With apologies to Jim at ‘Garden Ruminations’ . Go on over to his meme at Garden Ruminations and look at what the proper Saturday people have been up to this week.
This is the last weekend that I get to say to myself … ‘well, it’s only January’ … and then laze about doing what I want.
As of next weekend I will feel I’m on the starting block. The second day of February, Candlemas, le Chandeleur in France, St Brigid’s day in Ireland (also the first day of spring in that mild climate and my husband’s birthday) is the sign that I’ve got to get busy. Actually I was quite busy yesterday in the garden – or at least two others were on my behalf.
Here are my Lonely Six on Sunday, with news of the biggest change in my garden since the greenhouse went up in 2017.
One. The pollarding of the limes. The bones of this garden were laid down by the previous owner, a Dutch sculpteur called Marcel Joosen, who used it as an exhibition space until he moved into a small (but nevertheless grand!) chateau 5km up the road. He is still a friend of whom I’m fond and I do hope he will not berate me for the way I’ve butchered his limes when he comes to visit next.
He planted two limes higher up – these are pleached (the correct word in horticulture) horizontally to make a box shape. They are pruned by me every year in March and their young growth is a beautiful red colour. Here they are in February 2021 at the bottom of the picture …
Winter is the time that expresses best what they are there for – less noteworthy, I feel, in summer when they are a (rather pretty) box of green. In winter, even when there is no snow, the red of the young lime twigs is dazzling with the frost on it.
To the right of the picture above you can probably make out the first of the three limes that were pruned – or, more correctly, pollarded – on Friday.
Marcel had planted this second row of three limes to train each into a much more upright, fan shape. When we arrived here, he had the branches all tied in to bamboo canes. I thought they looked like Christ on the cross and took them down my first Easter weekend in the garden. This is what they looked like in March 2014. Still small, inoffensive and rather sweet …
But limes are very, very large trees, and we have a beautiful view here that the limes were in danger of obscuring. I decided to pollard them but it took until this year to pluck up the nerve – and it was almost too late to do it decently.
Gilles and his wife Sandrine arrived on Friday to do the deed.
I must say I’m delighted – it was lovely to have Gilles and Sandrine laughing in the garden, since usually I’m on my own, but the results they achieved were striking and very successful, I feel. We tried to (roughly) stick to Marcel’s original fan-shape, since I thought that was a nice plan.
These are the limes before … (last weekend, in fact, when there were still traces of snow on the ground) …
And after … at the end of what seemed like a tricky afternoon. They look a bit sad at the moment, but wait until later.
And here’s the process … From getting my hair cut to pruning trees, I dislike ‘cutting away’. But it’s part of life and the results are often worth the pain in the long run.
There’s an awful lot of brushwood to dispose of, but when I’ve managed to get all the weeding done (Ha! That’ll be the day!), we’ll have plenty of lovely mulch for the borders. Still, need to get a move on since I’m thinking we’ll have an open day on Easter Monday.
In the course of Friday, I think I finally managed to learn how to say ’tilleul’, French for lime – a challenge to me over 11 years (‘tiyull’, I think). The French ‘eat’ extra syllables/letters just as often as we do.
Two. The half-moon shape in the yew hedge. The hedging was planted by me in 2012, I believe. I had to place it in underground tunnels of chicken wire, since at that time everything that went in the ground was eaten by rat-taupiers (voles). The BV and I had been discussing the half-moon for a while, but his was the bright idea. The results below are rough, but ready to be worked on by me – give me a year! It will be pretty and I like the glimpse it gives through to the Knot Garden … of which I am not really very proud …
The Knot Garden was all made with my own direct-stuck box cuttings, put in the ground in 2015. It has suffered terribly. At first, in 2016 and 2017, it was box blight, then in 2018 (just when it was beginning to take off), along came the pyrole de buis (box-tree moth caterpillar). I’ll feed the plants a lot this year, mulch and be much more vigilant in my spraying of Bacillus thuringiensis. We haven’t lost any box so far in the garden, but last year I took my eye off the ball during the second, June/July generation.
The lack of shade in this area should help a bit, since I’ve noticed that the adult moths do like to lay their eggs in shady, sheltered spots in the garden (we have A LOT of box).
