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The Grumpy Gardener - October

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
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.

Bunnies Ears
Stachys byzantina
- Silver edging borders -

Jihad on the Bunnies Ears?

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.

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.

Silver Edging Borders
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 .

Spring Flowering Bulbs
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.

Crocus Romance
Crocus 'Romance'

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 

'Renaldo' and Large Pots
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.

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

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
October 2011

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