Tag Archives: Box blight

February 2018: End of Month View


Looking down on the Rose Walk and Knot Garden

Can this really be the first day of March, with my garden looking like this? As we struggle on in the winter cold brought about by cold Artic weather pushed further south (while the Artic itself experiences record highs), you do ponder climate change a fair bit.

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Looking down on the Vine Terrace pergola, with the Iris Terrace below

The temperatures during the past week have not been as icy as the prolonged cold spell last winter (down to minus 15-20 degrees C in Dec/Jan 2016/2017) – we’ve only hit about minus 10 this year! But, for goodness sake, it’s the beginning of March. What do I do with this white stuff when I’m supposed to be digging borders?

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Straight down on the Iris Terrace and vegetable garden

We’ve had months of rain (everyone tells me that during their time in this part of France the winters have become wetter, the summers hotter – my least favourite combination) and then, at the end of February when the sun finally came out, we walked, eyes wide open, into this icy blast.

Along the wet February path there were, of course, snowdrops, aconites and the start of the hellebores. Which reminds me, do your Galanthus ‘Sam Arnott’ take a year off? I seem to remember this phenomenon in the past. Last year was great, this year I have one flower. Sad, since he’s my favourite.

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Euphorbia rigida

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Semi-double hellebores which the bees DO like!

But there’s good, too, in the midst of this cold. I’ve really been enjoying (obsessing, almost), over the effect my new greenhouse has made with my dogwoods, planted for winter colour.

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The hazels in the Long Border have now all been chopped back, so a very different feel here …

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And next year there will be a decent mulch, thanks to my new compost bins!

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And this is the first year I’ve really been able to appreciate my knot garden as it was meant to be viewed: from the house above in winter. Virtually all of the box have been grown from cuttings taken elsewhere in the garden – I can’t experience the pain of box blight or box tree moth and the financial loss as well! It would be too much misery, so I prefer to make my own, and slowly. Also experimenting with yew hedging.

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The young plants were direct-stuck in the pattern I wanted over a 3-year period (there were some, although not huge, losses). I’ve done this in either June or September, and have noticed a better ‘take’ with the September cuttings (we have warm, long autumns, generally). I don’t fiddle with them – just trim the base neatly, remove the bottom leaves and push them in. (Confession: even dispensed with the tidying process last time – we’ll see in the spring).

I have now completed the entire pattern, although the smallest, youngest lines in the pattern are not really visible in the pictures you are looking at. I’ve also planted my three Ilex aquifolium ‘Aureo-marginata’ into the Knot Garden – they are supposed to be clipped into spirals. Will I live to see the mature specimens? We gardeners are an undaunted breed, aren’t we?


This will be the second year I’ve indulged in a rare financial fling – a tulip bedding scheme in the knot garden. Last year I didn’t plant quite enough bulbs. This year I’ve doubled quantities. I chose 100 ‘Blue Heron’ (fringed, mauvey-blue – I’ve admired it for a while, but never tried it), 100 Cistula (a very pale yellow), and 100 Paul Scherer (a very beautiful dark purple, which looks to be a fuller flower than ‘Queen of the Night’). My plan has always been to bed out new tulips, try colour combinations, in this area (‘play’, in other words!) and then to lift the bulbs and replant them elsewhere (even wild areas) in the autumn. The plan’s a bit pricey! Maybe only 50% more would have been enough to do the job.


Dahlia tubers, gladioli corms and seeds, have been pouring through the front door (whenever the delivery men make an effort to get here on the designated day). That’s because I’m starting to panic about the end of May and beginning of June. We are opening the garden to the public for the first time under the Jardins Ouverts scheme and I sure am nervous! Have a look/click on the link above. Even if you are not coming to my part of France in 2018, there’s bound to be a garden in your chosen area that pleases.

There is SO much to do in SUCH a short period of time and at the moment I’ve no husband-help in the garden. (Although he does plan to come back and make carrot cake for visitors.)

