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The Grumpy Gardener - June

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.

hedges - manicured or wild?
Manicured Hedges
- Marqueyssac, Dordogne-

What's in a Hedge?

The rural French are great hunter-gatherers.

Whether it be wild mushrooms, blackberries, sloughs or some other delicacy that happens to be in season, many of them love nothing more than to wander through the countryside gathering the freebie of the day.

This month if you happen upon a car parked in some obscure country lane, or someone's bottom protruding from a hedge-row, it is more than likely they will be gathering Ripounchous or wild asparagus. In fact in the south west of the country, the likelihood is that the plant they are gathering is Tamus Communis - which is a wild climber and not really asparagus at all - but having tips which resemble asparagus so closely, that the two have become synonymous.

wild asparagus - mouseover to view clearer image
Wild Asparagus
- mouseover to view clearer image -

"Battered Woman"
The plant, closely related to the yam, sends up tall, bind weed like tendrills, that wind their way up other plants and hedges in particular. Later in the year they will carry shiny red berries that are toxic but the tender shoots are safe to eat. Another common French name is 'femme battues' as the plant was used to make a poultice to treat facial bruising in by-gone times. If you intend giving this delicacy a try, I recommend you go with someone who knows his edible plants so that you are sure you are picking real Ripounchous.

Enfants Terribles
On the more ornamental side of horticulture, why not think about Berberis. There is a huge variety of these shrubs to choose from and I have used them more and more recently, mainly because they are tough, easy to manage and still look good. You often see the purple ones used in mixed hedging, but I have to say that I am not a fan of the mixed hedge. To me a hedge should be a neatly clipped affair of one species in orderly military rows. Mixed hedging with its different colours shapes and heights always reminds me of a queue of unruly children waiting at a bus stop.

wild hedges
Or is this more your idea of a hedge?

Hedge Your Bets
Berberis can make great hedges if you stick to one type, but it is also impressive in pots or in beds where it can be used to contrast with other plants. It comes in colours from lime green to purple with pink splashes. The small flowers vary between bright yellow and orange and many will carry attaractive red berries as well. They are all spiny in varying degrees but in some, the agressive looking thorns add to their attractiveness and as they don't require much maintenance, the thorns are less of a problem then those of roses, for example

Berberis comes in colours from lime green to purple

Ask the Right Questions
One of the main problems with a shrub of such wide colour and size variation, is making sure you have one that will suit your needs and taste requirements. So you will need to really make sure you quiz your 'pepiniere' well, when making your purchase. For flowers try to get Berberis Darwinii with its green leaves and orange flowers. B Thunbergii "Rose Glow" is purple with pink tinges, while "Bonanza Gold" has green/gold leaves and is very compact.

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

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
June 2012

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