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

Marking the Edge

Paved paths and neatly-mown lawns provide ready-made and attractive edges to beds and borders in a herb garden. But in the Saint Montan Jardin du Curé we use gravel on the paths – it’s local, inexpensive, and part of the landscape. So the junction between cultivated ground and consolidated earth wanders somewhat each year depending…

Read More

Buying Herbs in Pots

By 8 a.m, there’s already a queue at the plant stall in my local street market. Boxes of seedling lettuces and pencil-slim leeks, hand-high plants of aubergines and sweet peppers are disappearing fast while pots of young tomatoes, cucumbers and artichokes are carried away by keen gardeners to be planted out in potagers and vegetable…

Read More

Springtime Shoots

Only rarely do I arrive in Saint Montan in time to find the almond tree in the herb garden still in bloom with primroses and wild violets flowering at is foot. Normally, almond trees in Saint Montan flower in January, each porcelain white blossom turning to palest pink after a few days with a centre…

Read More