And, in spite of the cost, I will consider forging ahead with my tulip bedding scheme. Normally I buy tulips that keep going year after year, but the Knot Garden was the area that I planned to have a bit of bedding fun with. I have planted a scheme three times, I think – and the last plantings are still in the ground. I found I just couldn’t afford it. The area, to be planted properly, needs over 200 bulbs and there was never the cash (obviously I buy bulbs for elsewhere in the garden and the accumulated total was unjustifiable).
Anyway – I will be taking up the ‘Paul Scherer’ and ‘Blue Heron’ this June and replant a different scheme in November.
Three. More pruning courtesy of Gilles. The ash next to the shed was shortened. Think it really could have been shorter.
Then we have to think what to do about the young horse chestnut next to it, whose flowers we admired for the first time in (I think) 2021.
Four. I now regret the pruning cut made on my little Cornus mas last spring, so that I could clear the path a little and see through to my mini-woodland of bluebells. It has left the poor plant looking so unbalanced.
Gilles also coppiced the hazel on the other side of this narrow path and the dogwood could have happily spread. But maybe, when all grows back again, it will still prove to have been the right cut?
Still – all that pruning and lopping and not a hair was harmed on the head of a snowdrop, winter aconite or hellebore. My mini-woodland still looks decent. Although it won’t feel so woodsy this year! You can see the finished limes below, to the right.
Five. A LOT of brushwood as a result of all that pruning. I need the BV back here as soon as possible doing his favourite garden job – using the chipper. This, in spite of the fact that I sometimes (unfairly) accuse him of only doing the easy, less energetic jobs – spending a long time pruning the Vine Terrace in July is another favourite. But before he arrives, there’s a lot of weeding to do …
And there are still two more hazels to coppice after they’ve finished flowering … maybe this will be the year that I actually get around to using the brushwood as supports for my asters?
Six. Sempervivums by our garden gate …
They were victims of their own success where they were growing behind climbing rose ‘Alchymist’ …
They became too heavy and some dropped off in the wind. A large chunk is still lying on the ground.
I’m thinking I might export them elsewhere – lots of walls to choose!
Today all the hard work (and agony over the lopping!) seemed like it was worth it as I enjoyed the sunny view from the balcony that we wanted to preserve …
Have a lovely week and don’t forget to pop over and see what the ‘Sixers’ are up to on Jim’s blog, Garden Ruminations. Thanks Jim for being such a good and knowledgeable host!
15 thoughts on “Lonely Six on Sunday. 29 January 2023”
What a great view you have of your fabulous garden, Cathy! I had no idea lime trees could get so large! French gardeners have centuries of experience pruning trees, eh? My trips to Versailles as a youth bring to mind rows of massive square cut/pruned trees there…
French gardeners have indeed, Chris. Although the words we use in English (French origin) are often not the words that the French use – it’s confusing. I’ve a lot to learn!
Pollarding and coppicing are two topics that I am very hesitant to discuss. The only arborists I know of here who know how to perform such techniques properly are retired or about to retire. Both techniques are so vilified that modern arborists do not bother to learn about them. I get a lot of flack if I write about pollarding or coppicing. If I write about why they are not done here, I get flack from drunken English arborists who still perform such techniques. I just pollarded a blue elderberry yesterday, and have been very pleased with the results for the past few years. Because elderberry trunks do not last for long, they should be coppiced, but the trunks keep the new growth up and out of the way.
Oh yes, but I disregard the flack, if it’s something that pleases me. I’m not mad about pollarding, but I knew that in this situation it was absolutely the right thing. And actually limes, in particular, produce such gloriously red young shoots. Here, I am using an old French style, not an English. But it’s a feature made much of in very formal English gardens, where large limes are often pollarded to great effect. I’m thinking, actually, of a Welsh garden, Erdigg, that I wrote about for a National Trust book. As my own trees were being chopped the other week, I was reminding myself of the wonderful limes at Erdigg!!! I might actually take to blogging a bit in winter about pollarding in French towns … The pruning seems to suit the architecture. These days the fashion (particularly from the good old US) is for free and untutored. Largely I agree totally – I adore trees and want them to ‘do their thing’.
