Good things … what we did in our holidays

db718657bf0ba61b3226dc2eda4595dcI had Nick here for three weeks at Christmas – no, he didn’t create that amazing effect you can see above, but he made a start on our own espalier divisions in the garden.

WordPress seems to have deprived me of the possibility of setting up a link to something on my own blog, but if you want to see where the new espaliers will be, see the Garden Plan in the index above.

Following on from the example of blogging others, I want to give Nick a little epithet. Words fail me. ‘The Handyman’? Mostly not … although he was at Christmas … until he fell through the living room ceiling. Where have I read that story before?


IMG_8220Bon viveur seems to sum him up (affectionately BV). You will be continually referred back to this point in case you lose the plot during the next year.

Anyway, we were quite busy outside at Christmas because the weather was superb – now we have the rain and miserable (but mild) conditions that half the world is experiencing. Snow – and a spurt of garden dreaming – is forecast for later in the week.

Have you read the Roman de la Rose? This is a medieval allegorical poem of courtly love. It caused a real stink in its time. Filthy letters, back and forth, between the academics of Europe – it was considered by many to be outrageous. Read C.S. Lewis’ Allegory of Love if you want to know more. But be prepared for some heavy academic stuff. It’s not really about swooning around in a rose-scented garden.

I am drawn to the Roman de la Rose on many levels: I studied medieval history and literature; I am a gardener; and I live in a sixteenth century house (ok, not medieval, but I hope you are not quibbling?). Lastly, and not least, I love roses. The garden influence is the most important.

The setting for the poem is a walled garden (here we go with my ‘walled’ Hornbeam Gardens, etc.). Most important of all (for my current post) is that the allegory of the walled garden and rose includes the idea that old age is ‘beyond the walls’. One remains forever young within. I’m really busy building those walls!


If you look down from above, the walled theme is beginning to emerge.


And the hornbeams are becoming more visible


The latest ‘walls’ take the form of our new espalier supports, begun by the BV over Christmas. On a more practical level, growing fruit in an espalier form allows the gardener more plants in a comparatively small area.


The walnut grass circle is now framed by a prospective entrance between pear espaliers. We have the plants … and now the supports!


You can look beyond the small hornbeams at the top of the picture and see the second line of espaliers.

I’ve been busily grafting fruit trees, as a member of the Croqueurs de Pommes, since I arrived here in 2012. Last year my 3 ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ were planted out and languished through lack of support. I had already hatched the espalier plan, and they were part of it (as are another 10 or so pears/apples that I’ve grafted since 2012).


This Christmas the BV came along and rescued them. I have absolutely no idea if the whole scheme will work. And will probably be leaving here by the time I see it in all its glory. But he’s a nice chap, and quite fond of dreaming himself …


This is the support for the Cox’s Orange Pippins going up. And you can see the hornbeam hedges more clearly here.


Looking along the main, long, line of espaliers that divide the very cultivated garden – where we are forever young! – from the wilderness

Now I lie in bed wondering how I am going to train them all. I was quite sure that I liked the lines of a tree that has been espaliered horizontally (the most prevalent style). This is first in the diagram below. But … it’s like a new dress. (More likely in my case, a new plant.) The choice is very wide and each option much too tempting.




I kind of like the Belgian lattice – possibly more interesting in leaf? Definitely more complicated and long-winded to train

The idea is that my ‘wilderness’ (into which I intend to plant many trees and shrubs and to grow woodland/moisture-loving plants … if there’s time) will be kept at bay by a glorious free-standing espalier of blossom.


I will remain forever young behind this appealing barrier … ha!

The other thing that the BV did over Christmas was to carry on with his wonderful blue pergola. Fair play to him that he was game enough to get out there and get on with it. For, as we all know, Christmas is the natural season (with summer solstice) for bon viveurs the world over.


The steps are those down from the Supper Terrace to the Vine Garden. Again, see my (scrappy) new garden plan on the main menu.

My vines were languishing. They dream of the day when this marvellous new support is, well, supporting them.


My camera seems to have taken the low light levels and accentuated the blues here. Or, more probably, the photographer still has things to learn

Can you see that he has painted it in two different blues? The surfaces below each post are a darker blue to emphasise light and shadow.

No, I knew you wouldn’t see it. Well you will just have to visit and see the glorious effect for yourself.

There is more to come, but at least we finally – this all started in May – have the four main beams out of the ground. It will eventually be a kind of hexagon. And I will be so proud of the BV.

IMG_7699 (1)

Even this year in its unfinished state it looked rather lovely.   In May 2015 Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ and some superb yellow irises complemented the blue perfectly.


I should, perhaps, finish with a rose, in view of my thoughts about the Roman de la Rose? My favourite, Fantin Latour.

Before they go 013

6 thoughts on “Good things … what we did in our holidays

    1. Cathy Post author

      Such a sweet comment, as always Paula. Of course the best bits only make it into a post – this Friday’s contribution not so romantic!

  1. Island Threads

    what a lovely thoughtful meandering post, I love it when people share how they are thinking, your BV was very busy in the holidays, perhaps he just enjoyed getting out in the air, in winter we can spend so much time inside it’s nice to get out, I like the Belgium lattice style I tried doing it with some willow once, but I didn’t have training wires, I just just wove shoots I had pushed into the ground with the idea of a latticed living fence, the willow had it’s own idea, to grow straight up, dreaming is all part of gardening, Frances

    1. Cathy Post author

      I think he was rather driven out there (by me) – but yes, he enjoyed the fresh air and beavered away happily once he’d started. Interesting what you say about the Belgian lattice Frances – and an excellent idea. We have a rusty old fence dividing us from the river bank and I thought perhaps I could do a nicer boundary with willow their. Your suggestion is an excellent idea (even if the willow does grow straight up!)


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