16 December 2010

auprès de mon arbre …

Another day picking olives yesterday. It was about 3°C but no wind and the sound carried through from the neighbouring olive grove where there were a couple of other people, up ladders and heads among the olives.

One of the pickers sang a beautiful rendition of this Georges Brassens song : Aupès de mon Arbre

(if you would like to see the words, go to YouTube & click on the name of the person who uploaded the video)

This is always an odd sight : an olive tree (with olives) covered in snow !

You can see more pictures here of last year’s harvest at Celia’s

05 December 2010


In May I went to the salon des roses in a nearby wine chateau and I met a saffron (Crocus sativus) grower.

Entranced by the idea of growing my own saffron I bought ten bulbs which I duly planted on 15 August. The leaflet that came with the fat, healthy bulbs said that they would flower over a two week period around the end of October.

By early November we had had very little rain and I kept looking to see if there was any evidence of growth. Sure enough, there were at least ten spiky leaves but no sign of any flowers. Then it rained and within a few days the familiar lilac crocus shape emerged.

Every time I walked past them I checked on their progress – the growers explained that the flower lasts a mere 24 hours and they are up at 04:00 in the morning to pick their precious crop. As it was, my flowers lasted two to three days and because there were so few of them I was able to pick the three red stigmata from each, leaving a rather unseasonally pretty patch of spring-like flowers.

As I write this, there is a very late bloomer, which I will denude before it is dashed to the ground by all the rain. In all, from the ten bulbs I have had 16 flowers. I am planning something special for my 48 strands !
Here is a directory of saffron growers in France.

30 June 2010

crop circles

I came across this YouTube video on crop circles that I wanted to share. Click on the video at the end to see others by the same person.

They’re astonishing …

07 March 2010

Violet Time

I’ve wizzed around some blogs and everyone seems to be wishing Spring was here – Winter has been so long this year for everyone – and talking about almond blossom, which is one of the earliest.

Officially, it’s Spring and we’ve had two false starts – one about three weeks ago and then earlier last week, when it was a balmy 17°C and up to 26°C in the sun. It’s suddenly got really cold again in the last 24 hours with snow flurries this afternoon and the promise of the same tomorrow with a maximum temperature of +1°C !

It has been unusual to see Mimosalia in Bormes-les-Mimosas, Carnival in Nice and the Menton Lemon Festival with everyone wrapped up against the cold. This weekend it was the Fête des Violettes in Tourettes-sur-Loup. I was wondering how they could have flowered in the conditions we have had – I still have a romantic idea that they’re grown in fields …

However, at Nicola’s the other day I saw two small patches of violets in one corner of her ‘lawn’ – she had no idea where they had come from. Mine haven’t made an appearance as yet.

07 February 2010


My RHS magazine arrived today with a picture of snowdrops on the front cover.

A year last autumn I planted ten little snowdrop bulbs, bought from a UK supermarket, as an experiment, in four different places in the garden. It is not, you might think, a plant that you would expect to see in this part of the world, but I love them so much that I thought it was worth a try. I put masses of leaf mould around them in the hope that they wouldn’t dessicate during our blistering summers. They’re planted in our ‘dingly dell’ – a mix of white and evergreen oaks and the ubiqitous pines, that almost grow like weeds here, creating a shady area – a perfect cool spot in the summer.

There are apparently 19 species of Galanthus – and I think mine are possibly G elwesii var. elwesii, as the green marks appear to merge to form an‘X’ and bloom from January to March – and “are native to central and southern Europe and parts of western Asia, where they flourish in cool woodlands and other shady habitats from sea level to around 2,000m (6,500ft). Snowdrops like deep, fertile, well-drained soil, moist in the growing season, but not waterlogged during their summer dormancy.” No chance of that here !

Last spring, all ten bulbs flowered. I searched and searched for signs of them and suddenly spotted them in two of the four locations – and they have obviously multiplied. A gardening friend who belongs to the MGS said that she had helped someone plant a thousand Spanish bluebells. I wonder …

25 January 2010

olive growing in west sussex !

A short clip of a report (made by my cousin’s husband) about the first olive crop in West Sussex. They picked 200 kilos and they are curing them to be eaten …

06 January 2010

garden group blog

I belong to three different gardening groups. One of the groups is comprised of ladies from the International Women’s Club Provence.
We are English, Dutch, Danish & French in the gardening group and we meet once a month at someone’s house over coffee and biscuits and discuss (mainly) things to do with gardening !

We have a couple of ladies who tirelessly research and organise trips for us to make throughout the year and we have visited some beautiful gardens and met some extremely knowledgeable and kind gardeners. What we don’t have, as yet, is a way of sharing not just the information but pictures of the places and plants we have seen. To date this has been sent as a round-robin email which I don’t believe does justice to the time and effort that has gone into its composition. I am suggesting that we should have a blog so that we can have a visual record for always of what we have done, where we have been and what we have seen. To this end, I thought I would make a first post for our new blog – as yet to be designed and agreed upon – in my own blog, so that the ‘powers that be’ can see what it could look like …

The following arrived as an email this morning and is just the sort of information that I think could appear in our blog, so :

“First of all a very happy & healthy New Year to you all.

On return from our trip to the UK I found a seed catalogue in the post, from which I’ve ordered seeds for more than ten years. I’ve always been most impressed with the selection of seeds they have on offer and thought I’ll pass their website on to you so you can browse through it. Beside their selection of seeds, they have a few pages on how to grow from seed. Under the subject : information, select : cultivation leaflet.

Just when you look at basil, they have 23 varieties, six varieties of parsley, a coriander that is a ‘slow bolt’, bolting is always the problem with coriander. Last year I tried out of packet of tomato seeds that I bought in the shop, Aldi. They were supposed to be trailing tomatoes, I have a stand with nine windowboxes and I planted the young shoots in there. They grew so profusely and cropped so well. The only problem was they were not really trailing tomatoes and I had to contrive all sorts of structures to make them stand up in the end. This year I’ll select one of the trailing tomato plant suggestion in this seed catalogue, they have a choice of at least three. Interesting Chilli varieties, one that could look very nice in a pot with upturned chillies. Lots of other herbs if that’s where your interest lies.

Plants that I’ve tried out myself here t
hat they have seeds for are : Caesalpinia, Cistus, Lagerstroemia, Monardas, selection of Penstemons, lots of Salvias, Salvia patens being a favourite of mine. This year I’m going to try the seeds for Albizzia julibrissin (Persian Silk Tree).

Years ago when I still lived in Belgium, I tried out the seeds for an umbrella pine, Pinus pinea, it went very well, grew to more than 1.5m but then, unfortunately, a very wet winter killed it off in the end. Still it was a nice try and if it fails it has not cost you too much.

The company is called Chiltern Seeds based in the UK. They are very reliable and post to Europe. They charge £2.50 for the postage. They accept visa and other credit cards.

Their website is: www.chilternseeds.co.uk (the different-coloured text is a live link – all you need to do is to click on it and it will automatically take you to the website, opening another window in your browser. b-fg)

January being more or less a dead month in the garden, hope this will keep your gardening spirits going.


So, hopefully this will be the beginning of our new blog. Any constructive comments are obviously gratefully received !

Keep warm everyone !

image :

04 January 2010

happy new year

It’s a busy time in Mediterranean countries – the olive harvest, mostly for oil in this area. I spent some time picking at friends’ and took pictures which I put into this wonderful Smilebox greeting.

A Peaceful, healthy and happy New Year to us all !

Click to play this Smilebox greeting: Bonne Année à tous
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