Getting to Grips with The Spring Garden

IMG_0160It’s been a month of frantic activity in the garden.  The last two weeks of March saw the children wearing shorts, we dined al fresco, dusting down the chairs and grabbing any cushions we could find. Our usual outdoor accessories were still carefully packed away, not quite ready to come out of hibernation.

Then April dawned, a fickle month if ever there was one. The temperature dropped, the heavens opened and the mutterings about “drought” and “totally out of sync weather” finally ceased. Only to be replaced by even more talk of abnormal meteorological conditions, climate change and global warming.

The heat that was so welcome dissipated. Suddenly we were plunged right back into winter. Rain turned to sleet, it was midday on Wednesday and I was driving, glancing at the dashboard I saw the temperature had dropped suddenly from an already cold 8 degrees celsius to 3! Hail stones hit the windscreen. I feared for the garden, for the farmers and the crops. I saw yesterday morning that many parts of France had plenty of fresh snow, there was a heavy frost in the north, of which we were fortunately spared. As I said, April does tend to have a capricious climate.

However, the warm winds of March and the long hours of sunshine have brought spring on apace. The lavender is in flower,

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and leaves are unfurling all around.

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The blossom is fading in our garden. The cherry makes my mouth water just to look at it and the plum trees are already heavy with young fruit.

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Wallflowers add a welcoming splash of colour.

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The iris are so nearly in bloom

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and the poppies are already past their best.

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The campanula thrives in tiny nooks and crannies. This year I have planted a couple of new ones in holes in old stones and hope it will spread rampantly.

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The Virginia creeper which clings to the stone walls around our guest cottage is coming to life and the mock orange is covered in the most fragrant white flowers.

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But undoubtedly the bluebells and wisteria steal the show.

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The Spanish bluebells are in fact an invasive species and their introduction is often hugely despised. But for all their faults I cannot dislike them. They grow in abundance in our garden, but they are kept in control, they thrive against west facing walls.

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Our purple wisteria has been in flower for a couple of weeks now, but we have a second white variety which flowers much later. It makes a perfect canopy outside the summer kitchen, where incidentally our stone statue has found a permanent home.

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Hollyhocks grow like weeds here, they self seed all over the place and every year I earmark the new seedlings and then forget where they are and mow over them. This year I am determined to make amends, I have carefully weeded around all of the little plants and then surrounded them with a mini fence, they should be safe from the mower’s blades, the strimmer’s wire and the tread of feet this year.

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The vines are looking healthy and the potager is taking shape. New potatoes are in the ground and carrots have been sown. Our rake seemed to suffer a major blow during the winter and I found myself on my hands and knees preparing the seed bed. Having dug out any weeds and loosened all the soil, I crumbled every clump in my hands, making a fine tilth. It felt so good to feel the earth between my fingers, completely back to basics and incredibly satisfying. Using a rake is hardly hi-tech gardening, but without one I felt connected to the land like never before. I know it might sound strange but it really was the most fulfilling evening.

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We have finally found a way to move some of the stone around the garden. With the help of a friend, and his small petrol driven garden fork-lift, we have been able to use these huge abandoned pieces which were previously just too heavy and too huge for us to do anything with. These huge slabs are going to form a low stone table and bench at the end of the vegetable garden.

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This morning another dream came to fruition. A garden bench by the pond. A place where everyone tends to stand for ages watching the aquatic life. Bulging eyes of amphibians goggle back at us from wherever they are precariously perched. It’s a battle of nerves, a staring competition, as we eyeball each other, you blink you lose, one twitch from a human will be followed by a splash as a frog disappears under the water. Now I hope this will become a seat where we waste far too much time. It still needs scrubbing down but it is in situ and I couldn’t be happier.

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Spring this year came in like a lamb and now it is roaring like a lion. But nothing can hold back the force of nature, new growth is all around, new life, new hopes, new beginnings. This really has to be one of my favourite times of the year.

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47 thoughts on “Getting to Grips with The Spring Garden

  • Such lovely photos! Interesting stone slabs you have in your garden. I’m wondering about your property’s history and what those slabs have to do with it. I’m sure they were cut and formed for something. How long have they been there and why were they left there??

    • I have no idea, but we too are curious! All I know is the previous family who owned the house bought it in the 1930’s and she was an avid collector of old stone, especially old stone fireplaces. I think many she brought here, goodness only knows how, but they are certainly local, and then she left them in the garden, which is where we find large pieces today! xx

  • I can almost smell your garden. I just came in from the garden after watering pots of boxwood. At this time of year it’s easy to forget about them, because nothing else need watering. Yes, spring is so magical, because it seems as if we have been waiting so long for it’s arrival.
    As always
    Ali xx

  • Oh, how gorgeous… you are several steps ahead of us, although here in the Mid-Atlantic US we have had erratic bursts of spring with cold, gray, damp days in between. Although we’ve had some odd weather the last few years, my memory of March and April over the (now many) years has been that way. Some of the worst snowstorms of my childhood and adolescence were in March, starting with the year I was born. That being said, we are ALL ready for spring, and I’m very excited to see the birds flitting about and the buds on the trees beginning to swell. It will never be France, of course, but it will be lovely in its own way.

