Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Conseils jardin pour le mois d' avril

Voici quelques conseils avisés transmis par Jean-Yves MEIGNEN de l'Abbaye de Valsaintes. Ce jardin pourrait être pour l'année 2011 une sortie à prévoir en mai.

Les jours allongent en avril et le soleil plus présent réchauffe la terre pour permettre aux plantes vivaces de sortir de terre et aux bulbes d’épanouir leurs fleurs.

Mais soyons très prudent sur l’achat des plantes cultivées en serres que l’on veut mettre sur les balcons ou planter dans les massifs, les gelées peuvent encore sévir et seront alors radicales pour ces jeunes plantes très tendres.

Par contre il faut aérer les vérandas et serres d’hivernage des plantes frileuses comme les agrumes, hibiscus ou bougainvilliers. On peut leur faire un bon nettoyage et aussi un rempotage ou bien un simple surfaçage avec du compost.

Surveillez les plantations de l’automne qui auraient, peut être, déjà besoin d’arrosage avec leurs pousses de printemps.

Les Camélias et Rhododendrons en fleurs demandent plus d’arrosage dans cette période, récoltez bien l’eau de pluie pour ces plantes qui redoutent le calcaire.

Les Oliviers sont taillés avant la fin du mois, mais restez justes et pas trop sévère sur cette taille. Pour avoir des fleurs et des fruits, il faut conserver les belles jeunes pousses de l’année précédente, tout en maintenant la forme de l’arbre près des charpentières.

Au Potager, on peut maintenant semer directement en place de nombreux légumes comme les carottes, navet, betterave, blettes, cardons ……Mais il est encore trop tôt pour les plantations de tomates, aubergines ou poivrons. Favoriser les semis direct sans repiquage, vous obtiendrez des plantes plus solides et qui ne montent pas en graines rapidement.

Les Fleurs annuelles sont aussi semées en ce mois du renouveau dans les jardins, vous trouverez des mélanges bien étudiés qui apporteront couleur et diversité à vos massifs. Une préparation superficielle du sol est suffisante avec un surfaçage de terreau pour aider la germination.

Les plantes d’intérieures demandent plus d’arrosage et d’engrais avec la luminosité qui leur est favorable.

N’oubliez pas vos Orchidées qui demandent des arrosages tous les 10 jours avec de l’engrais riche en oligo-éléments tous les 20 jours.

Je vous souhaite du plaisir et de l’épanouissement avec vos plantes.

Jardinier de l'Abbaye de Valsaintes.
Consultant à domicile

Monday, 29 March 2010

Un autre regard sur les fourmis ...

Les fourmis :

Elles jouent un rôle utile dans la forêt. Elles détruisent une grande quantité d’autres insectes qui abîment les arbres. Au cours de leurs allées et venues, les fourmis nettoient la terre et déplacent des graines. Celles-ci germeront là où les fourmis les ont déposées. Elles traient les pucerons comme on trait une vache en leur caressant le dos pour qu’ils produisent un sirop sucré appelé miellat. Ils le déposent sur les plantes et les abeilles le récoltent pour en faire du vrai miel.

Les insectes servent également de nourriture aux oiseaux comme les hirondelles ou les martinets, il y a plus d’insectes utiles que d’insectes nuisibles : en voulant débarrasser des cultures ou des régions des insectes nuisibles qui les détruisent ou les infestent, les hommes versent des insecticides qui tuent aussi les insectes utiles.

Friday, 26 March 2010

How to Prune an Oleander

My first sight of oleanders (Nerium oleander) growing in their natural habitat was in the desert of Dubai. They grew in profusion on the edge of the wadis (river beds that change into torrents after heavy rainfall). Surviving for long periods without rain, makes them ideal shrubs for our climate. However, if you do water the oleander regularly until midsummer, they will flower better.

Most reference books will say to prune after flowering in early autumn, but if you live in an area like we do, where during the winter the oleanders will get some frost damage, it is better to prune in spring when there is no more threat of frost.

In general oleanders need to be pruned lightly no more than 1/3 of each branch. Branches that are damaged, weak or crossing need to be taken out. Prune the branch just before a leaf node.
Each leaf node produces 3 leaves that will develop into three new branches.

If you let these new branches grow on a bit and then prune them again, each one will again split into three.

