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The Grumpy Gardener - August

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
In his regular column for French News Online "Lifestyle" Section, professional gardener Mike Alexander copes well with his August visitors, as he admires his Hydrangea August garden.

Blue Hydrangeas
Summertime Blues

Summertime Blues
... or Pretty in Pink?

I expect that like me many of you have been hosting visitors this summer. Having a house in France does wonders to boost one's popularity.

Greener Grass?
What never fails to amaze is that all these visitors talk with such awe and wonder about our beautiful living environment and pleasant lifestyles and yet they still return to their own worlds even while speaking disparagingly of them whilst here. I suppose that at the end of the day the higher earning potential and security of a familiar environment generally wins out over holiday passions. I tend to agree more with Cicero, who is said to have written: "all one needs for happiness is a library and a garden", though I might be inclined to throw in a few bottles of Bordeaux and ideally someone a bit more supple to help with the weeding - a struggling student battling to pay her tuition fees who may prefer weeding to pole dancing perhaps?

Wet and Dry
Last year I wrote a lot about dry weather plants and conditions, so naturally this year turns out to be one of the wettest on record. Whilst that may not entirely have fitted with my writing it has certainly helped the Hydrangeas which are looking wonderful this year and show every sign of continuing to do so. It is a large and varied genus of plants but the ones we are most familiar with are the macrophylla type which includes the Mopheads, called Hortensia in French, and the Lacecap group.

Pink hydrangeas
Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink… Or Summertime Blues?
Both of these plants require fertile well drained soil and can tolerate partial shade. Under acid conditions the flowers will be blue but otherwise they tend to be pink or white. For some reason everyone who has one on these plants wants it to be the colour that they don't have and I am often asked about adding Epsom salts etc to gain the required tinge. The colour can be changed to blue by adding acid which can be bought in the form of bluing powder but will revert back to its natural colour once the chemical leaches out of the soil so the process needs to be repeated regularly if that is really what you require.

Don't Forget
Pruning is really important with these shrubs and I have had a wonderful example of that this season when I pruned half a row of them for a client this spring. Having watched me do the first half she decided to tackle the second half herself but promptly forgot. Now that they are in flower the difference is really obvious and there must be five times as many flower heads on the plants that were pruned.

Summers End
At the end of summer don't cut back but let the old wood act as frost protection over the winter. Leave the dead heads on if you can tolerate the untidiness and only cut them back in March when you can cut out any weak or dead wood and cut new growth back by about thirty centimetres to just above the swollen looking flower buds. After that mulch well with garden compost and you can look forward to a good display in the summer.

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!
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Grumpy contemplates the winter garden
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Grumpy contemplates the winter garden
If Winter Comes....
Hottest chilli in the world
Dogs and Daffodils... full story - click this image
The iris and Madame la Guillotine... full story - click this image
Dog Days...
Fleur de Lys
Hedge You Bets - how do YOU like your hedges... full story - click this image
wild thing...
Hedge Your Bets
On the Wild Side

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
August 2012

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