But in towns it is not always appropriate and trees have many wonderful characteristics to offer that these old horticultural practices make the most of.
I really enjoy these styles/pruning techniques in the right place. Although I am still not sure about bonsai – but I imagine the heart of the grower merging with the heart of the tree and that seems to make sense, somehow!???
Exactly! Pollarding alone is used for several reasons, even here. It was introduced from both the East and the West. White mulberry trees were pollarded to produce lush foliage to feed silkworms from China. (That technique may be the origin of the distinct American pollarding style.) A similar technique was used for Australian eucalyptus trees for the cut foliage industry. (Eucalyptus are not so cooperative.) Formerly productive olive trees that formerly inhabited orchards were pollarded so that they would not produce messy fruit or bothersome pollen within the gardens of the urban homes that were built around them. Pollarding only annoys me because it is so rarely done properly. I will likely do it in the future to enhance the foliar color and lushness of bronzed Norway maple. I already do it for my elderberries (which should technically be pruned by alternating canes). Bonsai is difficult for me only because it is as artistic as it is horticultural, and I am no artist.
Fascinating and knowledgeable, as always, Tony. We were encouraged to do it in English gardens for good foliage colour large leaves – (golden) Catalpa was a popular choice and eucalyptus. Interesting that you say the latter doesn’t work well. I don’t think I’d be at all happy to see pollarded olive trees – they are so small anyway, and so very graceful when old.
Yes, that is why I would like to pollard bronzed Norway maple if I could. (I prefer ‘Schwedleri’ because it is the only one that I am familiar with, but could get a modern darker cultivar for such a project.) The native bigleaf maple makes huge leaves in response to pollarding. Eucalyptus that stay compact are more conducive to pollarding than the large sorts that are more common here. Such small eucalyptus were commonly grown near here for cut foliage. The bigger sorts get terribly disfigured, particularly since almost no one knows how to pollard them properly. I pollarded a blue gum merely for the aromatic juvenile foliage, but now can not let it grow into a tree. Heck, I could not let it grow into a tree anyway, just because it gets SO huge. It generates plenty of aromatic foliage, and can be maintained by pollarding so far, but can never be allowed to grow wild.
Great to have some expert help with such big jobs. The whole layout of your garden fascinates me Cathy. It really does look good at this time of year when the ‘bones’ are visible. Is there a stream beyond your garden?
It was wonderful Cathy. And a bit scarey. It’s ‘officially’ a river at the bottom of the garden, although quite small! It does sometimes flood the valley – called the ‘Apance’, it gives its name to the village upstream – Fresnes-sur-Apance. So we have two rivers here, the Saone (the big one, navigable a few miles further on) and the smaller Apance, a tributory river.
I have only one lime in the garden, about 30 years old I reckon. I have pruned it this year but only to the extent of lifting the lower branches and giving it a tidier and more upright shape. The chipping afterwards takes a while!
Oh yes – but how useful are the chippings! Just to say that ‘Brazen Hussey’ is now planted out and the leaves have gone a beautiful bronze colour – I was worried because they were green in the little covered prop area I have! Thanks so much. It’s nice to think of generous gardeners like you when I look round my garden. Will feature it later …
I add the chippings to the compost bin and they become part of the compost mix.
Paddy – I should have said ‘how right you are’ – was too ambiguous, so you misunderstood. The chippings here are, to me, one of the seven wonders of the world! I rejoice in them, and can hardly believe that my own garden has given me all of this! Whenever the BV is down there chipping things I know the only problem is: have I weeded the areas where we can now use all that lovely mulch?
I love the structure of your garden and have serious envy over pleached Limes. However, I do not envy the maintenance required, cutting the hedge around our veg patch gets harder each year. looking forward to seeing your garden advance into Spring.
You are so right. It was the structure that Marcel planted that attracted me to the garden – made me buy it, as a long-term, ‘serious’ horticulturist. I did always want a garden that had a strong structure, and I knew that some of the things he had spent money on would take me decades if I had to begin at the beginning. Unfortunately I had never been lucky enough to live in one place long enough to do it for myself.
But yes, now, I am deep in the midst of maintenance. Fortunately my husband is not always away (as he was in the beginning) and he helps more and more with the hedge trimming, etc.