One of the things we really liked about this house when we were house hunting was the size of the garden. Big enough to grow some flowers and a few vegetables but not too huge. Some of the properties we looked at had vast amounts of land, including orchards and vegetable plots. We felt we needed something that was easy enough to look after while we were in residence and not so big that it would be a nightmare to tame if we had been away for a few weeks. In that sense we got the perfect house and we are very pleased with the garden.
Our last major project in improving the house has been to repair this wall. It’s on the end of what we call the “little house”, the spare outbuilding or barn that is potentially another dwelling, or “maison des amis”, that is ripe for renovation. Virtually every house we looked at had one of these. We don’t really need an extra house so we use the space as garden storage, but we have always intended to get the wall fixed and finally it came to the top of our list.
Chipping off the old render revealed some interesting stonework underneath and this has been preserved in the finished wall. We love it, Nick is very proud of it and it makes a huge difference to the ambience under the wooden shelter where we eat outdoors in the shade on warm, sunny days. The new wall makes the area look cleaner, brighter and generally more pleasant to sit in.
Nick is the gardener of the house. I tend to mention plants that I like and he finds sensible alternatives that we can actually grow in our soil, which is mostly clay. We were very impressed with a display of alliums with huge pom poms at a nearby château a few years ago and Nick found something similar that was more in proportion with our garden.
They have been in flower for quite a long time and even when the flowers turn into seeds they still look attractive and interesting plants.
We both love roses, especially fragrant ones. This one we call Lulu’s rose. It was a gift from our friends Tim and Gaynor last summer after she had died and we planted it close to her favourite spot for snoozing in the sunshine.
This climbing rose, which has large, blousy blooms, has a very strong scent and we get a waft of it every time we go in and out of the house.
This climbing rose has grown from a cutting taken from one we grew over the front of the little cottage that we had in the village.
Both of these have been grown from cuttings of roses in our old house in the UK, a lovely memento of the garden we had there.
These two were purchases from French supermarkets. Roses are very expensive in France and we tend to swoop if we come across any plants that are reasonably priced, plant them in the garden and hope for the best. These have done very well for cheap roses.
We call this one Barrie’s rose. It was a gift to me from him and his partner Edith when I retired in 2013. It’s a fabulous vivid pink colour and I treasure it. We still miss Barrie – it’s now two years since he died and this rose reminds us what a good friend he was. We have many happy memories of times spent with him in our little house in Le Grand-Pressigny, mostly of us all sitting on the terrace, a glass of wine in hand, discussing this and that as the sun went down, the swifts went in and the bat formation team came out. Happy days.
This rose is in the hedge along the boundary. The hedge was a scruffy ramshackle collection of overcrowded shrubs, trees and bushes when we moved in and we have gradually thinned it out and allowed some of the better plants to thrive. This has done really well after being allowed to grow and breathe.
Of course we have other plants than just roses. The fabulous poppies came from Nicole and the clematis was also there when we moved in, choked by surrounding ivy and other unattractive bushes that almost covered the front of the house. The pelargonium is a new purchase. We lost all our geraniums over the winter – the prolonged cold spell did for all of them so we’re having to start again this year.
There are a few fruit trees in the garden. The cherry tree has a good crop of cherries this year and we’re hoping to get to them before the birds do this time. We planted a gooseberry bush last year and it’s produced a few fruit which are almost ready for picking. We have grown broad beans for the second year and they are also almost ready – just as we finish the last year’s beans from the freezer which have kept us going over the winter.
The weather forecast for this week spurred us on to get the garden into shape for the summer. Two warm, dry, sunny days were predicted, with little wind. It has been a very windy year so far but for two days we could get on with the work, mowing, hedge trimming, potting up the geraniums and tidying with only a light breeze to cool us down.
Then the forecast changed. By Wednesday lunchtime we were supposed to be having strong gusts of wind, heavy showers and even hail. So we were up early to get the job finished before the storm hit. Daisy watched from her usual vantage point in the roof of the shelter as we toiled away. As we drove to the tip with the trailer full of rubbish the temperature hit 29°C.
Gradually the blue skies disappeared and heavy clouds formed, coming in from the west. The temperature dropped by 10° and a strong wind started to blow. Luckily the storm arrived later than expected and I had time to fetch my washing in – dried by the sun and ironed by the wind – before the first raindrops fell.
It has now been raining, on and off, for twenty four hours. The rain is much needed for our garden – which is now ready to go for the summer. When the rain stops !!