The icy weather having finally gone there are signs that spring is approaching. Of the migrating birds, the Cranes have been the first to return and around the river banks we have been watching Ragondin fuss about. The Ragondin, or Coypu, was introduced to France from North America in the 19th century for its fur but is now considered a pest. Introduced plants, just starting into growth, are also causing problems locally.
Pokeweed, American Grape – Phytolaca americana – was originally imported for its dye extract which was used to colour wine(!) and paper. I am fighting it in the back garden and the authorities are concerned about it thriving in the sandy soils of the Sologne. On the banks of the Cher and many other local rivers, the pretty yellow aquatic Ludwigia peploides and L. uruguayensis Water Primroses are clogging up the waterways and forcing out local flora. It would be nice to think we no longer do these things, introducing foreign species with little thought and even less care, but of course it happens all the time.
Reacting to the milder weather ourselves, we have been digging out our boxes of old seed to see what might be worth sowing this year. A treasure trove of vegetables and flowers, I am well aware that many of them will not germinate or will grow poorly. We have so many that we are going to try them anyway and have sent away to Thomson and Morgan for an electric propagator. The plan is to start a nursery in the loft, on a raised bench under one of the larger Velux windows.
T&M have a strange system for trading in France. They have a company over here but when you order on-line the goods are sent from the UK. The UK company will not supply us, so there is little alternative but to pay the (more expensive) French price and wait for the parcel to arrive. Less than ideal.
In the mean time the ground has thawed and after weeks of frustration we are able to get out and garden. Weeding the central border was a rare pleasure; hands in the soil, pulling out the weeds one by one so that any seedlings of useful plants would not be damaged and emerging bulbs and herbaceous plants could be carefully avoided. It is a chance to see close-up what is happening in the garden, without the detachment which comes from using tools or, worst still, chemicals. This is what gardening is all about: getting your hands dirty, communicating with nature and polishing those green fingers.