By this method you'll increase the number of branches and you have created a very full rounded shrub.

Oleanders flower on new wood. One thing to remember is that every part of the plant is poisonous even when you are burning the cuttings do not inhale the fumes !

If you’ve got an oleander that has totally grown out of control, you can cut it down to 30 cm above the ground. It will recuperate, but it takes about two years before it flowers again.

[Bibliography : International Oleander Society; eHow – How to Prune Oleanders; Plantes Méditerranéennes by Serge Schall, Mediterranean Gardener by Hugo Latymer]

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


Our grandfathers had their own method of dealing with ants. They had to protect their crops, when there were no insecticides available. Nowadays we have many different types of insecticides that deal with ant problems, yet many of us feel we would like to get rid of the ants without using insecticides. Below are a few tips, grandfather’s ways !

The harshest way is on a hot, sunny day to place a clay flower pot upside down over an ant’s nest. Within three to five hours, the ants will lay their eggs in the flower pot, you can observe this via the hole in the flower pot. When filled with eggs, fetch a bucket with very hot water, scoop up the flower pot with a spade and slide it into the hot water.

Another way is to carefully dig out the ants’ nest with a large spade and throw it away with a wide curve. The birds will eat the eggs and the disturbed ant colony will find it very difficult to regroup together again, in fact they may never do so.

A bit more humane is to press into the ant’s nest fresh leaves of chervil, thyme, marjoram/oregano or lavender. They dislike the herby smell and they’ll leave the nest.

The unwanted shoots of the tomato plants is another thing they loath. You press them into their nest and the same thing will happen as with the herbs, they leave the nest. They’ll regroup in another place in the garden but at least not in the spot you found so unsuitable.

A handful or mint leaves, or a teaspoon of dried mint mixed with 25 cl water, then poured onto an ants’ nest is another successful method.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

St Tropez Coastal Path

What could be nicer than a walk on a glorious day in spring on the coastal path from Canebières (just outside St Tropez) to Plage des Salins. From Plage des Salins, turning inland, it’s just 30 minutes back to St Tropez.

On the walk we passed these pleached plane trees, Platanus x hybrida.

It’s not a bad idea in our climate to pleach two trees together to get some more shade. The time to do it, is when the branches are young and pliable. Select the branches that are at the right height and position on both trees to make the link.

Link the two part together with some wire, fasten the branches to the wire and wait till they grow to the required length. You might find you’ll have to hang some weights from the branches to make them dip a bit.

Once the branches of the two trees have met, you graft them together by making an incision under a leaf node on one of the trees, about two inches long. The branch of the other tree you whittle down to a narrow wedge, two inches long as well. The idea is that they fit snugly together.

Use your knife to open up the incision you’ve made, slide them together. Coat the graft with wound dressing and wrap it completely in rubberised electrician’s tape to protect the graft against water, insects etc whilst it grows.

All along the coastal path we found this very pretty crocus-like bulb. The colour was deeper in real life. The name of this beauty is Romulea bulbocodium.

Photos by Gerda Nagtegaal
[Bibliography : RHS – Pruning & Training; eHow – How to Graft Fruit Tree Limbs]

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Pruning Hints & Tips

After this long winter most of us are just starting on our pruning jobs. Just to get you in the mood here are some tips.

The purpose of pruning is to rejuvenate the shrub, so that it produces new shoots and better flowers.

Flowering deciduous shrubs and climbers can be divided in two :

Shrubs and climbers that flower on last year’s growth and flower early in the season, up to July.


Late flowering shrubs that flower from July onwards, flower on current year’s growth.

Early flowering shrubs and climbers should be pruned immediately after flowering by shortening their branches to a point just above a strong new shoot. Remove 1 or 2 of the oldest stems at the base each year.

If you wait too long with pruning, the shrub will have developed new growth on the old branches and it becomes difficult to have a clear view of what should be pruned.

Shrubs belong to this group are :
  • Philadelphus – Mock Orange
  • Jasminum nudiflorum – Winter Jasmine (tolerates hard pruning and thinning)
  • Early-flowering clematis, if pruned lightly it may flower again later in the year
  • Buddleja alternifolia, weeps even better if cut back after flowering
  • Rambling and old shrub roses

Late flowering deciduous shrubs should be cut back every year in spring. It is best to establish a framework by pruning the shrub hard back after the first year. From then onwards last year’s growth should be cut back to within two or three healthy pair of buds of the old framework.

