In this part of the French News Online "Lifestyle" Section,
professional gardener Mike Alexander, takes out his field
glasses for a closer look at the battlefield.
Close observation is one of the great assets of a good
gardener. This was brought home to me recently when I failed to notice a series of holes in the leaves of my
Stachys byzantina until it looked like they had been caught up in some sort of fire fight involving automatic weapons.
- Silver edging borders -
I was fairly certain that no militant group operating in rural France would carry out a jihad on my Bunnies Ears, so I took a closer look. The culprits as it turned out, were baby snails which had taken a liking to the grey leaved plants so I quickly set about waging a jihad of my own before the problem got any worse.
I use Stachys a lot as it gives a very definite silver
edge to borders and other than the occasional snail attack is
relatively hassle free and drought tolerant. A member of the
same family as mint it's close relative Stachys officinalis
was used by the physician to Augustus Caesar as it was said to
preserve the liver and protect bodies of from epidemical
diseases and witchcraft. I am not sure that byzantina has the
same effect but there have been no witches in my area since I
began planting it here some years ago. I cut off the flower
spikes and instead just focus on the foliage but this is a
matter of personal choice and bumble bees will certainly be
grateful if you let them flower .
This month you need to think about planting out spring flowering
bulbs if you have not already done so. Although tulips can be
held back till November, as they are prone to rotting, other
bulbs are best planted sooner.
Each year I plant a few more bulbs and gradually spring becomes
more and more of a colourful affair. Personally I steer clear of
the packets of mixed bulbs so loved by suppliers. I know they
claim this is in response to public demand but I always get the
sneaking suspicion that this is really a way of getting rid of
stock that might otherwise not sell. This year I will be trying
several packets of a crocus called 'Romance' which came at a
romantically cheap price and which I can now plant in small
swathes in one of my clients gardens. I have kept a series of
bulb maps so I don't end up planting on top of previous years
bulbs or of creating a mixed bag of my own
For Tulips I am planting 'Renaldo' into large pots. These
elegant almost black flowered plants can be brought out just as
they flower and then removed as they go over giving great impact
on patios and terraces. I am also planting some Ixia into pots
although this time I have mixed in a lot of sand as theses South
African beauties hate to be in soggy soil.
Ixia - not frost tolerant
There are two schools of thought with Ixias, which are not very
frost tolerant. One is plant them now and keep them sheltered
and the other is to hold back planting until March. I have been
lucky with the first option and will let you know next year how
they have done.