

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If you leave a comment, I’d love it if you told me what your favourite tulip of the moment is. A voyage into the world of tulipomania!

Now hop on over to Cathy’s Rambling in the Garden and see what other delights the Monday vasers are offering.

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