Alive and well in 2013

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Jasminium nudiflora in flower Christmas 2012

I am glad the world did not end at the end of last year. The French took it all in their stride, but various individuals descended on a tiny village in the Pyrenees to await the planet’s final days, convinced there were aliens hiding under the mountain and hoping to hitch a ride out of the impending disaster. Apparently the Mayans, or perhaps the Aztecs, said so. No-one could pretend the health of the planet is in good shape these days but that particular hiccup seems to have passed us by safely; my wife’s birthday, Christmas and New Year were all celebrated by our household without difficulty.

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Hebe Great Orme. This plant was raised from a cutting as an insurance – just as well as the mother plant died last winter.

In the meantime, I have had several requests for the results of my Christmas garden flowers survey so here is the small list of flowers from our garden in Central France:

  • Jasminium nudiflorum
  • Wallflowers (in several colours)
  • Hebe Great Orme
  • Pansies (mixed colours)
  • Erica carnea Springwood White
  • Calendulas (self-seeded in the gravel)
  • Mahonia media Charity
  • Viburnum tinus
  • Helleborus nigra
  • Helleborus foetidus

christmas 2012 002In addition we have a house full of orchids, a couple of Poinsettias’ and a Cyclamen in the windowsills, all flowering their hearts out and a real joy at this grey time of year.

You might like to compare this list to last years, when we had 31 plants in flower following a period of very mild weather: https://gardendesigncompany.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/in-flower-this-christmas/

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None stop flowering in Almeria, Spain

Immediately after Christmas I had business in southern Spain, where it was a very different story. Gardens and street planting featured many flowering plants, most of which would be treated as houseplants in this part of the world.

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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://i0.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://i2.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.