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The Grumpy Gardener - December

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
In his regular column for French News Online "Lifestyle" Section, professional gardener Mike Alexander, marks the coming of winter as he tackles his autumn tasks.

wellington boot - fashionable?
The Wellington Boot
- fashion statement? -

Gardening Chic?

Open any gardening magazine at this time of year and out will drop several brochures advertising the latest "can't live without" gardening accessories. The one I am most fond of shows a photo of an extremely debonair looking man leaning against a gate and regally surveying the world around him. He is clad in a designer outfit which, if tallied up, comes out at several hundred Euros worth of chic gardening attire.

Now as far as I am concerned he will remain debonair and chic looking just as long as he remains leaning against that gate. Should he venture to doing any gardening then things will quickly start to go horribly wrong. Soon his comfortable tan work trousers will be mud splattered and dyed brown at the knees, his all weather jacket will be attached to several kilometres of brambles while the outrageously expensive welly boots (they don't call them that) will have started to leak water and squelch just like my 20 euro pair.

The Wellington Boot
- or an essential accessory! -

Gardening is simply not an occupation for those who put a great deal of store in their appearance and I strongly advise people who garden to take an interest in well established designer labels such as the Salvation Army and Oxfam whose wonderful outlets are ideal resources for comfortable gardeners' clothing that won't bust your wallet.

Colour in Short Supply
It is a tricky time of year for the poor glossy gardening magazines with so little visual stimuli in the garden. There are a couple of real colour boosters though, both in the berry department. Hollies come into their own now as do those prickly gardener stabbing pyracantha. Both can be a source of really colourful berries and some of the hollies make up for a lack of bright fruit with an eye catching display of variegated foliage.


To get the most out of your pyracantha it is essential to prune at the right time of year. Both the red berried P. atalantioides and the yellow P. atlantioides 'Aurea' should be pruned after flowering in June cutting back shoots but trying to leave as many berries as possible.

Hollies can be bought either for fruit or for their foliage. For a great display all year round try Ilex aquifolium 'Golden Queen'.

Ilex aquifolium 'Golden Queen'
Ilex aquifolium
- 'Golden Queen'

If on the other hand it is the bright fruit you are after then you need to remember that most hollies are self sterile and therefore there needs to be a male plant somewhere in the vicinity if the female is to carry fruit. The most notable exception is 'J.C.Van Toll' which is self pollinating.

Gender Benders
Your pepiniere ought to be able to tell you which are male and which are female plants but here in lies the catch. Some of the hollies with names such as 'Silver Queen' are actually male whilst 'Golden King' is female. (If this is a little confusing try thinking of Freddy Mercury) This combined with the fact that the genus ranges from small shrubs to large trees means you need to do a little research needs before buying.

Previously - click an image below
To read February's gardening tips article - click this image
Is a world without bees possible? Read about this crisis that will affect us all - click here
Prune for Results
A World Without Bees?
What you should have done in January!
Prune your roses - click here
Fruit Tree Pruning
Wars of the Roses
Grumpy Gardener April - It's War Out There. Click to view
Click to read this article
Prune When Finished
Herald of Spring...
click to read Grumpy's july  tips
You've got to be quick!
Un-thirsty Lavender
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Grasp the Nettle
Star Jasmine - Madrid
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Jihad - on Bunnies Ears
Autumn Arrives

Grumpy Gardener
Our Grumpy Gardener has been gardening professionally in France for more years than he cares to remember and before that in Africa and the UK. Today he happily shares his expertise with French News Online readers. Your gardening questions are welcome and while they may not be individually answered, they may form the basis of future monthly columns.

Article: Mike Alexander
December 2011

Other Lifestyle Stories


Winemaker, American expatriate Ryan O'Connell of O'Vineyards, writes about his much loved corner of France - Languedoc. Click here for the full story

A Languedoc Domaine
The story of American expatriate Ryan O'Connell and his family, who now own a Languedoc-Rousillion vineyard that is becoming hard not to notice...
Full Story - click this link

The Outsiders

Full story - click here

Domaine Jones
Expat Katie Jones is making a name for herself as a winemaker... and she is just one of a group of Languedoc vineyard owners now known as... The Outsiders
Full Story - click this link

Tree House Break

To read this article - click here
The High Life

Taking time out from his regular column, our Grumpy Gardener, takes a family break in a tree house and yes he left all the tools of the trade behind him.
Full Story - click here

A French Obsession?

Chocolate - the latest in investor chic, or just a taste obsession - click here for story

Whilst not actually invented by the French, chocolate, in all its forms, has long been a national passion... an obsession even...
Full Story - click this link

Odile de Changy Lingerie

Odile de Changy Lingerie - full story click here

A new Paris boutique lifts creamy curtains to the line of classically beautiful lingerie by Odile de Changy.
Full Story - click this link

Couture Café

Couture Cafe - full story - click here

So farewell then Cybercafé and hello Singercafé, at least that’s what they’re saying in the capital’s 10th arrondissement after France’s Vogue magazine, no less, praised the initiative of two Paris residents for bringing back the sweatshop.
Full Story - click this link

Fresh Ginger

Click here to read this delicious recipe
Fresh Ginger

Fresh ginger for Gingerbread Men for the Christmas Tree, of course! A great recipe to get the kids involved with the Christmas feast. Bake them with a hole... hang them on the tree! Here's how...
Recipe - click here

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