I was up very early on Easter Sunday this year, because I couldn’t sleep.
A special experience to sit on our balcony and watch the sun come up over Chatillon from about 6.30am. I’ve done this often enough during the summer when that time of day is the only relief we get from the sun until the cool of the evening.
But I love my bed too much to do it often on a cold April morning. The old village on the ramparts and its little chateau are always enchanting in the early light.
Fired with enthusiasm, I rushed upstairs in my dressing gown to the little Juliet balcony off our spare room to take pictures of the Mirror Garden.
This is the oldest part of the garden, created by the sculptor who previously owned the house as an outdoor exhibition space for his work.
I tend to take it for granted now, but with the grass just cut the day before, even this difficult part of the garden was looking superb.
Why is it difficult? Well, there’s perhaps a foot of topsoil up here (at the very most) before you begin to hit the rock on which the ramparts were built. The ‘lawn’ was previously watered by the sculptor during dry summer weather, but I don’t bother. And it shows. A paradise for dandelions and other weeds.
Originally I wanted to make a garden in grey, green and yellow, simply to compliment the view and the mirror. I won’t clip the box until I see the first signs of the Box Tree Moth caterpillar. Clipping the beasts off and then spraying with Bacillus thuringiensis was quite successful last year, although the little dumplings are still trying to recover properly.
Euphorbia rigida (above) and E. characias subsp. wulfenii are happy, but my favourite E. characias subsp. characias (with the black eyes on its frogspawn flower faces) died.
With a difficult garden like this, you have to learn to love plants that many gardeners consider to be weeds. The number of complaints I’ve read about self-seeding habits on other blogs. I’m just glad something showy can create a pretty picture.
I put in a special request with the Bon Viveur to bring more Euphorbia cultivars (particularly ‘Black Pearl’) back from England. Unfortunately when he arrived it was with ‘Silver Swan’.
An elegant but less than tough form that will expire without a doubt up here. I’m going to plant it down on the Rose Walk and then maybe take cuttings, so I can try it in different places in the garden.
The two Helleborus x sternii seedlings (from a Hardy Plant Society member’s plant of ‘Boughton Beauty’) do well – the pink-flushed seedling, closer to the parent, has not died although I thought the weather might be too cold for it.
The blue pots sit in place of the two large sculptures for which the garden was made. Overall, the design is very architectural and the layout of the box hedges leads the eye and begs for something more dramatic than my blue pots and their contents. So far I have tried to fill my pots with artichokes, Melianthus major and (last summer) the tall Salvia ‘Mystic Spires’. Nothing works!
I want delicately twisting double-helix metal shapes, in a kind of wild, modern style, to evoke the ‘spirit of the place’.
The border below the mirror should be full of greys and yellows. But there is only about 6 inches of soil, so most things struggle.
The climbing yellow rose ‘Lady Hillingdon’ hated it here and is now living elsewhere in the garden. Artemsia ‘Powis Castle’ and ‘Lambrook Silver’ don’t do badly, but I realise that I need to regularly replace them. This year 4 new seedlings were planted out.
What do you suggest?
The crowning glory at this time of the year is always the Banksian rose, Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’.
It was cut hard back in autumn 2018 and has proved to flower well on the new wood. The haircut was to save the tower wall (incorporated into the house, but part of the old ramparts) from being covered in the aggressive seedlings of Muelhenbeckia complexa – that planting was definitely a mistake!
The only chemical I use in the garden is glyphosate (Roundup). The Muelhenbeckia is giving way, but I don’t know what I’ll do when I get through my stock pile of glyphosate. Hopefully I’ll have won the battle by then.
The other side of the rampart wall is the village street and, as you can see, our car parking area (we are gilets-jaunes friendly around here).
From over the wall the tourists can enjoy the lavenders I planted to edge the Mirror Garden. But the bees enjoy them more …
It’s a bit late to be wishing you Happy Easter, so I’ll wish you happy May Day instead!