Eager anticipation

Having given myself the target of opening the garden to public scrutiny soon, the prospect of shame has galvanised me into herculean weeding. In two week’s time it will be the Inaugural Herault Gardeners Open Gardens Week. This came about as the result of a post on Facebook and now we have 19 gardens which will be open. If you’d like to visit the guide can be downloaded here.


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I’ve been weeding for two months now and the garden is looking a thousand times better than it did last year when my time was taken looking after my late Mum. Last year was also the year when we received a phenomenal 2000€ water bill due to an unseen underground leak. So this year I am determined to use as little water on the garden as we can. We gather rainwater in 14 cubic metre tanks in the basement, so that reduces our need for town water. However, we need to eke it out.


Maritime pine bark is being applied as a mulch on the three largest borders. I will have used 100 sacks by the time I have finished. The shrubs and flowers look wonderful against it. Suddenly we can actually see the plants, where previously they melted into the grey background of the schist. The mulch should act as both a water retainer and a weed suppressant.


Ali has finished weeding the parterre so that looks wonderful too. The water leak flooded the ground around the parterre, although the only sign of it was that many of the lavender took against so much water and popped their clogs. So I’ve replaced fifteen of them. Although they are tiny at the moment I think they’ll soon catch up.


The vegetable beds are doing famously, with the soil looking in much better shape after the winter addition of rotted pony poo. Profiting from all this goodness we have two types of potatoes, aubergines, peppers, several varieties of tomatoes, sunflowers, chard, broad beans, runner beans, carrots, haricot beans, peas, courgettes, pumpkins, gherkins, parsley, coriander, fennel, thymes, basils, chives, marjoram, mint, rhubarb, lettuces, Chinese gooseberry, artichokes, strawberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, sweet potatoes and NZ spinach all on their way or in production.


I’ve lost a Sanguine peach and a Rouge de Roussillon apricot. I have no idea why. They either died or appeared to die then started sprouting from the roots. The cherries, however, are absolutely covered in flower as are all the apples except the Fuji which is either very late or isn’t going to flower at all. Today we have ferocious winds so I expect to lose some fruit.

I’ve recently bought a Persian lemon which has juice so sweet that you can drink it directly from squeezing without adding sugar. A beautifully fragrant mandarin absolutely covered in flowers and tiny fruits has joined the lemon near to the greenhouse. That brings the tally to four lemons, one navel orange, one Tahiti lime, one pink grapefruit, one mandarin and one Persian lemon. Nine citrus trees should keep us stocked and I’d be hard pressed to find somewhere sheltered enough to house another one.

The irises have been magnificent and their fragrance has accompanied me through the tiresome weeding. They’re just about over now, but they are completely worth it for the time that they are in flower. The roses are about to start flowering, and there are many wallflowers, calendula, alliums, and antirrhinum flowering at the moment too along with the valerian, coronilla and thousands of escholzia. The photinia red robin has been glorious and that particular hedge has finally found its feet and is shooting up. I’m hoping the eleagnus ebbengei that we planted last year will do the same. The bee garden we planted last May has been spectacular this Spring and is highly popular with many different kinds of bees. It’s amazing how it has developed in a year. How it looked last year.


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The mint is back on full form, which gives us the chance to indulge in the most delicious fragrant mint tea. Here’s my favourite method – taught to us in Marrakesh. Put a large pinch of gunpowder tea, a big bunch of fresh mint and half a sugar cube into a glass or silver teapot. Pour on boiling water and let it steep for three minutes. Pour into glasses from a great height while inhaling deeply. Of course the teapot could be an ordinary one, but I like to keep the mint teapot separate – for no good reason.