We have just staggered back to work – well, sat down at our respective desks in the middle room of the house – after the Christmas / New Year break and one month of ‘flue. We have struggled to be in full festive mood for the last couple of weeks but have not done too badly all things considered. Horticulture and gardening have sat on the back burner over this period although I did receive one gardening book and a subscription to French gardening magazine Rustica as Christmas presents. Generally, people are too nervous to buy me gardening books and I guess I can be a bit demanding in that respect. My wife summoned up courage this year and found a copy of a book on the gardens of the Loire Valley by Marie-Francoise Valery, first published in English although this edition is in French. I look forward to reading the text which accompanies this prettily illustrated book and of course, visiting those gardens I have yet to see.
We are currently receiving mail addressed to my Mother in Law who died towards the end of 2010. A large package recently arrived containing the 700 page glossy catalogue of a seed, plants and garden equipment supplier called Baumaux. I am delighted to have acquired this book and spent a little while comparing prices with UK suppliers. High on my To Do List is my annual seed order to Thompson and Morgan and Suttons, but I shall also try a few items from this French company to see how they perform.
In a news report last night we were told of a huge survey that revealed the French are currently one of the world’s least optimistic people. This is a pity because I’m feeling really rather excited about the year and the decade to come. The last couple of years we have been establishing ourselves in our new home in central France and adapting our lifestyle to the demands of business away from the UK. Now we feel we have done all the groundwork and our French adventure can begin in earnest. An increased range of distance learning courses has gone down well with students and the educational establishment, while the log cabin classroom is looking splendid under the Sequoias; we are looking forward to utilising the potential of this lovely building with many more residential courses.
Every week daylight hours extend by a few minutes and as usual I am champing at the bit to get out into the garden. Indoor orchids and other plants are feeling the effects and producing new growth and flowers. An early gardening project is to dig a trench along our front boundary to see if we can establish a Yew hedge there. At the moment we are open to the road – it does not look good and dogs and children enter at will. Our plans for a wall and gate in a style suited to the house are on hold because of the enormous cost and I have found sources in Belgium of bushy, 6ft tall Yews which would do the job at a fraction of the price of stone and ironwork. This part of the site used to have a building on it however and I fear I will discover reinforced concrete foundations just under the surface. As soon as I stop coughing I shall be out to dig the first exploratory test holes. To add further complications the soil in the front of the house is a heavy clay and both hard to work, slow to warm up and tough on plants. This is clearly introduced soil, presumably after the building was removed, and differs dramatically from the soil in the rest of the garden. The final problem is that to one side of proposed new gates the boundary is a mess of electrical and telephone cables, drainage and water supply pipes and features a huge mound containing the roots of a now removed Copper Beech. Back in the days when I had a landscape company at my disposal I am sure we would have dealt with this, but now it presents a difficulty. It is likely we will have to build a wall on this side and a wall – gate – hedge solution runs the risk of looking inappropriate close to our formally designed house. More thought is needed before the solution is agreed upon.