    • We have the same erratic weather here, we have had full on summer heat and now we are back to almost winter it seems, further inland than us they even had a frost a couple of nights ago, quite unheard of in May! xx

  • Our garden is farther along than yours….but it is my favorite time. When the flowers burst open and the bluebirds are there chattering at us…
    I too have been digging in the dirt…something about getting your hands into it….it wakes us up!
    Enjoy!
    Nancy
    wildoakdesigns.blogspot.com

  • How interesting! French poppies look nothing like American poppies but more like our tulips … Lovely story.

  • It‘s really hard to believe that in the short time since we were at your place and now, all this opening up, blooming, coming forward has happened. We can‘t say that we are here at the same place with the events unfolding, although we are FAR ahead of Switzerland where the poor things have had a brutal return to winter last week while I joyfully sent out photos and snaps of my wonderful spring garden with exploding tulips, the first bluebells, and huge rugs of wild violets, nicely colour-assorted (if kind of unwanted) with already hundreds of dandelions….. but also invasive weeds I just CANNOT pull out now because today is the FIRST day since 4 weeks that I can say I feel like a person after my suffering….. But so many things can‘t be done and having a good health and being able to bend and carry stuff seem like an even bigger gift than I was already thankful for. Tomorrow it‘s again back to our future home country for 8 days, by my return the marguerites will be showing off their 20cm high stems and some of them are already in bloom. One or two lavender show timid flowers but they are not nearly as developped as yours. Ditto my wisterias, certainly for the simple reason that we cut them back so severely because of my allergy that they hardly dare to grow 😉 I have however already several weeks back cut down some careless tendrils who didn‘t worry about angry neighbours and meant to get down to install themselves in his tree right the other side of the wall…… We once lost a bit of the 100yr old wall to the force and pressing power of a almighty wisteria. It can be an invasive and extremely costly plant 🙂
    I also, for the life of me, can‘t see where you have a pond. Do enlighten me please!
    Reading about your crumbling the soil with your hands made me love you even more instantly. Sadly, it also just brought me a terrible backache too….. I‘m just not made to do hard work (I told God several times but He has no time to listen to my woes!). I‘m hugely satisfied that you found a way to use those old and heavy, and perfectly beautiful stone slabs in such a good way – good on you! It‘s so gratifying to have good neighbours.
    A question to finish here: Haven‘t heard any comments for a long time from our friend Philippe – do you have news? And your American friend Steve (?) who bought a house near you, how is he coming along with his renovations? You see, even being ‚at home‘ due to my being unwell, we didn‘t have time to discuss these friends of yours…. Must come again soon!

    • The pond; right at the junction between the large main garden and the chicken garden. It is my favourite part of the garden, we built it with local stone when we arrived and it is now an absolute haven of wildlife, frogs, toads, you name it. The bench has become everyone’s favourite place to sit! But after bouts of summer weather it is now almost like winter again, too bizarre. xx

  • Lovely, lovely, lovely your gardens. I always look forward to Spring and our garden. Enjoy the renewal season.

  • The young palms sort of stand out. I know they can take harsher climates than here, and they even survive on the very south coast of Oregon, but I do not expect to see a date palm there. Is it a Canary Island date palm, or a fruiting sort that is more tolerant of frost?

    • I believe it is a Canary Island Date Palm. We hardly ever get a frost here, occasionally the odd dusting but usually lemons, geraniums etc can live out all year round. Having said that two years ago we had a really cold snap with snow, almost unheard of here, and everything suffered! xx

  • I love your veggie patch. I am going to be naughty and borrow your idea of stones round the beds. We have raised beds in ours but my new herb garden will be in our grassy garden. This is a nice way to highlight the beds. I love feeling earth too. Amazing how things grow in soil. Just wonderful.

  • I have been visiting you for quite a long time and naturally have admired parts of your garden shown. But have to say a big thank you today for allowing us to see a broader view of it, including looks over the garden fence, so to speak, and understand more fully its quite wide perimeters. No wonder it took you people a few months to get it spring-sorted 🙂 ! And, yes, I love that seat to be scrubbed down very much also ! Weather: methinks the cold-warn to hot-back to cold happens almost everywhere. It is quite common for us to go from a winter 16C daytime temperature to days of close to 40C in September and then with wild winds attendant, drop back to ‘normal’ for the next six weeks or so . . .

    • I am going to try and do a few more tours around the garden, to me it seems so simple but it does have different sections and it is hard to capture it all in a photo! xx

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