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The Grumpy Gardener - May

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.

Heading for a foire aux plants? Cistus Sylvatica looks great at this time of year
Cistus Sylvatica looks great at this time of year

Plant Fair Frenzy

This is the one month in the year when we thrifty gardeners can't resist getting our wallets out, undoing the screws that have held them closed for the past eleven months and going a little wild.

This is the month of the foire aux plants and I can't drive past one without at least having a little nose around. Before you can say "get back in the car or I'll divorce you" I'm elbowing other zombie-eyed gardeners aside in a desperate attempt to spend my money quicker than they do.

Abandon the Dog
As I race backward and forward between car park and plant stands, forcing more and more plants into my vehicle, it starts to look like the inside of the tropical house at Kew. A sort of buying frenzy has set in and before you know it the rest of the family are convinced I'm trying to give Emelda Marcos, let loose in Jimmy Choos, a run for her money. The windows of the car steam up from the inside and without an inch of space left I am forced to abandon the dog and scrounge a lift home for the wife and child from a neighbour whom we normally never talk to for reasons I won't go into here. (OK before you start with the hate mail, I'm joking about the dog).

Here's the sad part. When you finally get home, to a family which has decided you're quite nuts, you spend hours unloading the plants which as reality slowly hits you, you then begin to wonder why you bought in the first place. Half of them will have lost their labels so you can't identify them, your courtyard garden is way too small for a giant Redwood and after unloading six different types of chilli you remember no one in the house will eat the things anyway.

Paeonies - doing well
Paeonies - doing well this year

Going Mediterranean
This year I intend to be far more focused in my buying. Paeonies did very well this season with no rain to damage the blooms and I am searching for a new copper coloured one I have heard about. I am gradually weaning my clients toward more Mediterranean plants at the moment. I am not sure if global warming is really having an effect in our gardens but the tougher plants of southern Europe cope much better with the thin soil and frequent droughts around here. Artemisia, with it's grey foliage can look very attractive especially if used as a backdrop for some of the alliums which can also handle dry conditions. Cistus Sylvatica looks great at this time of year as do some of the potentillas particularly P. Fruiticosa which will flower well into summer.

Artemisia - makes a great backdrop

Many of the gardens you will see in France are very much spring gardens and I put this down to the fact that a lot of plant buying is done on impulse and because the plant is in flower now and looks attractive. Try extending your season by buying plants that will flower later in the season. Among these are the Russian sage Perovskia or a great shrub salvia that goes by the charming name of "Hotlips".

Salvia - Hotlips

To help you join my spending spree take a look at this website - in French - which shows where to find 500 foire aux plants in 2011 all linked by town and département to a map of France...

Link: Foire aux Plants - France

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
To view a previous
Grumpy Gardener article
- click an image -
Prune When Finished

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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