Category Archives: Anything and everything!

Au Voleur! (Or what the gendarmes do when …)


The one in the middle is not always the nicest …

This has been rather an unpleasant week. If I rewind to Sunday night and Monday morning (and look at the pictures I took then), I can hardly believe that everything looks so idyllic.


The path to the river, just strimmed by the BV

For once I had some help in the garden on Sunday – the Bon Viveur was keen to do some strimming and I was happily weeding and planting. Nice work, given all the lovely rain we’ve had and how beautifully things are growing.


Further up the path in the orchard; the twizzly tomato support marks the edge of what will be (I hope) one of two matching herbaceous borders next year – wildish planting to go with the setting.

While weeding, I noticed that a bull had entered my neighbour’s small orchard: I chased him off. I hope you are not unfortunate enough to know how much damage cattle can do in the garden?


That’s him – at least I can keep my eye on him because he’s the only one that’s almost entirely white …

While we were sitting having a glass of wine on the Vine Terrace he appeared in the garden itself – now 9pm and the BV is in his dressing gown (having got thoroughly dirty doing the strimming, clothes spinning in the washing machine). What a spectacle – two mad people  rushing about and shouting, throwing stones – and all over a garden that doesn’t boast (at the moment) a single cabbage.

Eventually we were successful. But my experience of last year taught me that if he had developed the ‘habit’, he would be back. (Last year it was 9 every morning, 6 in the evenings).

I am married to a mini-hero. Faster than you can say ‘shoo’, he was all over the place, turning the garden into Fort Knox.

Using ladders …


The way into the rather vulnerable, newly planted Hornbeam Gardens (also the cut flower patch). ‘Rambling Rector’ is just beginning to come into bloom.


The end of the future ‘espalier walk’ – and a very possible point of entry.


scaffolding …


The other entrance to the Hornbeam Gardens … actually I rather like this one. Originally I planned to put arches at the entrances, now I’m wondering if a gate painted forest green might be prettier. (So he gave me a fresh perspective, that bull!)

old posts from the garden shed …


Barring the orchard, espaliers etc. at the top of one walnut circle – our little wilderness seems very attractive to cattle. I don’t know why – I could hardly sleep on Sunday night for the nettle stings.

dustbins …

(My little catalpa sleeps under a dustbin at night and reappears every morning about 8am.)

and garden chairs …


Chairs can usefully protect small, precious red oaks.

I felt safe!

Unfortunately that was probably the happiest moment in the week.

The following morning at 5.30 am, while on his way back to work, the BV’s car broke down about 3 kilometres from the house. We thought we were lucky! So close. Unfortunately our kind garage people were shut that day and I did not ring the insurance recovery service (would you, that close to home?)

I woke up on Tuesday morning to a phone call from the police in nearby Jussey, to say that they had found the car, driver’s window broken, car radio stolen – worse, two of my husband’s precious wheels, of which he was so fond, had been removed. I will never understand how even a perfectly nice man like my husband can actually fall in love with the wheels of a car.


Monday morning, looking at my favourite French chateau from my version of Fort Knox.

It is now two days later. I am exhausted with being passed around between gendarmeries in two départements and gabbling away in French non-stop with insurance companies, etc. It also seems as if we may not be able to afford to repair the original breakdown problem.

But I have learned two important facts about the French gendarmerie:

  1. They do not automatically make a report in this situation – apparently it is a legal requirement, but I presume if they just ‘don’t bother’ it helps to keep their crime figures low. (They’d rather get the département next door to handle it.) How can this be?
  2. Being a gendarme is not an easy job. Apparently they are not allowed to publicly complain about their own situation. They are paid by central government. My friend who sat patiently and waited for me in her car while I was lodging my complaint in Jussey told me that a couple of years ago the gendarmes in Bourbonne-les-Bains went completely without pay for several months. Nobody in the wider population was aware until the wives actually went out on the street and protested.

Can you believe it?

Not many pretty pictures this time, but I hope to do an update on my cut flower garden (still not ravaged by the bull) as well as a report on the roses in the next few days.


The School Project

Hyacinths & Prunus 006

Ok, So I know you all do this anyway and did it when you were knee-high … But I’m a late bloomer. This is the first time I’ve ever grown hyacinths like this. I’m enchanted, can’t stop looking. After just over seven days in my home they look like this. I keep peering at the noses of the bulbs to check for a hint of green. (They looked so shrivelled when I picked them up in Lidl!) Every seven days I’ll post another picture. If flowers are just around the corner, spring can’t be far behind!

The other reason for this post is to prove my camera’s still working … although the focus ain’t too hot and it would be advisable (and fun!) to think of alternatives. Maybe the next hyacinth pic will be with the new camera? Hyacinths & Prunus 022

November Foliage Follow-up

Sunny November morning 150 Can you find beautiful foliage plants at Châtillon right now? Well, if you look hard enough … Good foliage in a cold-climate late autumn or winter garden is something that comes with time, knowledge and a bit of careful planning. Strangely enough, the foliage that’s giving me the most pleasure at the moment belongs to a couple of plants that some call ‘aggressive’ because they’ve forgotten where the boundary between ‘weed’ and ‘desirable’ lies. Garden ‘crossovers’ you might call them (it’s my line they’re crossing!). To the left and below are well-behaved Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ with a favourite thug, Verbascum thapsus, snuggling up.

The verbascum, in company with borage, is on a bid to take over every square inch of ground I leave bare – and more than a few that I don’t.

Sunny November morning 109 Sunny November morning 083

Next up, another thug. Bronze fennel. I hope I’ll never be without its foliage effect, but I didn’t reckon on having to cosset it here. When I started planting the garden in 2012, one of the first plants the voles ate were the bronze fennels. Vole damage is scary! It’s a case of now you see it, now you don’t. I’ll never forget the day I pulled on the foliage of a rather expensive (wilting) wisteria and up came a virtually non-existent root system. The bronze fennels went the same way. And so – believe it or not – they were replanted in wire baskets to protect them. I enjoy the fennel from the minute it starts pushing through in April to complement tulips ‘China Pink’ and ‘Queen of the Night’. In 2014 it was chopped back just after the tulips faded, but ‘rose again’ to greet the roses (ha!) and Campanula ‘Prichard’s Variety’. Then I chopped it a second time and it was back again for Leucanthemum x superbum and finally, as in the picture above, some late-flowering Salvia sclarea. Good value for one plant – and just as well it’s so tough it can put up with that beating. Finally I did let it flower and then harvested the seed heads to use in the kitchen – but I suspect it’s already had a go at moving beyond the wire baskets.

Sunny November morning 100Sunny November morning 114

And lastly a few grasses that I don’t consider weeds. To the left, Pennisetum alopecuroides, and to the right some little seed-grown Festuca amethystina that should really be into their stride by next summer.

Sunny November morning 077 Finally, looking classy with borage, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’. This post is my third on the new blog. And do you know, I’m already missing that feeling of having my garden around me that I had on my old Weebly Garden Dreaming at Châtillon site. This is also my contribution to Pam Penick’s Foliage Follow-up at Digging – if you check out her site you’ll come across foliage vastly more exotic than mine! And I’d love to hear about the garden thugs you wouldn’t be without?