Poisson d’avril, wild asparagus and other gardening tales

Acer palmatum Bloodgood

The first of April gave us the opportunity to have a little fun with the child of a guest, who found a large fish hiding under his breakfast napkin. Don’t know what I’m talking about? In France, on what we Brits call April Fool’s Day, fish-related pranks are played on and by children and childish adults like us. Typically, paper fish are hung on unsuspecting victims backs and although no-one seems to know why, it’s all good harmless fun. It’s origins may go back to the standardisation of the New Year by King Charles IX of France in 1563 and the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when folks who did not keep up with the changes, still celebrating the New Year at the end of March were made fun of. The fish? No idea!

Dicentra spectabilis alba

As spring takes a hold of the land, more and more plants are coming into flower, making the choice of our Plant of the Week increasingly difficult. We could have chosen Primula veris the Cowslip, or P. vulgaris, the Primrose, both flowering in the garden and the countryside at the moment alongside (in our garden) hybrids of the two. There is a lot going on in our White Border, despite the Clematis armandii dying, full of flower bud, this winter. Osmanthus x burkwoodii is in flower next to Viburnum x burkwoodii (one of our many horticultural jokes), both scented and delightful. White Dicentra spectabilis is about as photogenic as any plant can be.

Bulbs are popping up in unsuspected places, like the Ipheion in the gravel under the rotary washing line, while the sight of newly emerging leaves on many plants is a real joy. Maple leaves unfold alongside flowers in many cases and we eat wild asparagus with our Sunday lunch, harvested from various corners of the garden and local fields. If you want to know what did finally make it as the Plant of the Week, pop along to our page on Pinterest.


We had confirmation this week of a group of Australians visiting in May to join us on a tour of the gardens of the Loire Valley. We are very much looking forward to this week-long tour; there are still a few places if you want to join us. We hope to be attending the next major plant fair in the Loire Valley, held each year at the Château de la Bourdaisière, where they grow a staggering 650 varieties of tomato. I will report back on this in due course.

Central France in Spring mood

Spring is advancing very nicely here in the northern most part of the Indre, one of the departments that make up the Central region of France.

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom: Chabris, France, 8th April 2010

Yesterday the Cherries started flowering, adding a white haze to orchards and gardens, already warmed by pink peach blossom. This combination creates a subtly beautiful scene when compared to the vivid colours of Forsythia and Chaenomeles which have dominated garden planting thus far. Interestingly perhaps, only the white cherries are in flower – the pink are nowhere to be seen. Pears and Apples will not be far behind.

The progression of the season is noticeable near ground level as well. Tulips replace Daffodils; Cowslips in their thousands adorn the countryside and on a recent walk we found long lines of hairy, brown caterpillars crossing the forest paths.


Cowslips - Primula veris

Our own modest contribution to all this growth and flower comes in the form of recently planted shrubs, bulbs and herbaceous plants. In the front garden a yellow-leaved form of the flowering current, Ribes sanguinea is attracting attention while in the back our Magnolia stellata is full of flower. Other flowering highlights are the supermarket-bought Tulips and the self-seeded Cowslips.

Cowslips have become rare in the wild in the UK but are abundant here. Primroses however, we hardly see, except in gardens. I have no idea why that should be but I’m very grateful for one out of two!

Not to rest on our laurels, we have installed a propagator in the loft and are busily sowing seeds. There is a tale to tell about this recent purchase and if the seed company I bought it from do not deal promptly with my complaints, all will be revealed.

Flowering current

Yellow-leaved Ribes sanguineum Brocklebankii

We are growing a range of vegetables and flowers in this device, which features a small plastic tunnel, a heat mat and a proper thermastatic control system. Its a miniature vesion of a commercial system and should give us great control over the germination environment allowing s to provide ideal temperatures and humidity. More on this later…….

At the Garden Design Academy one of our American students, who had to describe a number of gardens as part of her project work, introduced me to the stunnng Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon. I pass on this web address in case you might be interested too:  http://www.japanesegarden.com/