Author Archives: Cathy

About Cathy

An English-speaking gardener in a French garden

Tuesday View

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The hornbeams frame ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’ as you turn the corner onto the Long Border

Firstly, may I apologise to all of those whose vases from yesterday I still haven’t visited. Suffice it to say that I am struggling to carry on blogging at the moment. I look forward to visiting, commenting and enjoying over the next few days.

Here is the border at the moment. My first picture (above) is at the far end of the border (against the garden wall). You can see a plan of my garden here if you are already lost.

We move around from deep shade and lovely Rose ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’ is there. Here she is.

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And then you look left, and you have your view towards the Long Border.

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It is even wilder and woollier than last week.

Looking in the opposite direction, towards ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’ again.

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Some nice things are beginning to happen. I have quite a few plants of Salvia sylvestris, grown from seed, now coming into flower.

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And a lot of tangles, although I have managed to rescue my little (soon, hopefully, to be big) Onopordon acanthium from the clutches of the weigela on the bank.

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The orange of the hemerocallis is even more appalling than last year with moss rose ‘William Lobb’. Unfortunately you can get used to it, but I musn’t.

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You can’t fault ‘William Lobb’, however, as a rose (if you like big plants).

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Next year I will learn how to control the corncockles. But when you grew something pretty from seed, it’s called Agrostemma githago ( treasured British native) and you love it, it’s hard to dig your heels in. Especially when it’s growing up through Rosa rubrifolia (I can’t remember what I’m supposed to call it now!).

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The Thalictrum flavum ssp. glaucum is finally in full flower. I’ve been using the grey foliage and tight flowerbuds in vases for a while now.

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As are the elegant, curvy spires of Veronicastrum virgicum.

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So that’s it. Many thanks to Cathy for hosting this lovely Tuesday meme at ‘Words and Herbs’, in which we record weekly what a part of our garden looks. Do think of taking part – I’m finding it’s really helping me to think about what I like (and don’t like).

I sincerely hope I have more time next week. Looking foward to visiting you soon!

In a vase on Monday

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I was SO not going to take part in Cathy’s meme, ‘In a Vase on Monday’, at Rambling in the Garden today.  I promised myself a quick peek at everyone else’s vase this evening and was quite content.

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Then I sprinted at high speed around my weedy plot with a camera and saw three things that pleased me a lot and inspired me to do a vase anyway.

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The first thing I saw, Rose ‘Veilchenblau’, is already a little on her way out. Unappreciated, poor thing. Since I know that we have only limited time in our house here, due to the difficulty of the garden for an older person, I’ve planted some of my favourite roses (50 in all since 2012) here and there amongst the monster weeds.

They will take time to settle. I promise myself that in the next year or so I’ll get on top of the weeds – and then I’ll have 15 odd years to enjoy. The tactic does work, I promise you! Although it’s probably the reverse of what every other gardener does.

‘Veilchenblau’ is a perfect example, struggling with grass, nettles and the virginia creeper that adores our old walls so much. This is the first year (after 4) that she’s really flowering properly. Here she is in her weedy bower!

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The second things I saw were the sweet little spikes of what I believe is short-lived perennial Digitalis lutea. I had a lovely little tray of seedlings from a friend in 2015 and they are settling nicely. Must save seed this year.

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Third pretty thing was Knautia macedonica – mental note to self, be more brutal! It’s a sweetie, but currently making the lower Hornbeam Gardens even more of a mess than should be the case.

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Who is responsible for this mess?

It didn’t do well higher up in the garden, but here it is taking over the shop. At first there was pleasure at the seedlings, now I’m kicking myself.

I also added the first decent flowers I’ve had of Scabiosa caucasica since it, too, was planted in 2015.

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Et voila!

I’ll look forward to enjoying the links to everyone else’s vases at Cathy’s Rambling in the Garden later in the day. Now I’ll get on and do the work that I was supposed to be doing when I got up this morning. (The weeding will, sadly have to wait!)

I hope this week brings some happy moments in your garden!

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Tuesday View

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Raining heavily this morning and so, after a two-week pause, I’ve the leisure of time to contribute again to Cathy’s ‘Tuesday View’ meme at Words and Herbs.

Unfortunately the Asphodeline lutea more or less came and went during my time away from the garden. When I arrived back there were still some spikes looking good, but I didn’t get my camera out fast enough. Lazy, lazy … and the same lazy gardener is late again cutting the grass.

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Also making an appearance – some rather nice yellow irises and a newly planted Achillea ‘Moonshine’. I’m bound to lose the latter after a couple of years, so must make sure I propagate it next spring to keep it going in the garden. Did you know that it was one of the 5 plants that the late, great Alan Bloom was most proud of introducing? The rose just off centre right is the first to flower properly in the border, ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’.

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Berries of Asphodeline lutea

Now there are only the bright green berries and a few small yellow starry flowers of the asphodel left. I do enjoy their effect in the Long Border, so a bit sad, but there’s always next year.

