The weather continues to dominate the conversations of country folk, gardeners and it would seem, almost everyone else. Our honey man tells me there will be no spring harvest for him because the Robinia flowers frosted and died. A favourite vineyard has lost 100% of this year’s crop before the plants even had a chance to flower; winegrowing is a precarious business at the best of times with countless factors affecting quality and quantity, but this year is a disaster for many producers. Gardeners who learn to expect the unexpected are rarely disappointed.
Last weekend was Les Saints de Glace here in France, and everyone knows to wait until these days have passed before planting out their vegetables. The feast days of St Mamert, St Pancrace, St Servais – 11th, 12 and 13thMay – traditionally mark the end of night frosts and gardeners were out all over the village getting tomatoes into the ground, planting in neat rows between marigold plants to keep away the insect pests. The Church vacillates uncomfortably when faced with these ostensibly pagan rites, to the extent that the Vatican changed the saint’s days in 1960, but the tradition continues regardless.
The gardeners at the Prieuré Notre-Dame d’Orsan and at Les Jardins de Drulon were all complaining about the unseasonal weather when we dropped in on them today, although as Piet Hendriks pointed out, when we bring our tour guests next week they will be able to see the Peonies which would normally be finished. They grow more than 300 varieties at Drulon so it would be a shame to miss them. These two stunning gardens will be highlights of our, Loire Valley Gardens tour next week, a trip I am looking forward to with eager expectation; given the late season though, the June trip ( 12th – 19th ) should be truly splendid as well.
On the way home we drove via Culan, with its mediaeval castle overlooking the river Arnon. It has mediaeval-style gardens, but is not on the agenda this time. We walked along the river (only six salmon per day may be taken) and the dog went for a swim before we drove back, checking village restaurants for future trips, dodging rain storms and police radar controls at the beginning of this long bank holiday weekend.