We work for you, the property buyer, not the seller - click here for details
French News Online Logo - click to go to home page
Click to subscribe to the free French News Online newsletterwww.french-news-online.com
The Grumpy Gardener - February

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
In his regular column for French News Online "Lifestyle" Section, professional gardener Mike Alexander, waxes lyrical as he contemplates his February garden.


If Winter Comes...

February is the month that gardening seems to slumber.

If I were honest about what I will be doing for much of this month this piece would be about tidying sheds and cleaning tools but I am not sure that that would make much of a read.

So when not busy on these boring but necessary tasks I will be adding rich compost to beds on any day when the soil is not frozen. In my opinion it is just about impossible to treat such a valuable raw material too well. Directly or indirectly soil supports most of the planet's life forms. In France alone, there are over ten thousand different soil types and it takes over five hundred years to form just two centimetres of top soil. Combine this with the fact that many of our antibiotics are made from micro organisms within it and ten percent of the world's carbon emissions are stored in it perhaps overall, soil should be treated with more respect.

Earth to Earth
One gram can contain up to seven thousand species of bacteria while a shovel full of healthy earth will contain more living things than all the humans ever born. If that sort of overcrowding is not a good reason for gardeners keeping their tetanus vaccinations up to date then I don't know what is. As the Greek philosopher Xenophones once said:

"For all things come from earth, and all things end up becoming earth."

I seldom use anything but natural products on any of the beds I work. A mulch of compost at least twice a year, a handful of bone meal when planting and an occasional supplement of fish or blood meal if something needs a boost will suffice to keep most plants in good health. Well rotted manure is great for bigger shrubs such as roses or for feeding fruit trees at the beginning of spring and I have sung the praises of mulching with leaf mould in earlier articles.

I have yet to meet a gardener with perfect soil. Perhaps this is because to admit perfect soil would be to eliminate a major excuse for not having perfect plants. It is the gardeners equivalent of "leaves on the tracks" which is the catch all excuse certain rail companies would rather not be without.

pineapple sage (Salvia elegans)
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

A Unseasonal Season
It has been a bit of a bizarre winter this year and I don't remember it having been this mild for so long. Many plants that should have gone over long ago are still thriving and my Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) which shrivels at the slightest frost was still flowering in mid January. I eventually cut it back with flowers still showing so that I could fleece it against the frost that surely must come.

Eventually the drably grey environment we presently inhabit will start to brighten up. Snowdrops (Galanthus) are already through and celandines (Ranunculus figaria) won't be far behind.


Each touch of colour brings a little hope and quite soon now we will be able to at least imagine that spring is not far off.

"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Jihad - on Bunnies Ears
Autumn Arrives
Designer chic or neccessity? - click here for full story
To read this article - click here
Designer Chic?
Gravity - not to be ignored!

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
February 2012

Other Lifestyle Stories


Alambic distilling... an outlawed science?... a dying art? Full story - click here?
Alambic Still

The Last Waters of Life
Making moonshine is illegal almost everywhere. However in France, if you can find an itinerant distiller, you can still enjoy the fruits of your labour in a spirit-warming form. But for how much longer...?
Full Story - click this link


Winemaker, American expatriate Ryan O'Connell of O'Vineyards, writes about his much loved corner of France - Languedoc. Click here for the full story

A Languedoc Domaine
The story of American expatriate Ryan O'Connell and his family, who now own a Languedoc-Rousillion vineyard that is becoming hard not to notice...
Full Story - click this link

The Outsiders

Full story - click here

Domaine Jones
Expat Katie Jones is making a name for herself as a winemaker... and she is just one of a group of Languedoc vineyard owners now known as... The Outsiders
Full Story - click this link

Tree House Break

To read this article - click here
The High Life

Taking time out from his regular column, our Grumpy Gardener, takes a family break in a tree house and yes he left all the tools of the trade behind him.
Full Story - click here

A French Obsession?

Chocolate - the latest in investor chic, or just a taste obsession - click here for story

Whilst not actually invented by the French, chocolate, in all its forms, has long been a national passion... an obsession even...
Full Story - click this link

Odile de Changy Lingerie

Odile de Changy Lingerie - full story click here

A new Paris boutique lifts creamy curtains to the line of classically beautiful lingerie by Odile de Changy.
Full Story - click this link

Couture Café

Couture Cafe - full story - click here

So farewell then Cybercafé and hello Singercafé, at least that’s what they’re saying in the capital’s 10th arrondissement after France’s Vogue magazine, no less, praised the initiative of two Paris residents for bringing back the sweatshop.
Full Story - click this link

To see this delicious recipe from Vivienne Bolton - click here
... with a difference. Try these delicious 'poire de Rocha' pear and cream filled pancakes... adding pear liqueur is definitely an optional extra but... silly not to really!
Recipe - click here

Archived Lifestyle Stories

Jardin de Naris
Santiago de Compostela
Market Day