Gravel rush

Madame Felix; definitely a woman of the She Who Must Be Obeyed camp, informed me that her truck will arrive early for the gravel delivery so I had better be ready. Every area must have someone of Madame Felix’s ferocious temperament. I tremble when I have to go into her huge building supplies store in Vernoux. And most others admit to feeling the same dread.

The store (and it’s the biggest up on the plateau, so indispensable to so many builders and home improvers) used to belong to her husband; but he tragically died young. And instead of selling up and putting her skills to another use (preferably not dealing with the public) which is what everyone assumed, she learnt the business and now runs the whole show.

And run it she does. You cannot step inside the door without the tirade of interrogation. Just to get this gravel was an ordeal. What do you want it for? How much do you need? Do you really need three cubic metres? Have you measured correctly? And what on earth are you doing ordering gravel rather than the cheaper white hard core? Out with it woman? Express yourself!

Knees a-knocking, I always manage to mangle my verbs and endings when I am under the barrage. But in the end there is a twinkle in her eye, and the deal complete. Madame Felix is happy as she has cowed yet another of her loyal customers into submission. And I have my gravel.

All this just to show you the two pictures I took. One at dawn and another at three minutes past eight. She may be a monster, but she keeps her promises.

I had booked JB to come and help me move the gravel down from the top road to the Calabert. It’s a trek of about fifty metres, downhill. But tedious. And the poor man really earned his wages today. I suspect he did more than forty barrow loads.

And while he was hauling and filling the barn, I started weeding the ledge under the vines, in preparation for a huge load of mulch.

This is a problem area of the courtyard, make no mistake. I understand the concept of the previous owners. They were hoping that the sedums they sowed would cover this area underneath the vines as a mulch. And would prove a pretty contrast to the lush green vines and the view of the potager just below. But they didn’t factor in the brambles. Or the nettles. Or the hollyhocks, nor the grass. It was a mess. Something last year’s houseguests Jan and Jane know only too well.

I have kept the hollyhocks in the foreground as I want them for the vases in the house. If they come up as the vivid crimson colour. If it’s the wishy washy pink they will be felled sooner. But the rest of the weeds were killed and yanked and generally removed. And I had to scrape up the small gravel mulch. Once I was down to the soil level I added yet more layers of weed proof fabric (which wasn’t doing its job last season) and then more mulch.

And then lastly came about half a foot of new lovely gravel. Call that a mulch. I dare the weeds to try and grow through this lot. (Actually I am sure they will, but at least there will be a whole lot less.)

Here is the mighty barn now that it has its mulch too. The weeds weren’t really a problem here inside the barn. But when the wind blew there were bits of dust and dirt swirling about. And this just about removes all the last traces of the rabbit breeding programme that used to take place under here. No more flies and no more mess.

I had to keep up with JB’s unrelenting loads of gravel. So once the vine area was covered I thought it best to get the stuff onto the herb bed too.

As I am the only one who knows which is a precious plant (those verbena seedlings at the back behind the artichoke plant look like sticks) and which is a weed. I took possession of three wheelbarrow loads of the stones from JB and slowly filled the bed. Using just a bucket (less weight, more tedium) I filled each area with pebbles and built up the mulch in the entire herb bed.

I never seem able to take a decent picture of this part of the garden; but I am delighted with the result. It looks so much more coherent now. Almost as if it was planned.

Thyme in front, then purple and green sage. Backing onto the two artichokes that survived the winter, interwoven with allium purple sensation, salvia Caradona, New Dawn roses, and a few thickets of verbena bonariensis transplants.  And in the distance the lush look of those Euphorbia wulfenii. All that’s missing is the long line of chives down the path. But they are actually showing signs of life. Pert and sitting upright in the gravel. So next trip I might even take a photo of them to complete the scene.