Just Pear-fect!

I have only rarely grown Pear trees and never with much success, so I was amazed to discover when we started to explore our adopted village in central France, that Europe’s largest private pear collection was held in a plot near the vineyard. The grower in question has amassed nearly 650 different varieties, some of them on the edge of extinction and trained them in 20 different forms. His apple trees number over 300 and he has many other fruit trees besides. https://i1.wp.com/pomologie.com/oc/belghort/1852/p176poirewilliam.jpg

A botanical artist of some considerable talent (the illustartions here are not his), whose art is much sought after, his collection started as 60 potted plants which he was meticulously painting, recording them throughout the seasons. The cultivars grew, as these things do, and he eventually set up his orchard on its present site. The work involved in their care is huge and he has taken the decision to reduce the collection to more manageable proportions. I am one of a few who have benefited from this decision, having acquired the following for my own garden:

  1. Belle et Bonne d’ézée
  2. Beurré d’Amanlis
  3. Beurré Bretonneau
  4. Beurré Dubuisson
  5. Duc de Bordeaux du Mas
  6. Graft Holtke
  7. Mouille bouche d’été
  8. Olivier de Serres
  9. Starkrimson Clapp’s Rouge

https://i0.wp.com/pomologie.com/oc/belghort/1851/p372poires.jpg

Many of these are local or ancient varieties and all are beautifully trained espaliers in “U”, “Double U” “Palmette Verrier” and single cordon forms. We are very excited to have acquired these specimens and proud to be offered the opportunity to cultivate and preserve them. We will be carefully nurturing them through their first couple of seasons after the shock of their transplantation and continue to prune them to maintain their current elegant forms. My next job is to set up a system of support wires and rods, to ensure they are securely held into the shapes they have been trained to.

Other gardening tasks have kept me very busy this autumn. I was keen to lift the Cannas before the frost and have them now stored in the log cabin for the winter. The five varieties we bought this year have performed well, some putting on huge amounts of growth to form large clumps, while others have flowered but remained relatively small. They have all been lifted, cut back, divided where necessary and potted in leaf-mound. They will be kept ticking over in the heated cabin until it is safe to bring them out again next year. Not having a greenhouse these days, the cabin is being increasingly used for overwintering plants, although we keep hardier specimens, young shrubs and the like, in the north –facing conservatory.

We have a number of Dahlias and sometimes we lift them but other years we don’t. A small white one certainly needs moving from the front to the rear, where it can join other new plants in the White Border. A huge orange variety suffered last year, from damp as much as cold and I think this will be lifted for the winter.

Autumn is a great time for planting, but also for moving plants that have not performed well in certain spots or which are being swamped by more vigorous neighbours. I have replanted half of the Gaillardias, which were sown this year and have flowered well, so that other parts of the garden are brightened up next year. Other seed raised perennials like Gauria lindheimeri and Penstemon are also on the move. F1 hybrid Wallflowers are looking very good in the patch of garden where I planted them out in the spring. I am gradually lifting these and spreading them around the garden to provide a spring display – although there is some flower evident even now.

A Hibiscus, on the other hand, has not grown at all well and has been lifted from under a Miscanthus and given a better position in full sun. No doubt other shrubs will also be repositioned in the next few weeks.

Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’

The autumn is giving us a visual treat in the form of leaf colour, with our Cherry trees looking particularly good. Liquidamber is a feature of gardens and parks in the area and these too, depanding on variety, are looking amazing at the moment.

The first frosts of autumn 2012.

After a very mild period the warm air has rushed back down to North Africa or wherever it came from, leaving a vacuum to be filled by cold winds from the far north of Europe and Russia. The Mediterranean regions have been experiencing violent storms and rain in unreasonable quantities (“a month’s rain in an hour” and similar phrases are frequently heard on weather reports) confirming the wisdom of our choice of region to settle in. Not for us the extremes of other parts of France. In the meantime the east coast of the United States is being battered by hurricane Sandy.

Autumn colour from Rhus in a garden in Chabris, central France

The first frost last night touched some of the more tender plants and I have been out collecting pots from the garden and putting them under cover, either in the unheated conservatory at the front of the house or in the cabin in the back garden. Here, I have constructed a bench from an old cupboard door laid over a couple of desks, in front of a large, south facing window. Electric heaters should keep plants cosy at around 12°C over winter: ideal from Geraniums, Fuchsias, Salvias, Brugmansia, Abutilon and the like, of which we have plenty.

Our so-called hardy banana has been wrapped up in straw and fleece in an attempt to keep it alive out-of-doors. Time will tell if this was the wisest approach. It is also time to lift the Dahlias and Cannas to get them stored in boxes of leaf mould away from the cold for the season. Dahlias will often overwinter in the ground here – we generally leave Gladioli in the beds too – but I have also lost a few. Perhaps this technique of lifting and overwintering will ensure greater survival rates.

Thompson and Morgan have suggested in a recent newsletter that gardeners should be sowing seeds of perennials now, leaving them to germinate in a cold-frame. I shall have a look to see what packets of seed I might have and give this a go. I have collected Lilium regale seed as I did last year and have it in mind to sow a few ornamental grasses like Purple Millet, but I may have to fight off the birds feeding on the seed-heads! Our old conservatory should serve very well as a cold-frame.

Pyracantha berries sparkling in the clear autumn sun today.

It’s turning into a very good year for Pyracantha this year, with huge crops of berries in a range of bright colours on plants throughout the town. We have just one named hybrid in the garden, which I am patiently training along an ugly concrete boundary fence, but several which have arrived as seedlings thanks to the gardening efforts of wild birds. The photograph is of one of a pair in an abandoned garden in the square close to our house. The other was eaten by a camel when the circus came to town, but is recovering well!. Red, orange and yellow berried forms can all be seen in local gardens and it is often used as a thorny boundary hedge. Mixed berry colour hedges can look particularly attractive but some care has to be exercised when pruning to ensure they produce flowers and berries.