The first spring

We took over ownership of the French house at the end of November 2015, still pinching ourselves to be sure that this was really happening. Since then we have made a number of visits, enjoying unseasonably warm weather during December and then experiencing (not enjoying!) cold, wet, stormy weather throughout much of January and February.

By the middle of March signs of spring were beginning to appear, with plants being a clear 2-3 weeks ahead of progress in the south of England. Overnight temperatures were still quite low, with the odd frost, but when the sun came out there was warmth in it that those in the UK would only experience in late spring or early summer. The region is renowned for its plum orchards, plums destined to be turned into prunes, and the blossom is

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Plum orchards in full blossom, acres and acres of them

currently at its peak. It is quite something to drive through miles of countryside past acre after acre of plum orchards in full bloom.

I have many ideas for the design of the garden, most of which are still quite undeveloped and disjointed. I have taken on board advice from those wiser and more experienced than I, to consider how the garden sits in the landscape, focal points, journeys around the garden. But I still have pretty much just a list of ideas. I’m going on a day’s course with Arne Maynard later this month to help me work towards a more cohesive design which sits well within its landscape.

Today two old ramshackle barns were demolished. They had been earmarked for demolition from the start as they were neither functional, beautiful nor historic. And after the storms in late January they were unsafe and quite dangerous. We didn’t expect them to be demolished today; indeed the Mairie earlier in the week told us not to before applying for permission. But the message didn’t seem to get through to the man with the bulldozer and so we will need to square this with the Mairie in due course. We will be pleased to see the back of the barns as they were eyesores as well as dangerous, and this will open up a key area in the journey around the garden.

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Our land is this side of the fence, the farmer’s the other

We have been having perimeter fencing installed (mainly to keep visiting GrandBoys within the bounds). It is in a very rural, agricultural style, and we hope that it won’t suburbanise the plot nor act as any kind of visual barrier with the true agriculture on the other side of our boundary.

Our primary aim for the coming year is to continue to maintain the garden as we bought it, as we learn how the sun comes round, how the temperatures fluctuate in different areas, wind speeds and directions, soil type, rain, water retention … And of course to discover what plants are already in residence.

We can probably see and identify most of them, but I was very pleasantly surprised last week to find some lily of the valley coming up on the edge of the drive reasonably close to the house. That was unexpected.

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Lily of the valley, unexpectedly appearing at the side of the drive

We won’t know what some of the trees are until their leaves are fully out (and maybe even flowering). We know there are plenty of “weeds”, for example too many poplars, some well past their best and quite unstable. So there will be some culling on a fairly grand scale.

And there is a lot of grass, a huge amount. Mowing is going to become an important part of our lives for some time to come!

Author: The Renaissance Gardener

Global issues, natural world, gardens, plants, family, music, books, laughter. Lives in West Sussex & is making a garden in south west France. Professional event organiser by day, and opinions about most things.

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