The roses had a frosting in early May, and lost quite a few buds, so they are really only just coming back into their own. Moss rose, ‘William Lobb’ was the exception. We call this the ‘monster’ rose at Chatillon. I keep cutting it back after flowering, but it persists in sending up long ungainly shoots for next year’s flowers.

Unfortunately it blooms at the same time as a bright orange hemerocallis that I inherited when we moved into the garden. The hemerocallis are definitely scheduled for removal this autumn because another year with the colour clash is going to give me a headache!

I wish I liked hemerocallis more. They do really well here, with the heat and the clay soil, but I have an aversion to their rather heavy flowers. Must work on changing that … Learn to love what loves you!

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Mossy little buds of ‘William Lobb’ – the one known as ‘Old Velvet Moss’. It’s an incredibly healthy rose – just a tad over-vigorous!

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‘William Lobb’ never behaved as badly in a previous garden where I had it planted. A much more dignified tall shrub.

Looking in the opposite direction down the border, I hope you can make out at the very far end against the wall Rose ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’?

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The peachy blooms of Ghislaine are in the top left corner of the photo.

The rose is not actually in the border itself, but growing against the garden wall. Last year, with all our rain at rose time, it was a washout. Fabulous show this season to make up for it.

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I missed my chance to cut the four hazels in the Long Border back this February and, as a result, the herbaceous plants towards the front of the border are far more shaded out than I would like. Even the philadelphus planted on the bank have been rather over-shadowed by the hazels and we can’t really see their flowers properly.

I’ve coppiced the four hazels in the Long Border once, three years ago, when I first dug and planted the border. Since they are too big this year, I think it might be worth reducing that to every 2 years – or perhaps stagger the coppicing? Cut back 2 hazels one year, another 2 the next?

If you gardened here, with all our fierce heat in the summer, you’d understand my reluctance to do such a regular coppice! (Never mind the fact that all that cutting and dragging is pretty heavy work.)

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I also seem to have lost some rather nice Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ divisions that went into the ground last spring. I’ve no idea what happened – how can large clumps of plants just disappear? Anyway – there we are! That’s gardening life. I’m more philosophical than I used to be!

Enough of the problems – there is one rather pretty feature that appeals to me this week. The curling flower stems (still in bud) of Veronicastrum virginicum are looking quite charming with the grass Calamagrostis ‘America’.

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Hopefully you can make out the tempting pleated spikes of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ foliage rising up behind and amongst Artemesia ‘Lambrook Silver’? I’m quite enjoying the spikiness of the border.

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Go over and have a look at everyone’s Tuesday views at Cathy’s Words and Herbs. And many thanks to Cathy for graciously hosting this lovely meme that gives us a reason to record one area of our garden every Tuesday – and exchange (virtually) plant ideas and tips!

In a vase on Monday – back in the game!

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I guess I must have a bit of an addiction – not just to Cathy’s lovely ‘In a Vase on Monday’ meme at Rambling in the Garden, but also (and more seriously!) to delphiniums.

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Now the thing is, they are not the kind of plant I would normally be comfortable growing. They require far too much work, and in a big garden with only one person keeping everything up to the mark that’s something you can do without out.

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I was persuaded to buy the first in 2012 – my husband, the Bon Viveur, saw it in our local market at Jussey. One stately, gloriously tall white spike in a very large pot. After saying ‘no’ several times, I gave in. It went home with us and was planted out in the Rose Walk. Only about a week later it collapsed completely, a victim of the voles that were gobbling things up as quickly as I could plant them that year.

I bought a Hayloft plant collection. They were planted in March 2015, lower down in a cooler spot and watered, fed, supported lovingly.

So far, so good, for two years. Last autumn/winter many disappeared (I didn’t water much last summer and winter temperatures dipped to nearly -20C). Out of about 15 plants I think we had six left this spring. But by then it was far too late. I purchased more – another Hayloft collection for planting out next spring and quite a few decent sized plants from a mail order nursery I’ve started using called Promesse de Fleurs.

And so it goes on … and will doubtless cost me a small fortune before I’m through. And then there’s the hours spent googling the best way to show them real TLC. Sadly I learnt that the sort I’m planting – ‘Pacific Hybrids’ – are considered by some to be biennial.

This year they have had no attention at all – no support, nothing. A bit of a horticultural disaster.

When the first rain and thunderstorms we’ve had in a fortnight threatened on Friday night I rushed out to pick some of the blooms that were already trailing on the ground.

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They’ve made a pretty vase, accompanied by two stems of Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus (I think!) …

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… and some white Campanula persicifolia.

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When I look at their little furry faces through my camera lens, I know there’s no hope for me.

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And oh, that blue! A friend of mine says she doesn’t like blue flowers. Can it be possible that there are gardeners out there who don’t relish a touch of blue on their plots?

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Do you have a favourite flower colour in the garden? Tall delphinium tales also gratefully accepted!

Hop on over to see what all those lovely Monday vases look like – you’ll find the links at Cathy’s Rambling in the Garden. And many thanks to Cathy again for being such a gracious and generous host for the IAVOM meme (at least that addiction doesn’t cost me anything!).

Have a wonderful gardening week!

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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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