When we get into the beginning of April I will not only be cutting the grass once a week on my own, but also doing all the sowing, planting, etc.

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There’s an awful lot of pruning to be done in the next few weeks

And I am still bound and determined that my new orchard borders will be half-dug (I’m a past-master at digging new borders in June – there’s always too much to do earlier!)

Here the borders will definitely have to be completed by about mid-April, because it gets too hot and new plants in new borders need too much water in the summer months. (Autumn planting is not terribly successful on our heavy clay, what with wet winters.)


Goodness – I am both excited and REALLY stressed just thinking about what I’ve got to do! Then I think about all the glorious colours of dahlias, gladiolus and tulip I’ve bought and I go back to the nicer kind of dreaming.

Have a wonderful March, and I’ll hope to catch up with you at some time in the midst of it all.

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Birth of a Knot Garden

Birth of a knot garden 025My recent inspiration hasn’t translated itself to the keyboard. It took a new project and a day or so of much-needed rain for me to get up the desire to write about what I’ve been doing. My pictures are not exactly sparkling, because the weather was rather dull today (a bit like the photographer). Yesterday I finally began to set out the knot garden I’ve been planning for a couple of years. The box cuttings were taken from my existing box hedges in the garden last June and simply thrust in little bundles into the garden soil of the cold frame. During the heat of summer they had the protection of a small poly tunnel to stop them drying out. I’ve been amazed at how well they’ve done (although still pretty titchy by anyone’s standards). I didn’t have enough to finish my chosen pattern. It’s not – forgive the pun – a ‘true lovers knot’ (click on the link here for images of that design), but a more angled geometric design that I think will suit the site well. I took some pictures from the little balcony of our guest bedroom today and the fact that I had watered the plants in shows the design off perfectly. Birth of a knot garden 029 Now I’m feeling inclined to carry on this year and finish it, by dint of a method that some gardeners have used, but that I originally felt might not work on our hot slopes. In June, since I’ve nothing to lose, I’ve decided to direct-stick cuttings to finish off the little boxy bits in the corners of the design. The pattern below is is how it should look in the end (with a larger central circle). But I’m also going to do cuttings in the cold frame, since I’ve any amount of use for box in the garden. knot garden 1 (2)I’d like to add some topiary shapes, particularly in holly. Infilling? Not sure yet, but we thought originally to use peonies and summer-flowering bulbs with some foliage colour like artemesia, santolina, lavender. I think (like the design itself) it will be ‘make it up as you go along’ – but given that tulip time is just around the corner, I’m feeling intense yearnings tonight. Now that I’ve learnt to handle box blight better – not to mention the fact that a fungicide for amateur use has just been introduced, according to my February issue of The Garden  – I’m allowing box to take hold of my imagination. I knew there was a reason we bought a sixteenth century house … On the other side of the path from the knot garden (which I’m also calling a ‘winter garden’, since in harsh winter weather it may be almost all we see of the garden from the house) is the ‘wild winter/spring’ garden. Birth of a knot garden 031 It’s starting to come together, although I still haven’t enough ground cover to protect the clay soil from harsh summer sun. I’ve planted a silver-foliaged lamium, purple ajuga, epimediums, comfrey, vinca, and so on – I’ll split them up and spread them around. A little Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny) given me by a friend is very useful, but is already starting to assert itself a little too much. And a nice surprise to find that my ground-cover plantings have all survived a very wet winter. I had fears for the Lamium maculatum ‘Mega White’ (couldn’t get rust-resistant ‘White Nancy’), but it has its toes in now. It’s not that easy to find plants that will take lightly shaded, but still hot, conditions on a heavy clay soil that is either almost too wet to work or dried hard like concrete. I’m