Shrubs belonging to this group are :
Buddleja davidii
Late flowering clematis, can be cut back to knee high
Climbing and bush roses (hybrid teas, floribunda, modern shrubs)

    Evergreen shrubs should be lightly pruned, some of them like Ceanothus (early) dislike heavy pruning. Hebe (late) prefer to be pruned every two to three years.

    [Bibliography: The Royal Horticultural Society – Pruning & Training; The Telegraph gardening section]

    Friday, 12 March 2010

    ABC of Shrubs

    Large Evergreen Shrubs, more than 3 metres high :
    • Abelia x grandiflora H-3m, S-4m; Abelia x grandiflora ‘Edouard Goucher’.
    • Aucuba japonica H-3m, S-3m; Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’ H-3m, S-3m – they prefer shade.
    • Buxus balearica H-3m, S-2.5m; Buxus sempervirens ‘Handsworthensis’ H-5m, S-5m – they prefer shade, full sun dulls their leaves.
    • Carpenteria californica H-3m, S-3m.

    • Ceanothus ‘Concha’ H-3m, S-3m; C arboreus ‘Trewithen Blue’ H-6m, S-8m; C incanus H-3m, S-4m; C ‘Autumnal Blue’ H-3m, S-3m. Ceanothus may become chlorotic on alkaline soil.
    • Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ (semi-evergreen) H-6m, S-6m.
    • Cytisus battandieri (Pineapple broom) (semi-evergreen) H-5m, S-5m – could become cholorotic on alkaline soil.

    • Elaeagnus pugens ‘Maculata’ – may become cholorotic H-6, S-6m; Elaeagnus x ebbengei ‘Limelight’ H-3m, S-3m.
    • Euonymus japonica, suitable for dry conditions, many varieties, H-3m, S-2m.
    • Escallonia ‘Iveyi’ H-3m, S-3m; Escallonia ‘Leucantha’ H-3m, S-2.5m.
    • Fremontedendron ‘Californian Glory’ H-6m, S-4m, a very suitable shrub.

    • Garrya elliptica (Silk Tassel Bush) H-4m, S-4m.
    • Heteromeles arbutifolia H 5-10m.
    • Jasminum mesnyi H-5m, S-5m; J humile (Yellow Jasmine) H2.5m, S-3m; J humile ‘Revolutum’ has more and larger flowers; J nudiflorum (Winter flowering) H-3m, S-3m.
    • Ligustrum lucidum ‘Excelsum Superbum’ H-10m, S-10m; L ovalifolium, semi-evergreen H-4m, S-4m; L sinense, semi-evergreen H-4m, S-4m; L vulgare, semi-evergreen H-3m, S-3m, native to the region; L ‘Vicaryi’ H-3m, S-3m.
    • Myrtus communis, native to the region H-3m, S-3m.
    • Nerium oleander, many different types.
    • Olearia traversii H-10m, S-5m.
    • Phillyrea angustifolia, native to the region H-3m, S-2m.
    • Photinia serralata H-10m, S-8m; plus all other hybrids and varieties.
    • Pistachia lentiscus (Mastic tree), native to the region H-3m, S-3m.
    • Prunus illicifolia H-6m, S-4m.
    • Pyracantha ‘Golden Charmer’ H-3m, S-3m.
    • Rhamnus alaternus, native to the region H-4m, S-3m; Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteovariegata’ H-4m, S-3m.
    • Spartium junceum, native to the region H-3m, S-3m.
    • Viburnum tinus, native to the region H-3m, S-2m.

    Large Deciduous Shrubs, more than 3 metres high:

    • Buddleja alternifolia, H-4m, S-4m; Buddleja 'Lochinch', H-2.5m, S-3m; Buddleja officinalis, H-2.5m, S-2.5m.
    • Caesalpinia japonica, H-2m, S-3m.

