Horticultural Catalogues

I spend a fortune when the catalogue from Burncoose Nursery arrives. An hour passes as I’m lost in the bewitching pages of growing requirements, different varieties and photographs of hundreds of plants, shrubs and trees. Then reality breaks in. For I don’t have the funds or the space for such luxurious choices in my small…

Read More

Garden Sage

Whenever I spend February in Saint Montan I’m reminded of so many chilly, winter days in Devon where I gardened for 20 years. Saint Montan is often described as sitting at ​‘les portes de Provence​’ and the summers do indeed feel Mediterranean; but the season of short days often feels far from the warm weather…

Read More

New Year Resolutions

I gave up making new year resolutions decades ago. By February memories of what I’d promised to do – or not to do – had faded due to the urgent pressures of the moment and life in general. But this year will be different: I resolve to wage war on unwelcome visitors to the garden.…

Read More

December Decorations

Celebrating the winter solstice is an ancient tradition that is pre-Christian and associated with Pagan rites. The shortest day of the year on 21st December was marked by Celtic priests, known as Druids, who gathered mistletoe to then bestow a blessing – the berries symbolising the seeds of life in the year ahead. The present-day…

Read More

The Virtues of Ivy

I gave up growing box, Buxus, following the devastation caused by the Asian box tree caterpillar, Diaphania perspectalis, when it arrived in Saint Montan. The sight of both cultivated box, clipped into attractive shapes, and wild box bushes that were growing freely on the hillside, reduced to dry, shrivelled skeletons was sad and ugly. So…

Read More

Garlic in the Garden

The Capital of Garlic say the road signs as you approach the town of Piolenc in Provençale Vaucluse, where 2000 tons of Allium sativum are grown each year. On the feast of St John, close to mid-summer day, the town celebrates the ‘Stinking Rose’ with music, a parade, and countless stalls selling garlic in many…

Read More

Purslane

Every spring, in two large flower pots in my Saint Montan garden, I grow the attractive climbing plant dipladenia, bearing red, pink, or white, trumpet-shaped flowers. Dipladenia grows quickly in the south of France and each plant soon twists its stems around the 2 metre-high tripod in its pot to make an attractive display. By…

Read More

Dealing with Drought

When I began to restore the overgrown Jardin du Curé, some years ago,  the fast-flowing ruisseau du Val Chaud provided music while I worked. The cold spring water tumbled noisily over stones and boulders until it reached the larger river in the middle of the village. When it rained, natural springs provided the irrigation for…

Read More

Herbal Alliances

In my first book on herbs, RECIPES FROM A FRENCH HERB GARDEN, I list the twenty herbs from basil to verbena that often play a role – sometimes as stars that top the bill plus others as minor or supporting actors – in the kitchens of France. All culinary herbs have an individual character: in…

Read More

Growing Trees for Free

While he was helping to dig out the well-rotted mixture in one of my compost bins, my grandson spotted dozens of acorns on the ground. My evergreen oak trees, Quercus ilex, that grow wild here in my hillside garden had shed their fruit weeks earlier. Matthew soon filled his pockets to take acorns home to…

Read More