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The Grumpy Gardener - July

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
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

An Apology...

Let me start this month by apologising to those readers who were offended by my referring to gut bucketed and pot-bellied birds.

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)

Pot-bellied Chuffinch - aka cherry-picker
Pot-bellied Chuffinch
- 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 every time.

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.

Lychinis coronia
Lychinis coronia

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 elsewhere.

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
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 year.

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...
To pop up a previous article - click an image -
You've got to be quick!

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

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