Sunday, 20 May 2012

New occupants!

We are very pleased to announce that as of 20th May we seem have a new family which has taken up residence in the bird house. Look out for action pics in the next weeks!
As you can see this is a very 'des res' for any self respecting bird with an eye for a quality life! - photo taken 19th May 2012
The garden is coming to life thanks to the rain mixed with the occasional warm day. We have the first flowers on the Clematis and the roses are covered with buds so June should be colourful.

This is the first year we have had so many flowers on this one

I have installed the retractable sun blind onto the sun terrace at the botton of the cottage garden so all our guests can enjoy both full sun or shade - yes I am sure that big orange ball will reappear at some point and provide heat for days on end.

The new terrace complete with retractable sun blind is starting to look very comfortable and just the place for an evening glass of wine!


Preparations are in hand for our 'Diamond Jubilee English Afternoon tea' on June 3rd for our French neighbours and friends. We already have 27 replies and I am sure more will turn up or reply at the last minute (a French thing!) Our friend from Staffordshire is bringing some real good hand raised pork pies and Maureen will be cooking all sorts of cakes and scones. We have the bunting and flags all prepared so it should be a great if not bizarre day seeing the French enjoy and celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in style.

Last week I was asked to be one of the four bearers at a hamlet funeral. It is a tradition that men from the hamlet carry the coffin on its final journey and I was greatly honoured to be asked to perform this task. As is still the case here in central France the family unit is very important and close consequently the funeral of this well respected old lady was well attended. It appears that after nearly 40 years I must be accepted in the community!


Sunday, 13 May 2012

Well,well,well three holes in the ground

Like many rural houses in France we have an ancient well in the garden of Les Deux Platanes which is recorded in the house deeds. Its covered by two very large and very heavy stone slabs but is fully operational with three pumps installed. The well is 17 metres deep and under normal circumstances has between 5 - 7 metres of water in the bottom. We use the well water for the garden and other cultivation uses. 

This year I thought it would be good to return the well to its former glory although I am sure my construction is not exactly typical of this region. It will however look attractive and add another feature to the cottage garden.
Under construction!
Complete other than the tiles!
The flowers that Maureen planted out a week ago are doing well and I am sure the cottage garden will look very nice for all our many guests this summer.

The early flowers are full of colour

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Planting up for summer 2012

Its been a rather damp spring but Maureen took the opportunity during a warm day to plant up the hanging baskets, pots and tubs so they can now grow and be ready for our next guests arriving in mid May.

The other parts of the cottage garden are developing nicely :

The recent feed and week on the grass appears to have worked well, all it needs now is a cut.

Looking out from the cottage terrace you can see the new terrace down the garden to the left which catches the sun in the evening.
 We have completed quite a lot of work in the past few weeks - despite the rain, and the cottage garden will put on a good show for our visitors - just as well, as we are booked solid from the beginning of June until mid September, and there will be little time for gardening once our guests start arriving. We will manage the grass cutting and weeding during change-overs, but not much more. 

I'm off to Reims tomorrow for 3 days - it's a 6.30am start, with 30 children - wish me luck!


Saturday, 5 May 2012

Developments in the cottage garden

Hooray - Edging compete! : Les Deux Platanes gite has its own separate garden, and over the past two years we have completed a lot of work to make the garden attractive and to improve the facilities. Last year we removed old leylandii trees, built raised flower beds and put the base in for a second terrace. This week, whilst the cottage is not occupied we have also completed all the remaining edging to the lawn and gravel drive / parking areas.
The new edging around the lawn looks great and the gardeners (Maureen & John) are very happy indeed! We have just treated the lawn with feed and weed hence the barrier tape.
New wall: In addition to the edgings we have built a small stone wall at the end of the cottage to make more of a feature of the corner and the small oak tree. the wall stilll requires the capping stones but these will be fitted before the end of June. Our good friends Pete and Sue will remember sitting on this grass many years ago when we started the renovation of the cottage.
The new stone wall and edging at the end of the cottage. Still requires capping stones but looks very nice and its even built with traditional lime mortar.

New Terrace: The cottage garden is a great sun trap in the summer and even in the early and late months of the year the garden is remarkably warm due to its location. In the morning the sun arrives on the front terrace but in the late evening it falls on the bottom of the garden so why not build a terrace so that guests can enjoy a relaxing informal place to sit, eat and enjoy the late evenings here in central France? The new terrace will have a retractable sun blind but you can see it already has some potential even on a chilly May day.
The new terrace! Still have to fit the retractable sun blind but on a hot summers evening can you see yourself sipping a nice glass of wine and reading your favorite book - even on an e-reader!
Other odds and ends

Some other photos from around the cottage garden :

A decorative orb for the corner of the garden make an interesting feature.
I have made a new winding wheel for the well.
The garden is now 99.99 % complete so we are both very happy - I am sure our 2012 guests will enjoy the new features, colour and the space.

Colourful Spring Flowers

Its still early in the garden of les Deux Platanes but the spring flowers are trying very hard to put on a good show despite the rain and wind we have experienced in abundance this year. 

Our first guests for this year were from Australia and although they did not enjoy the best of weather the cottage garden provided some colour in contrast to the rather gloomy sky.
Columbines (Aquilegia) in lots of colours
2 late flowering tulips under the trees
This camelia flower withstood the rain
1 of the rhododendrons just starting to flower
This lovely bouganvilla was a present for my birthday

Those who follow this BLOG will know we have over 200 plants growing in pots ready to go into the garden and all the hanging baskets etc. Maureen started this week on the task of planting up troughs, hanging baskets and flowering tubs plus a few found their way into the borders. In addition I have noticed some new flowering shrubs and bushes which have appeared!!! How did Maureen sneak these past my eagle eyes? All of the tubs etc are still in the greenhouse or in the barn until the weather improves but I am sure that before the end of May everything will be in place for all the guests arriving over the summer months.

Wine Fair : We do not spend all of our time in the garden - a recent wine fair in Chinon provided an opportunity to try some new wines and enjoy a lovely fine and sunny day in this beautiful and historic town.

The town was full of tents from the hundreds of vignerons in  the area, the wine was all free after you bought a special commemorative wine glass for 4 Euros!