First Sunday of summer

Here it is: the blog of good intentions. Arrived today to start the full six weeks of summer holidays. I was impatient to arrive, but my patience had to be tested by the lugubrious convoy of a circus all the way up the Eyrieux Valley. Tediously slow, but once up onto our winding road it was open the throttle and charge up.

Bags into the house, plants watered from the parched journey, and then it was time to trot around the garden and see what Nicolas was up to while I was away.

And glory be there’s some landscaping to be admired. The new terraces were almost done last trip, but now they are tidy: And they have been joined by more chestnut logs outside the potting shed and the steps to the flower garden are complete. And don’t they look smashing? I am so pleased.

From now on I can trot down the steps to get to the water barrels, rather than an ungracious slip and slide. And this is the best time when landscaping is complete. The weeds haven’t germinated and everything is bare dirt.  

There was also a new addition to the edging of the path below the potting shed. Nicolas made steps down to the pool at the back of the property; but there was a sloping section just around the elderflower tree. (It has on the death list for a while, but we have realised that it does serve a purpose back here – holds up the wall.)   Now there is a large log in place on the edge of the track and soil has been added to make it level.

Tomorrow I shall sow grass seeds over the neat and now weed free area to keep it looking like the rest of the steps. And I may even be inspired to prune the elderflower. It does get wild and billowy by summer. I had in fact planned to make elderflower jelly from the flowers in spring but missed the opportunity. Turned my back (while making strawberry and rose petal jam) and the flowers were over. But the tree is full of fruit so will make elderflower syrup and other elixirs later in the season.

And Nicolas has also managed to do some edging along the area that was called the mini meadow. But is actually a mini weed containment zone. The chestnut poles are thinner than the ones elsewhere, but are more flexible. And he has managed to stack two on top of each other for a bit of height.

I have a lot of planning to do if this is going to look better next year. Maybe a line of Molinea transparents all the way along to hide the rocks and mess above. And dare I be so dull as to accept that a small grass path won’t go amiss? I always think grass is a sign of defeat, but it’s the way down to the pool and it will look rather fun. That is if it ever rains again. The lawn is so dry I don’t dare photograph it. All very parched. And I can’t even remember how lush the grass was on the paths a few months ago. I was worrying about how on earth I was going to strim it. Now it’s bleached and growing very, very slowly.

But what of the flowers and the pretties? Plenty to show, and show off. The lilac bed is the first thing you see when you arrive and it’s showing some interesting plants. I’m not sure the echinacea belongs there, I may have to rethink the colour scheme next year. But the asters are out and the eryngiums are so blue they look spray painted. I am pleased with the growth of the perovskia. But always get plant envy when I drive up past a house in St Laurent du Pape. They have a thicket of pervoskia that makes you moan with delight.

I need to stake the eryngiums tomorrow and dead head the lavender. Surprised it has gone over so quickly. But this isn’t a normal season. And I must do something about the coherence. Perhaps the whole area needs a good knitting of geraniums as ground cover. I had hoped the grasses will do that job eventually. And in fact the calamagrostis Karl Foerster is thriving. But it’s putting on height but not girth yet. So I just need to be patient.

And I keep looking and watering the stipa gigantea, but it’s not flowering yet. Nor is the one in the courtyard garden. But it’s lush and alive and that’s reassuring. I think I have lost one of my pulsatillas that I bought with Andrew when we visited Beth Chatto. But I shan’t despair. Things do manage to surprise by reviving when you least expect them.

Take the courtyard roses for instance. Second flush is coming. Hurrah.

And the dahlias are out. I only have white ones and I have actually left them in the shade of the cutting garden. But they seem to be fine even in these un ideal conditions.

The banks up above the potting shed are fine. I put the picture of my echinacea, calamagrostis, salvia and eupatorium design at the beginning of this post as it is doing so well. The salvias are just over and the echinacea are out in a perfectly choreographed succession. I should shear off the dead salvia flowers, but they are still attractive so shall put it off. And I don’t know if I really will get a second flush.

But actually I am wondering if the eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) are going to do in this climate. I think they prefer more moisture than I can give them during droughts. It’s that tyranny of the garden magazines. They photograph the flowers and plants when they are at their absolute best. But how long do you wait for that magnificence? Do they sulk all summer just looking a bit dull and then give you a burst of joy in September? We shall see.

At least the lilies are bursting out of their buds. Flowers for the house with divine scent. Joy.

And the vegetable garden? Plenty of firsts here. The tomatoes have ripened and will be harvested tomorrow. Lots of growth on the aubergines. The beans are a bit parched and sorry for themselves, but I did pick a small bucketful of beans in the gloaming.

I also picked a large punnet of raspberries up at the top potager. They are thirsty plants and definitely need some tending this week. The fruit are just that little bit smaller than usual. And considering I haven’t watered in weeks, I’m amazed they are still producing despite this dreadful neglect.

Almost there with the record of the first day: I’m flagging. The grapes in the courtyard are full of fruit. I am just ignoring the strange pustules on some of the leaves and going to give them a break from any attention this year. I am supposed to liberally spray them with Bordeaux Mixture, (copper sulphate) the only chemical permitted by the organic gardeners. But it has been so dry that I will be amazed if they succumb to mildew this year. I may be wrong, but letting them fend for themselves is going to be this year’s theme.

And the lazy gardener’s germination technique has worked again. I sowed a lot of seeds just before I left and put them inside plastic bags for the nine days I was away. Back up to the potting shed and voila. Germination. They get a touch slimy inside their plastic prisons (and the spinach didn’t make it). But it makes use of the time I am away.

And that is it for tonight. I did go down to the orchard to see what fruit had appeared. Two apricots and one apple are my haul tonight. The apricots are too small to be tasty, but the apple had a tart but tasty flavour. Which tree? Don’t ask me that. I can’t remember! Perhaps the Falstaff, or maybe the James Grieve. Who knows. It was dark by then, and I haven’t memorised the sequence of trees in my tiny orchard. Yet.