also considering bergenias and I have small pots of Mileum effuseum ‘Aureum’ (Bowles’ Golden Grass) and Corydalis solida to plant out. Both came from my mother’s garden in Scotland and, although C. solida is pretty tough, I’m not sure that it will survive my clay … but nothing ventured. In the autumn last year I started to add bulbs to this area. First Narcissus ‘Jet Fire’, which I used to have in my garden in Suffolk. Much-loved by my husband, Nick, who still (rather weirdly) remembers them fondly, although he is not really a ‘plant person’. The trumpet becomes much more orange as the flower matures. Birth of a knot garden 042 Also ‘Peeping Jenny’, presumably deemed to be a kind of mix of the best characteristics of white ‘Jenny’ and old ‘Peeping Tom’. I love ‘Jenny’, who I wanted to add to the Rose Walk this year for her white flowers. I was too late to order and bought this yellow trumpet version instead. A beautifully shaped daffodil. Birth of a knot garden 123 Then there were bluebells (taking liberties, because Hyacinthoides non-scripta is not native to this part of France). The foliage just appearing now. Birth of a knot garden 104 And, yes, Nick – we now have fritillaries! We thought Fritillaria meleagris would be perfect for the ground low down in the garden near the river (we do dream a lot – hence the blog’s name – and Nick and I visited nice wild colonies together in Suffolk). The 15 purchased in 2014 (only 3 have flowered) is my start, hopefully to raise more from seed for eventual naturalising. In the same area are what I now call ‘Beatrix’s anemone’. A dear friend in Basel who visited in 2012 presented me with bags of hostas (all still alive Beatrix!) and this little Anemone nemorosa came along for the ride. Wonderful to have such a plant-rich garden that little sweeties like this hitch a ride when you give something away. Birth of a knot garden 109 This week there was a sleepy bee on one of my Hayloft Plants hellebores, drunk in the warm sunshine (the bee, not the hellebore). Odd that it was a double flower – I thought pollinators didn’t like doubles? Tree Following March 262 Tree Following March 269 It lay inside that flower for such a long time that I thought it was dead, so I nudged it gently. It buzzed drowsily and was gone the next day. The hellebore wasn’t supposed to be double (it’s one of Hayloft’s ‘Pretty Ellen’ series), but I’m charmed regardless. Birth of a knot garden 168 The Rose Walk is at one of its nicest stages, in my opinion. Lots of allium and tulip foliage pushing through. Unfortunately I spent so much on other bulbs last autumn that I’d not really money in the budget to add to my plantings of ‘Queen of the Night’, ‘Sorbet’ and ‘China Pink’. I suspect the display will be rather disappointing, but they should come back again a bit next year after their ‘year off’, since they are amongst the most persistent of tulips. It will be interesting to see how many flowers they have in their second/third years without adding to them, as I originally planned. Further on down the Rose Walk I did add this tulip with the pretty white edge to the leaf, ‘Sweet Impression’. Birth of a knot garden 138 When we first moved here I had many, many bulbs in pots that I had raised from Alpine Garden Society seed. They had followed us from England to Ireland, to here. Many were killed in the first hard winter because I didn’t plunge them properly. The fritillarias and the cyclamen were the saddest loss, but the survivors are sweet, and just starting to flower now. Birth of a knot garden 175 Narcissus pseudonarcissus. I thought this was the Tenby daffodil (N. pseudonarcissus subsp. obvallaris, but it doesn’t look right with those pale-yellow petals. Perhaps simply N. pseudonarcissus, although I can’t imagine why I wanted to grow it from seed. Birth of a knot garden 184 Narcissus bulbocodium – hurrah! The first flower … Birth of a knot garden 201 On the banks right next to the Rose Walk where the hazels live I’ve managed to get foxgloves going as well as Angelica sylvestris and Hesperis matronalis from Hardy Plant Society seed. The last swamped all the roses in their first year, but I’ve persuaded it to migrate onto the slope were it will still partner without threatening. And finally, something else that came in under a different name. This was supposed to be Calamintha nepeta, but is clearly Pulsatilla vulgaris. I’m pleased because I know it did well on the clay of a previous garden and will increase easily from fresh seed. Birth of a knot garden 206