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.
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
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.
Pretty in Pink
Pretty in Pink Or Summertime
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.
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.
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.
- click an image below
Prune for Results
A World Without Bees?
Fruit Tree Pruning
Wars of the Roses
Prune When Finished
Herald of Spring...
You've got to be quick!
Grasp the Nettle
Star Jasmine - Madrid
Jihad - on Bunnies Ears
Gravity - not to be ignored!
If Winter Comes....
Hottest chilli in the world
Fleur de Lys
Hedge Your Bets
On the Wild Side
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.
Other Lifestyle Stories
The Last Waters
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
Story - click this link
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
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
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
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
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
Lifestyle - Food
... and Vanilla Custard Tarts - another delicious recipe from Vivienne
- click here