    • Colutea arborescens (Bladder Senna), H-3m, S-3m, Colutea x media, H-3m, S-3m.; Colutea orientalis, H-2m, S-1.5m.
    • Corylus avellana 'Contorta' (Corkscrew Hazel), ideal for chalky soils, H-5m-S-5m.
    • Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', H-4m, S-3m; Cotinus obovatus, H-6m, S-4m.
    • Dipelta yunnanensis, H-3m, S-4m; Dipelta floribunda, H-4m, S-4m, both like alkaline soil.
    • Elaeagnus angustifolia, has grey leaves, H-6m, S-6m, can become chlorotic.
    • Escallonia rubra macrantha, the best Escallonia, H3m, S-4m.

    • Hibiscus syriacus 'Red Heart', H-3m, S-2; Hibiscus syriacus 'Woodbridge', H-3m, S-2m, Hibiscus needs some watering, they like alkaline soil.
    • Kolkwitzia amabilis 'Pink Cloud', H-3m, S-4m.
    • Lonicera tatarica, H-4m, S-2.5m; Lonicera xylosteum, H-3m, S-3m; Lonicera ledebourii, H3m, S-4m.
    • Lycium barbarum, native to the region, H-3m, S--3m.
    • Olearia x haastii, H-2m, S-3m; Olearia 'Henry Travers', H-2.5m, S-2m.
    • Osteomeles schweriniae, H-3m, S-3m.
    • Paliurus spina christi (Christ's Thorn, Jerusalem Thorn), native to the region, H-4m, S-3m.
    • Philadelphus coronarius 'Variegatus', H-3m, S-2.5m; Philadephus delavayi f. melanocalyx, H-3m, S-2.5m.
    • Pistachia terebinthus (Turpentine shrub), native to the region, H-6m, S-6m.
    • Ptelea trifoliata 'Aurea', H-5m, S-4m.
    • Rubus 'Benenden', H-3m, S-3m.
    • Syringa x persica (Persian Lilac), H-6m, S-6m; Syringa vulgaris cultivars are not really suited to this climate.
    • Tamarix ramosissima, H-5m, S-5m.
    • Vitex agnus-castus var. latifolia, H-5m, S-5m.

    • Vitex negundo var. cannabifolia, H-3m, S-3m.
    • Xanthoceras sorbifolium, H-4m, S-3m.
    • Zanthoxylum simulens, H-6m, S-5m.

    Medium Evergreen Shrubs, from 1.5 metres to 3 metres high:

    • Acca (Feijoa) sellowiana (Pineapple Guave), H-2m, S-2

    • Atriplex canescens, H-2m, S-2.5m; Atriplex halimus, H-1.5m, S-2m.
    • Bupleurum fruticosum, H-2m, S-2.5m.
    • Callistemon rigide, H-2m, S-2m.
    • Cassinia vauvilliersii, H-2m, S-2.5m.
    • Ceanothus impressus, H-1.5m, S-2.5m.
    • Choisya ternata (Mexican Orange Blossom), H-2.5m, S-2.5m.
    • Cistus ladanifer, H-2m, S-1m; Cistus x purpureus 'Alan Fredd', H-1.5m, S-1.5m.

    • Coronilla glauca, native to the region, H-2.5m, S-2.5m.
    • Escallonia virgata, H-2m, S-2.5m; Escallonia 'Donald Seedling', H-2.5m, S-2.5m; Escallonia 'Apple Blossom', H-2.5m, S-2.5m; Escallonia 'Langleyensis', H-2m, S-3m.
    • Justicia (Jacobinia) carnea, H-2m, S-1m; Justicia (Jacobinia) spicigera, H-1.8m, S-1.2m.
    • Lavatera 'Lilac Lady', H-1.7m, S-80cm; Lavatera olbia 'Rosea', semi-evergreen, H-2m, S-2m; Lavatera assurgentiflora, semi-evergreen, H-2m, S-1.5m.
    • Lycium excertum, H-2m, S-80cm.

    • Myrtus communis ssp. tarentina, H1.5m, S-1.5m.
    • Osmanthus delavayi, H-2.5m, S-3m.
    • Ozothamnus (Helichrysum) rosmarinifolius, H-2m, S-1.5m.
    • Pistachia lentiscus (Mastic Tree), H-2.5m, S-2.5m, native to the region.
    • Pyracantha x watereri, H-2.5m, S-2.5m; Pyracantha 'Golden Dome', H-2m, S-3m.
    • Teucrium fruticans, H-2m, S-2m.
    • Viburnum suspensum, most beautiful of all the evergreens, needs a little shade and occasional watering, H-2.5m, S-2.5.

