Monday, 28 May 2012

Ena struts her funky stuff

This weekend's bunch of guests has gone home, all happy and content.  So I'm left to contemplate the rose that I have been quietly admiring all weekend.  Pruning is worth the effort!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The wood-wide web

At the oriental garden (see below) there was the inevitable tea and souvenir shop.  Browsing the gardening books I came across a book about trees, discussing them from an aspect I had not seen before:  rather than being a catalogue of different tree types and how to grow them, it discussed general aspects of tree growth and form, what to look for and how to recognise certain features.

I like trees and the subject was new to me, so I bought the book.  It's not a profound read, and I got through it in an afternoon, but I learned some things I did not know before.  I had always thought, from way back in childhood, that a tree's root system extends more or less as far as the edge of the leaf canopy.  Not true, apparently: the roots can extend 3 or 4 times the diameter of the canopy and they are for the most part within 30cm of the surface.  Even the deepest water-gathering roots rarely penetrate down more than 4 meters deep.

Also, it was discovered as recently as 1996 that nearby trees of the same species will often (usually) interconnect their roots for mutual sustenance.   For example a tree beside a river will sustain its cousins farther away during periods of drought, and an adult tree is able to nourish its own saplings.  (This phenomenon has not been seen between trees of different species)

So the young Walnut trees along my road are probably interconnected already.  Some are possibly going to have to be cut down in future since they are too close together.  But the network of roots means that putting stump killer on the remaining stumps will be a bad idea; it might harm or kill the other Walnuts beside it, via the root system.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


We spent the weekend in and around Cholet. There is an oriental garden there that you can visit in the evening so we decided to stay the Saturday night. The drive down in the morning was uneventful, stopping off at a McDonalds for a much-needed coffee when we got off the motorway. Mac's is the only place I have found in France that makes a reliably good cappuccino.  

On to Cholet town centre that was modern, French and functional, with lunch in an excellent seafood restaurant off the main square. Strongly recommended, called "L'écailler" should you ever find yourself in Cholet and in want of a lunch. You wouldn't look twice at it walking past but the food was excellent. 18 euros a head for 2 courses, plus a glass of wine for both of us, coffee for me and a crème brulée for Anita.

The gardens open in the afternoon. I can sometimes find oriental gardens to be a bit over-fussy, too manicured, leaving me feeling constrained and frustrated. Not this one. Many wonderful vistas along a watercourse, designed to reflect the stages of a person's life. Here's some pictures.

I also liked the way you could buy an annual ticket for 27 euros - ideal for locals. At some time, lack of energy, health or finance might mean I will one day be living without a garden of my own, and a season ticket like that seems to me to be an ideal way of enjoying a garden without the effort.

After the afternoon opening, you can come back later on in the evening at dusk for a night-time visit. To kill the time we soaked up the local French culture and got deeper into the oriental atmosphere with an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and karaoke at the Panda Wok. But the late visit was very worthwhile, the atmosphere in the garden is completely different, quite serene. We were all given little Chinese lanterns to walk around with, to light the way, and haiku poems were posted around to give us something to think about. And Venus was amazingly bright (see post below).

Venus and bamboo

Friday, 11 May 2012


For much of March and early April, the weather here was unseasonably warm, dry and sunny, and news programs were starting to feature gloomy farmers predicting crop failure if the drought continued.  The last four or five weeks have been the wettest since the 1950s, with around twice the average rainfall for the time of year.  I am waiting with bated breath for news programs featuring gloomy farmers predicting crop failure if the deluge continues.

Meanwhile the garden is growing like topsy and it's difficult to keep up with the growth of plants, weeds and the lawn.  The first of the Iris are out though, and here's a few pictures.

Other news is that the Canna Lillies and Dahlias that I left in the ground over Winter have survived despite the -15°C minimum temperatures. They were protected by a layer of wood shreddings about 6 inches thick, which I guess from the result, must have been enough. I will do that again. We should have had the last of the frosts by now, so the Tomatoes and other tender plants are going outside to their permanent homes.
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