It’s just marvellous here at the moment, there’s no other word for it. The weather is fantastic – clear blue skies, quite hot for this time of the year but not unbearably so, with little wind. And so quiet. Normally by now the place would be crawling with tourists and as much as I sympathise with those businesses that depend on tourism, and there are many here, I love the calm, quiet and cleanness, of the air and the environment, that are the unforeseen benefits of the Covid-19 lockdown. Or more aptly, lock-out as far as visitors are concerned.
I almost bust a gut yesterday cutting what I laughingly call my grass in the scorching hot sun but it was worth it, because this is the view that I had from my front window a bit earlier this afternoon.
It won’t stay like it for long, of course. Even if the grass stops growing if it stays hot, the weeds still manage to keep pushing through. And as we have possible thunderstorms forecast for this coming week, I’m expecting that in less than a fortnight, my garden will probably be back again to be an overgrown wasteland. So I thought that today would be a good day to go outside and take a few photographs.
When I came to France eight years ago, I brought quite a large number of plant pots and containers with me that then stood empty up until last year at which time my lovely French neighbour, Chantal, decided that it was time for me to do something about it and dragged me down to the local nursery. I left with an empty wallet and a car full of plants and over a day-and-a-half she and I had filled all of my empty pots up, and more besides, because before we’d finished I’d had to go and buy a few more from the France Rurale store in Montignac. Plus I also put up some hanging baskets as I used to do in times past around the old family home in the UK.
Unfortunately, though we had left things a bit too late last year and too much of the season was already behind us. So the plants that I’d bought never managed to attain their full potential and also, I’d had to make do with others that weren’t really right in the roles for which they’d been bought – for example, fuschias that grew much too tall for the hanging baskets in which they’d been planted.
So Chantal, who is much more attuned to these things than I am, collared me much earlier this year to make sure things were done properly. Shortly afterwards we found ourselves in the local nursery again, which wasn’t officially supposed to be open but had done so anyway, with our masks on in company with a horde of other shoppers who evidently also couldn’t wait to start beautifying their gardens.
I ended up spending more than last year despite the fact that a surprisingly large number of plants had survived over the relatively mild winter and were just waiting to burst back into life, as many now indeed have. Once again with the two of us working over the next day, we got everything planted and it was pretty obvious even then that this year our floral display would be much more magnificent than previously. And so it is proving as the following pictures taken today show.
This next display still has a bit of a way to go. The smaller plants in it were saved from last year and the larger one collapsed after I’d removed the plastic support that it came with. Since then I’ve raised it again and supported it with soft twine and a dead twig and already it’s covered in large buds so should soon be in much fuller flower.
All of the flowers in the next container were saved from last year but were not together. Obviously they are now thriving in their new environment.
Neither of the hanging baskets on the front of the house survived the winter but it was no great loss because the plants that they’d contained were not suitable. This year I made sure to buy smaller fuschias and some other smaller plants that I hope will tumble downwards as the season progresses. One of the problems was that the English moss that I’d used to line the baskets couldn’t hold enough water for the type of plants that I’d used, so this year I removed the old soil and placed a plastic membrane inside the moss before adding the soil and the plants.
So far it seems to be working and both of the hanging baskets on the front of the house are progressing very well. Here’s a shot of the first one.
The two small plants at each end of the tub in the next shot were both survivors from last year and are now throwing out flowers again. The two plants in the middle were new this year and I think that the tub will end up being very colourful and a great success in a week or two’s time.
I think that the plant in the next shot was new this year, in fact I’m almost certain it was. But wow, what a show it makes – and there’s more to come!
I bought the little fuschia in the next shot in the second half of the season last year from France Rurale. Unbelievably, not only did it survive the winter but it seems to have thrived and is already covered in flowers.
The plants in the large container in the centre of the next display were all new this year but all of the geraniums were bought last year and survived the winter. The plain-jane plant with green leaves in the closest pot was also from last year and I can’t wait to see what it turns back into. Chantal assures me that it will be covered in blooms, but somehow I have my doubts…
This little triplet display still has a long way to go but already today the plants in the small pots burst into bloom after I’d taken the picture. They were both survivors from last year and I originally thought that they’d had it, but it shows just how wrong you can be. The plant in the vertical holder is new this year and also I’ve drilled the bowl of the container to make a drain hole as last year it flooded whenever it rained and dried out too quickly when it got hot. This year I’ve only put just the one small plant in it and am keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll do OK.
This is a new fuschia that I bought this year especially to go on my window sill and I love it. The pot it’s in is one I brought with me from the UK and was knocked off the sill by a cat and broken. However, I didn’t want to chuck it away so repaired it with Araldite and if you don’t look too closely, you’d never know.
The next two are both new additions this year and look as though they’ll be great successes, both of them.
All of the plants in this next container are survivors from last year. I have to say that I thought that it looked a bit of a mess after the winter and would have to be re-done this year. However, on closer examination there were signs of life so we tidied it up a bit and left it and from the look of it, that was the right thing to do.
This tub matches the other one and similar comments apply. Initially, the two small plants at the ends which are survivors from last year were placed too far into the tub and weren’t doing well. Having moved them outwards just a couple of days ago, they are already doing much better.
This is the other one of the two new hanging baskets on the front of the house.
The next plant stands near the back door and was bought new this year. It looks as though it’s going to be lovely.
The next three plants were all bought new this year. Two of them are in glazed pots that were really intended for indoor use but are a bit too bright for my taste. They weren’t a success last year as they didn’t have drain holes in them so when it rained they retained the water and when it was dry, you were reluctant to make them too wet. As a result the plants in them did very poorly.
I’ve now drilled holes in the bottoms of the two jazzy green glazed pots and can therefore treat them as ‘normal’ so hopefully the plants we put in them will do a lot better this year, as they seem to be doing.
The next pair of pots were my favourites last year because their colours go together so well and also the plants that they contained were so lovely. I’m hoping that after retaining some of them and adding some new ones that I’ll be able to enjoy repeat success this year.
The same goes for the next pair of pots whose colours again complement each other so well. Last year they did OK but ended up looking a little bit messy and untidy. As a result, I have tried to make a better plant selection that will combine well as the season progresses and already I think that the effort is well worth it.
Finally, we come to the last two hanging baskets that are mounted on the south-facing wall of the house. I had intended to re-do them in the same way as I did the ones on the front of the house but left it too late. By the time I’d got around to it, they were bursting back into flower, so apart from removing the odd dead bits, I’ve left them alone and am amazed at how well they’re now doing.
So that’s the hard work done for this year. I loved having plants around the house last year and am even more delighted with how things are already looking this year. Sure, they need to be tended and looked after but the work involved is satisfying and more than paid-back by the wonderful display they present as the year progresses. I wish that the constant grass cutting was equally as satisfying and rewarding…