    • Ulex europaeus (gorse), H-2.5m, S-2m.
    • Yucca gloriosa (Spanish dagger), H-2m, S-2m.

    Medium Decidious Shrubs, from 1.5 metres to 3 metres high:

    • Abelia chinensis, H-1m, S-1.5m, semi-evergreen
    • Aloysia triphylla (Lemon Verbena), H-2m, S-3m.
    • Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea, H-1m, S-2.5m.
    • Campylotropis macrocarpa, H-2m, S-2m.
    • Caryopteris incana, H-2m, S-2m.
    • Colutea arborescens, H-2m, S-2m; Colutea orientalis, H-2n, S-1.5.
    • Eleutherococcus sieboldianus, H-2.5m, S-2.5m, well suited to our area.
    • Fallugia paradoxa, H-2m, S-2m.

    • Hibiscus sinosyriacus 'Lilac Queen', H-2.5m, S-3m, needs some watering, likes alkaline soil.
    • Indigofera heterantha (gerardiana), H-2m, S-3m.
    • Kerria japonica, H-2m, S-2.5m.
    • Lespedeza thunbergii, H-2m, S-2m.
    • Lonicera frangrantissima, H2m, S-2m.
    • Medicago arborea, native to the region, H-2m, S-2m.
    • Neillia thibetica, H-2m, S-2m.

    • Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Blue Spire', H-1.2m, S-1.2m; Perovskia scrophularifolia, H-1.2m, S-1.2m.
    • Philadelphus 'Beauclerk', H-2.5m, S-2.5m; P. 'Belle Etoile', H-1.2m, S-2.5m; P. Boule d'Argent, H1.5m, S-1.5m; P. Dame Blanche, H-2m, S-2m; P. 'Lemoinei', H1.5m, S1.5m.
    • Phlomis fruticosa, H-1.5m, S-1.5m; Phlomis longifolia subsp. longifolia, H-1m, S-1m.; Phlomis lunariifolia, H1.5m, S-1.5m; Phlomis lycia, H-1.7m, S-1.7m.
    • Piptanthus nepalensis (laburnifolium), H-2.5m, S-2m.
    • Prinsepia uniflora var. serrata, H-1.8m, S-1.8m.

    • Rhus trilobata, H-1.2m, S-3m.
    • Sophora davidii (Sophora viciifolia), H-2.5m, S-3m.
    • Syringa laciniata, H-2m, S-2m.
    • Viburnum x carlcephalum, H-2.5m, S-2m.
    • Vitex chinensis, H-2m, S-2m.
    • Zanthoxylum piperitum, H-2.5m, S-2.5m

    Small Evergreen Shrubs, up to 1.5 metres high:

    • Artemisia x Powis Castle, H-60cm, S-90cm

    • Berberis empetrifolis, H-45cm, S-60cm.
    • Buxus microphylla 'Green Pillow', H-45cm, S-1m.
    • Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. repens, H-1m, S-1m.
    • Chamaebatiaria millefolium, H-1m, S-50cm.
    • Choisya 'Aztec Pearl', H-1m, S-50cm.
    • Cistus albidus, native to the region, H-1m, S-80cm; Cistus atriplicifolium, H-1.2m, S-1.2m; Cistus creticus, native to the region, H-1m, S-1m; Cistus x argenteus 'Peggy Sammons', H-1m, S-1m; Cistus x florentinus, H-30cm, S-50cm; Cistus x hybridus var. corbariensis, H-80cm, S-1.2m; Cistus x purpureus, H-1.2, S-1.2m; Cistus x purpureus 'Alan Fradd', H-1.5m, S-1.5m; Cistus x skanbergii, H-1m, S-1m.

    • Convolvulus cneorum, H-60cm, S90cm.
    • Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca, H-1.5m, S-1.5m.
    • Daphne odora leucantha, nicest specimen, does not like its roots to become too dry, H-1.5m, S-2.5m.

    • Escallonia rubra 'Woodside', H-75cm, S-1.5m.
    • Grindelia chiloensis, H-1m, S-1m.
    • Hertia cheirifolia, H-40cm, S-1m.
    • Hypericum calycinum, better in shade, H-60cm, S-indefinite.
    • Iberis arborea, H-40cm, S-40cm.
    • Leptospermum humifusum, H-1.5m, S-1.5m.
    • Nandina domestica, H-1m, S-80cm.

