First Monday in January 2021

A friend posted photos of all the plants in flower in her garden a couple of days ago. This inspired me to walk round yesterday taking photos of all the flowers I could find; very few! I had a real sense that the garden has now sunk into its brief period of winter dormancy.

Winter is short in this part of south-west France, but it can be sharp. Night time temperatures this week will sink well below freezing and day time highs are currently around 5 or 6. But the sun is less reticent than further north, so it can be more pleasant to be outside. With a garden of this size there is always something to be done. Today I have been picking up sticks that blew down from the five large plane trees in a recent storm. I filled three barrows but there’s still more to do. I’ve also been raking couch grass out from an area that is intended to be grassy lawn.

This is what I found on my walk yesterday.

Solanum jasminoides alba is still just about flowering at one corner of the covered terrace. Once these flowers are finished that will be it for the year. I shall then prune it very hard as it has seriously outgrown its alloted space. All prunings will go through the shredder and be added to the compost heap.

Hellebores. How I love hellebores. These clumps are thriving and I am hoping for seedlings.

I couldn’t resist these hellebores in the garden centre the other week. They just need to be planted now! We have a tradition of always having plants waiting to be planted …

Not in flower, but I was rather struck by the beauty of the young leaves on this Eucalyptus gunnii azura. I planted three in an informal mixed shrub hedge but only two survived last summer’s heatwave. Apparently it accepts regular pruning. We shall see! I’m confident that the two surviving plants are establishing successfully.

I love the shrubby honeysuckle. I may have mentioned that before! Its perfume is just gorgeous. I always try and fill my garden with perfume.

The afternoon light on the now bare stems of the cornus. And a contorted willow which I must remember to use with flowers in the house.

A white chaenomeles just beginning to flower. And the wonderfully fragrant flowers of Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet).

A few daisies are flowering around the garden but there’s not much else yet showing its face.

I planted some cyclamen a couple of weeks ago which are already flowering. I’d love them to naturalise.

I never cease to marvel at the beauty of the lichen that grows freely here.

The roses are just about over for the year. I’m not sorry as I can start the mammoth task of pruning with a clear conscience.

Arbutus unedo (the strawberry tree), and a very fragrant daphne.

Looking up to the highest branches of a parrotia tree. We were concerned for the health of this tree last summer. These would appear to be the current season’s flowers so fingers crossed it is going to come back. I really want it to survive!

Not flowers, but I really love the seedheads on this Vernonia which I’m growing for the first time. So far it seems to be happy so I’m hoping I can propagate it and plant it around the garden. It is definitely a new favourite plant.

Two photos of a large sprawling rosemary bush at the front of the house, intermingled with a red salvia (no longer flowering and somewhat overwhelmed by the rosemary). And on the right one of several Teucrium fruticans in the pool beds still hanging on with a few flowers.

A chaenomeles close to the house which causes great sadness as next spring’s flowering shoots were all chopped off by someone who decided that a lollipop shape needed to be achieved. I love picking stems of chaenomeles and bringing them into the house in the depths of winter and had been so looking forward to doing so this year. Not to be. I can but look forward to winter/spring 2022 😦

I used to strongly dislike Callicarpa, I don’t know why. This was bought at RHS Wisley’s plant centre in autumn 2019 and brought over here where it appears to have settled happily. I now love it and look forward to it growing bigger and giving us more of these vibrant berries.

Hesperantha (previously schizostylus), also bought at RHS Wisley in autumn 2019, planted into the tiny Sussex garden when we couldn’t bring it to France, subsequently dug up and brought over here just before Christmas by R. Its another plant that I’ve not grown before and just love. There are five pots full, and I’m hoping that I can further divide them when I plant them out. In the past I’ve not been particularly good at planting repetition, wanting to have one of absolutely everything. We have enough space here to have a wide variety of plants, but still to repeat some of them to give rhythm and repetition around the garden which I think can only be a good thing.

We don’t yet have many bulbs in the garden but we inherited these daffodils which are beautifully fragrant.

The orange colour of the kaki fruit against the blue sky is just wonderful. As you can see the birds absolutely love these fruits. This particular variety will remain ornamental for us as it has very large seeds. But I’ve just ordered another of the more recently developed varieties to include in the orchard that we are in the process of planting.

Eriobotrya japonica (loquat) flowers exude a gorgeous perfume as you walk past the tree
Sunshine on the covered terrace but cold!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk around the garden with me.

13 thoughts on “First Monday in January 2021

  1. Some species of eucalyptus develop lignotubers, so are conducive to coppicing. I do not know about that particular species though. Alternatively, some can be pollarded, although that technique is . . . considered by some to be less than horticulturally correct. Coppicing promotes more colorful juvenile foliage and inhibits bloom, which is an advantage for those that are grown for blue juvenile foliage. Adult foliage of some types is not as pretty in bloom.

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    1. This is a new cultivar, developed in France, selected for its ability to withstand clipping. I’ve coppiced before in a different garden, and it’s a technique widely used in the hardy exotic style of gardening here in Europe. The late Christopher Lloyd used it in his Exotic Garden at Great Dixter.

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      1. Both copiccing and pollarding are disdainful here amongst arborists who do not think for themselves. Although I realize that it is not practical for the sorts of landscapes that most of us work with, I have no problem doing so in my own landscapes, where I can maintain the subjects. Nonetheless, pollarding and coppicing Eucalyptus species is a stretch, even for me, . . . and even though several species naturally form lignotubers anyway, . . . and even though I can remember pollarded and coppiced eucalyptus in the hills around San Bruno south of San Francisco, for cut foliage production (That was a very long time ago.).

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  2. Hi there Sharon. Thoroughly enjoyed the walk around your garden with you. Lots of colour there, more so than in my garden! Thank you for the trip.

    One or 2 plants I am not familiar with for instance the white Chaenomeles and the Vernonia? Also was not aware of the kaki fruit containing seeds. Maybe you could save a seed pod of each of these for me please. I love the challenge of growing a plant from seeds that grow on plants that someone else treasures!

    The callicarpa is beautiful. If you like colourful berries we will have to do a seed swap with my porcelain berry – Ampelopsis. Anyway look forward to seeing more of your garden plants in the future and hope things get back to normal sooner rather than later.

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    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I am having a bit of a thing for berries at the moment and have just bought a cotoneaster, a pyracantha, and two different viburnums to introduce more to the garden. I would absolutely love some ampelopsis seeds some time please. I could drop a couple of the remaining kaki fruit over to you before the birds get them all! I’ll pick some today for you.

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  3. What a treat to have that guided tour around your beautiful garden. Even in winter so much to see and admire. What wonderful work you have done there. Thank you for this

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  4. Sharon.. how lovely. I truly hope I can get out to see it for real sometime this year.
    You are a gardening inspiration!

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