In this part of the French News Online "Lifestyle" Section,
professional gardener Mike Alexander, takes us, gently, through
those tasks you should be tackling in the garden this month.
Lavender - drought beater
Let me start this month by apologising to those readers who
were offended by my referring to gut bucketed and pot-bellied
I have apologised personally to all the birds concerned and after
your comments I now realise how insensitive I was. (And I thought
I was the grumpy one)
- cherry-picker extraordinaire -
Normally at this time of year I am suffering from a severe limp
as a result of having forgotten to get the mower serviced over
the winter thus forcing me to use a method known as the assisted
restart system (ARS). When a mower fails to start after several
attempts then I resort to ARS which involves swearing loudly at
the reluctant machine for several minutes, before giving it a
severe kick (hence the limp). It is a fail proof system and regardless
of any lack of scientific evidence as to it's efficacy it works
With the drought that has touched much of the country this year
I have been doing less mowing and my time instead has been taken
up with trying to keep plants healthy despite the lack of water.
Mulching really comes into it's own under these conditions and
I try to lay down at least five centimetres of mulch to already
dampened soil. The local decheterie give away free compost in
our area and although light in nutrients it makes an excellent
mulch, great for conditioning soil and helping to retain moisture
as well as keeping down weeds. If you can't get hold of this free
product then garden compost or leaf mould will serve just as well.Try
to leave a small well at the base of each plant to avoid rotting
of the stem.
My move to more Mediterranean type plants has really paid off
this season. The drought has hardly touched them and if they start
to look a bit wilted a small quantity of water from a watering
can soon perks them up. I took a leaf out of Beth Chatto's book
and used swathes of Lychinis coronia and the effect has been impressive.
These grey leafed plants are often seen growing in ones and twos
and they lack effect like this, despite the brilliant plum red
flowers. When planted in tight groups the effect is much more
dramatic and a bit of dead heading keeps them flowering for weeks.
They are virtually hassle free and though they self seed rather
readily seedlings can easily be hoed out or potted up and used
Many of the other grey leaved plants also hold up well in dry
heat. Try Stachys byzantina which the French call "oreilles
de lapin" or Santolina chamaecyparissus. To be effective
it is best to put grey plants against a darker backdrop and both
of these plants contrast well with the purple of Berberis or dark
greens like Abelia.
Lavender feature - nearly ready!
As far as lavender is concerned the Lavandula angustifolia I
use a lot of, has not even noticed there has been a drought this