Nature prepares for the end of summer

We are currently loosing day length, here in the centre of France, at the rate of half an hour a week. Nights are clear and cool, with temperatures dropping to around 12 degrees C, while the days are calm and sunny, allowing us to continue to eat outside at mid day, when it has warmed to 27 degrees or more.


Late summer flowers from Caryopteris and Rudbeckia

All around us Nature is reacting to this: grasses like Cortaderia and Miscanthus are coming into flower and autumn fruits are ripening. The signs look good for the grape harvest – although there has been more growth than usual to trim off, these late sunny days are increasing sugar content in the berries, enhancing flavour and the boosting alcohol when the wine is eventually made. There is so much unpicked fruit on the trees that few bother picking the wild blackberries, which in any case lack the taste of those we used to eat in England. We are hanging on for the apples pears, quince and late peaches, turning down offers of plums for jam making; you can only eat and give away so much jam and we are saving the last few dozen jars for the autumn fruits.

In the garden, under the giant Sequoias, the Garden Design Academy classroom is nearing completion and when the workers have finally gone we will be able to create more beds to settle it nicely into the landscape. The final phases of the work seem to take forever and we are not confident it will be completed in time for the next residential course. These have been held very successfully this year in a wing of the house we rent out to tourists when not needed by Academy students, but I shall be happier when the Academy has its own permanent home.

The log cabin for the Garden Design Academy nears completion.

We are planning visits to a number of autumn plant shows, both professional and amateur. The first trade show of the season will be Les Visites Vert at Angers, 14th -15th September and our favourite plant fair is at Courson a month later. The Anger event groups together 37 local nurseries in one hall and will be very useful for finding suppliers for our garden design clients. Courson is pure indulgence, with the best of France’s retail nurseries selling their wares in the park of the chateau. There are always rarities, new varieties and a contented buzz, as fellow enthusiasts spend their pocket money and take away prized plants. This year we will be taking my parents, at one time nurserymen themselves, who are travelling up from their home in Spain for the event.

I love the summers here, when they are not too hot and last for months- the outdoor lifestyle suits us perfectly. The dog and I will miss our afternoon swims in the river, but the approaching autumn is also exciting to observe and to participate in, as the seasons move inexorably on.


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