Category Archives: vegetable garden

Flowers and more flowers

Having read my blogger friend Loulou’s post about roses, there’s obviously a transcontinental love of the rose going on. And let’s face it, what’s not to love?

IMG_0532This is one I planted this year – I have only one rose bush (the one with the pink and cream flowers I showed you yesterday) and I’m already in love with the colour of this new one. They may be blousy and trampy and ostentatious and showy, they may be the over-cultivated, needy Marilyn of the flower world, but I love them. And with colours like a tropical sunset, you can see why.

My favourite non-fruit tree is also in flower. Is it weird to have a favourite tree? I’m such a tree hugger. This is the Indian Bean tree flower or the flower of Catalpa bignonioides for the fancy-pants botanists among you.


Its flowers are not unlike my favourite wild flower, bastard balm (seriously!) which smells of cherry almond bakewells and looks like a pretty little orchid. This tree is huge – another thing I love about having lots of space here – who gets to own a huge tree in their life? The bark is gorgeously ap-peeling and the heart-shaped leaves are just as lovely. It’s the last thing to get leaves and one of the first to lose them, but it is well worth waiting for.

Yesterday, I spent the morning in the garden. It got too hot for gardening after 12pm and I’m a wuss; I could have carried on in the shade but was feeling the effects of doing five hours outside. It’s delicious at 7am. At midday, it’s only fit for mad dogs.


Guess who will be making plum sauce for her Chinese food later in the year?

I managed to finish the brassica patch and move on to hoeing the big patch. I noticed that there is a tiny little corn growing on one of the mini-pop corn already. I can’t wait. I love the cute little blonde hairdos the corn sport. The brassica patch is looking decidedly forlorn without its weeds. I need to plant in some stuff to fill the gaps. That’ll be a job for tomorrow morning, I think. I tied in and trimmed back 30 vines – the rest will get done over the next week unless the weather gets really too hot to handle. I did think about putting up a parasol over the bit I was working on, but it seemed like a lot of faff. I’m a worker butterfly. I prefer to flit from task to task doing a bit here and a bit there. I don’t have the patience to sit things out and be a perfectionist. It’s a good job because a gardener has little time to be a perfectionist; it’ll drive you crazy in trying.

pumpkin flower

The pumpkins are also putting out flowers, though they have yet to set fruit.

I easily slipped back into the habit of 7-11 outside, then spending the afternoon either inside or seeking shade. Today, I even had the luxury of spending a glorious hour on a sunbed under a parasol with a book. Wonders will never cease. Still, it’s no rest for the wicked because the rest of the exam papers get ‘released’ today and it turns into a colossal bunfight over who can mark the most before they all run out. On Saturday, I have a helper arrive – can’t wait! – for a week, and then another from the 23rd, as well as a friend or two en route to other places. It’s a good job the weeds and grass slow down from here on in, because the temperature looks set to stick at 26°C or above for the next two weeks (as well it should at this time of year!) and it gets a little sweaty out under the Charentais sun.

Is it crazy I’ve been thinking of getting up at 6am to go out and garden?

Où sont les arrosoirs?

I’m making the most of this time between papers and students to get out and try to whip the garden under control. Not so easy in 32°C. Weird considering it was 17°C maximum last Wednesday and it rained most of the day. Less than a week’s worth of summer weather and it feels like it’s been summer forever.

I try to do as much as I can before 11am – walk the dogs, weed… it gets too hot afterwards. I’ve mostly weeded back the brassica patch, but it’s been heavily eaten by creatures of the crawling variety. Plus, I’ve been heavy handed with the weeding, so I pulled up a lot of spring onions by mistake. Some of the seeds I sowed directly haven’t taken, so I’m planting some late veg – swedes and bok choi. Today, I’m going to be pulling out the broad beans and putting in a row of parsnips. It’s a little late but we’ll see.

The big patch will be next. There’s a lot of stuff coming up…

IMG_0527This is a square of corn with pumpkins at their feet… there’s two rows of tomatoes behind them, then some peppers and chilis behind those.  But it is in need of hoeing and weeding. There’s a little space left alongside the dragonesque cardoons

IMG_0478These are a totally statuesque plant and are forming a great border between patches. Not sure why more people don’t grow them as ornamentals because they’re magnificent. On the roundabout in La Rochefoucauld (I know, illustrious!) there’s a few planted in a gorgeous, gorgeous flowerbed. I always mean to take some photographs but I’m sure everyone will look at me like I’m completely craaaaaazy. Like it’s acceptable to take photos of my adopted home town’s flowers, as long as they are doing pretty things and not adorning a roundabout near a supermarket.

It’s the flowers that are the stars at the moment though. The hollyhocks are starting and the roses are in full bloom. I mean to plant some darker hollyhocks, as I have every shade from Deep Purple (just like saying that because of the band…) to a Whiter Shade of Pale (I started, so…)


Today will be an early start to see if I can get the brassicas weed-free and then to get on with the mowing. There’s a lot of stuff that needs weeding, so it’s just weed, weed, weed right now. You wouldn’t believe how fast those things grow. If human beings could eat weeds, we’d have no need for GM crops and we’d not be considering how we can introduce insects into our diet more regularly, just so we could sustain a gargantuan population. If only crab grass were edible…

I suspect I am three or four weeks off a first crop of tomatoes. It’s late, but you know what they say. The mini-pop corn are in flower and the big boy corn doesn’t look far behind. Beetroot are fattening up nicely, carrots are looking good. None of the onions have gone to seed and I might be able to harvest a few in a couple of weeks. Roll on harvest!

And unless something terrible occurs, the plums are definitely going to make up for the spoilt cherries. I’ve already had to prop a few branches up – they’re that heavy with babies. I’ll also get all the vines tied in over the next couple of days – bit of a slog to do 150. Luckily, I have more helpxrs arriving in the next couple of weeks. Not sure they will be as fun or as lovely as Shannon and Marcus though! It’s one of the benefits of opening up your house to passers-by – you get to meet lovely people and see their bit of the world as they tell you their stories.

Better get out there and get on with it. I’ve a huge jobs list. If it’s as hot as it was yesterday, I might have drowned in a pool of sweat by evening. I sense a long, cold bath at the end of it all. Bliss!