Category Archives: Gardens

Last Day of July

I cannot believe how quickly July has gone! Tomorrow is August, the holiday month, especially out here in France where the whole place just seems to shut down. This weekend is meant to be the busiest on the roads. The transition from July into August. Paris becomes empty of Parisians and, instead, fill up their countries other smaller towns fit to bursting.

Here, in Brittany, it is quite nice in some ways to see so many people, but always a pain when the car park is full. I asked some Parisian friends of ours why they never go abroad for their holidays but, instead, choose to holiday in their own country.’ Why go anywhere else when there is so much to see here?’ was basically the answer and in some ways you have to agree with them.

We have just got back from England. We went to Dorset in search of a new place to live. The ‘next chapter’. Having been away from the UK for over 7 years l was pleasantly surprised to find a corner of ‘our green and pleasant land’ relatively undisturbed, in fact, it was thriving. A new phenomenon ‘Farmers Markets’ were everywhere, ‘eat local produce’ was the big thing being promoted, and there was an overwhelming feeling of pride in the small towns we visited. Pride in their local individual shops selling locally produced meat, fish, beer, vegetables, dairy products and bread, mostly organic too.  Pride in their music and arts, their local fetes and festivals. As l looked around me it was refreshing to see so many people supporting their independent shops and keeping the supermarkets at bay.

Interesting too to see so many people on holiday in England. I am sure l would have been met with the same answer from the Parisian if l had asked someone in Dorset why they had not gone abroad for their holidays. Rose-tinted spectacles off, l am fully aware of the economic situation too but that is what makes my ‘discoveries’ so much more interesting. Despite all the cut-backs, job losses, etc, England’s small towns are fighting back. And l didn’t want to leave!

Railway Carriage Charm

We stayed in an old Railway Carriage in Eype that had been converted into a beautiful place to live, complete with kitchen area, living/dining room, a double bedroom, dressing area and bathroom. We loved it and as it was my birthday and our 25th wedding anniversary too, it made it a special place to be.

Back to reality, and here in France l have been scouring the internet for work in Dorset. There are a number of options open to us just as there were when we came to France, after all, if we could build up a small gardening business here, l am sure we could do the same back in England.  I would turn my hand to most things so l am quite hopeful something will come along.

The garden was like a jungle by the time we got back but just in time to start picking the first of the runner beans, one of my favourite vegetables. Finely sliced and boiled there is nothing better on a plate along with a knob of butter gently melting among them. I will miss my vegetable plot as our cottage we have rented in Dorset only has a small courtyard. Still, as it is a winter let it will be nice to have a break from looking after such a big garden for a while and to concentrate my efforts on making a living as well as exploring the beautiful countryside and Farmers Markets!

So, where does this leave me with this blog? Very soon l won’t have a garden to compare with the writings of Mr Middleton every week which, in a way, spoils the whole concept of this blog. I am thinking of still writing up his weekly gardening advice and just adding my own thoughts and other practical tips from other books instead? What do you think?

Some of the second-hand books l found in charity shops

It’s another lovely day out there so l had better tackle that jungle. I don’t want to leave our new owner a mess to deal with when he takes over in September. After all, us Brits do have a gardening reputation to keep to!


Posted by on July 31, 2011 in Gardens, July


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Our little Chelsea Flower Show

About 6 miles away from us on the road to Pontrieux is a château on the banks of the River Treiux called La Roche-Jagu. Built back in the 15th century, it is the only surviving fortress out of fifteen that once lined the valley.

Today, La Roche-Jagu hosts special exhibitions, concerts, has some fantastic gardens open to the public and every year in May hosts what we call, a small Chelsea Flower Show; La Fete des Jardins.

La Roche-Jagu

Although there are no show gardens here it is more than made up by the numerous stall holders selling their plants, flowers and vegetables covering the whole spectrum. It is never crowded making it a pleasure to stroll round and take in everything that is there. The plants are good value and of good quality too. Oh, and it is free to enter. Even the car park is free. I am going to miss all this free parking when we return to Blighty!

Over the years we have walked, or rather, staggered away with countless plants that have helped us to build up our garden here.

Nearly all of the exhibitors are local making it easy to visit their nurseries at a later date to stock up on even more of their plants. Too tempting for me especially when l am on a strict budget!

So, to the real Chelsea Flower Show. Come on now, be really honest, what did you think of this years show? I will be honest with you;  I am rather disappointed really and l can’t put my finger on it. I have always had mixed feelings about Chelsea; the way most of the plants have either been held back or brought on makes for a totally false planting scheme. Or the fact that, particularly this year, plants like the specimen trees are way off the price scale running into thousands of pounds resulting in gardens that we can only look on and admire for their design and artistic qualities. Is that what Chelsea is all about? But we can all take something from the design can’t we? Look at the trends over the past years ranging from introducing the colour blue into the garden to decking and lighting. Surprisingly this year looks like it is the use of water which, again, shows how off the scale the big gardens are. But this year l have found it hard to find anything that has inspired me. Sure, l love those specimen trees but not at that price!

So what is it? I have watched a lot of the coverage on TV and, as usual, find myself pulled towards the artisan gardens. The Show Gardens have left me cold apart from Bunny Guinness. She should have got a gold.  Perhaps, if l was a lottery winner, l would commission Cleve West to design me a garden, but an intimate one with lots of natural planting, trees, maybe even a suitable water feature oh, and a walled vegetable garden. I would love to own or even work in a walled kitchen garden. It is a long held wish of mine that l hope to achieve one day.

For what it is worth my No 1 garden is……drum roll………A Child’s Garden in Wales. I really like this garden and l suppose in some ways reminds me of my very first memories of being in a garden when l was probably no more than 4 years old when we lived in Surrey with my hands in the soil, playing about more than anything, of course. It was an old Victorian house with a typical small back garden with a yard, shed and some trees and even today l sometimes get taken back to that garden when a certain soily smell appears when l am digging. Strange how smells bring back such strong memories.

Well roll on Hampton Court and Tatton Park. Now these are two shows l would definitely like to visit.


Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Gardens, May


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