The gardening weather today will be…….not what you expect.

Prieuré Notre-Dame d’Orsan taken yesterday

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.

Viburnum sargentii Onondaga at Drulon

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.

The mediaeval castle at Culan, Cher, France

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.

Iris, Hemerocallis, Poppies and Peonies

Pivoine Marie Crousse

Peony (Pivoine) Marie Crousse

After Courson, our last flower show visit, we followed up the discovery of a local grower to visit them at their nursery. Bourdillon specialise in Iris, Hemerocallis, Poppies and Peonies and their beautifully illustrated catalogue mentioned an open weekend on 21st and 22nd May.

We dutifully turned up on the Sunday with a gardening friend only to discover, with a season three weeks in advance of normal, they had held it early this year. There was still plenty to see however and we happy roamed the fields for several hours before returning to the office to buy a few things. Their web site (http://www.bourdillon.com) shows their full range of plants but here are a few photos from my visit……..

Iris ensata Kishuu-Wakanami

Iris ensata Kishuu-Wakanami

We finally succumbed to temptation and bought one of the Itoh peonies I described having seen at a show earlier this year – Bertzella – while our friend chose a potted Iris ensata Kishuu-Wakanami which she later divided and shared with us. The Japanese Water Iris is native not only to Japan but is very widespread in China, Korea, India & eastern Russia and needs boggy conditions in the spring. We have planted it in a shady spot in a new bed which contains many recent purchases, but plan to move it in the autumn to a spot next to a Japanese water basin to which I add water often, the overspill moistening the ground for the nearby Hostas and other plants.

Poppy Lambada

Oriental Poppy Lambada

The weather here continues to be warm and dry; temperatures in the twenties, usually 10°C higher than the UK and no rain to speak of since February. Water restrictions have started in many regions of France and agriculture is in trouble, although there are a few regions of the country where they have had plenty of rain.

At the recent Comice Agricole at St. Aignan, a country show also involving the 16 villages surrounding the town, the talk was of little else. We hoped to try comparing the white wine from each of the communes (for educational purposes and of course, in moderation) but it was so warm we could not summon the energy for more than a brief visit before leaving to sit in the shade of a Willow by the River Cher and cool off. A TV crew spent some time filming our standard poodle as she said “Hello” to the competition goats, the first in the family to achieve fame in this country.

Hemerocallis Edge of Darkness

Hemerocallis Edge of Darkness