    • Ozathamnus ledifolius, H-1m, S-1m.
    • Phlomis italica, H-30cm, S-60cm; Phlomis cashmeriana, H-1m, S-1m; Phlomis chrysophylla, H-80cm, S-80cm; Phlomis 'Edward Bowles', H-80cm. S-30cm; Phlomis grandiflora, H-80cm, S-80cm.
    • Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken', H-1m, S-1.5m.
    • Rosmarinus eriocalyx, H-80cm, S-80cm; Rosmarinus officinalis 'Pointe de Raz', H-60cm, S-1m; Rosmarinus officinalis 'Corsican Blue', creeping rosemary, H-20cm, S-1m; Rosmarinus officinalis 'Majorcan Pink', H-1m, S-1m.
    • Ruscus hypophyllum, native to the region, H-60cm, S-1m.

    • Sarcopoterium spinosum, H-50cm, S-50cm.
    • Scabiosa cretica, H-50cm, S-1m.
    • Sphaeraicea ambigua, H-1m, S-1m.

    Small Decidious Shrubs, up to 1.5 metres tall:

    • Abelia schumannii, H-1.5m.

    • Berberis thunbergii 'Aurea', H-1.5m, S-2m; Berberis 'Rubrostilla', H-1.5m, S-2.5m.
    • Caragana arborescens 'Nana', H-1.5m, S-1m.
    • Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Heavenly Blue', H-1m, S-1.5m; Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Kew Blue', H-1.m, S-1m.
    • Ceanothus 'Perle Rose', H-1.5m, S-1.5m, Ceanothus 'Gloire de Versailles', H-1.5m, S-1.5m

    • Ceratostigma willmottianum, H-1m, S-1.5m.
    • Cotoneaster horizontalis, H-1m, S-1.5m.
    • Cytisus x kewensis, H-30cm, S-1.5cm; Cytisus x praecox (Warminster Broom), H-1.2m, S-1.5m; Cytisus x praecox 'Allgold', H-1.2m, S-1.5m.
    • Elsholtzia stauntonii (Mint Bush), H-1m, S-1m; Elsholtzia stauntonii 'Alba', H-1m, S-1m.

    • Genista tinctoria, H-90cm, S-1m; Genista hispanica, H-75cm, S-1.5m.
    • Indigofera dielsiana, H-1.5m, S-1.5m.
    • Philadelphus 'Manteau d'Hermine', H-75cm, S-1.5m.
    • Potentilla. fruticosa, tolerates poorest soils, H-75cm, S-1.2m; Potentilla fruticosa var. mandschurica can stand more drought than others.

    Bibliography: The Royal Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia, Pépinière de l'Armalette brochure, Mediterranean Gardening by Heidi Gildemeister, Mediterranean Gardener by Hugo Latymer.

    Wednesday, 10 March 2010

    Orchidées Sauvages

    De nombreuses orchidées sauvages poussent dans notre région.
    Dans mon jardin il y en a trois espèces, j’en découvre chaque année. Celle-ci est la première à fleurir.
    Il s’agit (si je ne me trompe pas...) de l’orchis purpura qui appartient au groupe militaris.
    Je les ai découvertes cet après midi dans la partie ‘sauvage’ de notre jardin.
    Chaque année elles sont plus nombreuses, j’imagine qu’un jour nous aurons un champ d’orchidées...
    Dans quelques semaines je partirai à la recherche des autres orchidées qui appartiennent à une autre espèce.
    Dans 10 jours c’est le printemps !!!

    Monday, 8 March 2010

    Mimosa Route

    The mimosa is in full bloom at the moment along the A8 and down by the coast, and now is an ideal time to drive the mimosa route from le Lac St Cassien to Tanneron and then down to Mandelieu. The entire route is lined with sweet smelling mimosa, framing the beautiful views all the way. We drove along the route last Monday in brilliant sunshine, and there should be even more trees in full bloom by now. Don’t miss it !

    Hazel Francis

    Sunday, 7 March 2010

    Almond Blossom Time

    I always feel spring has come to Provence first with the cheerful yellow flowering Mimosa quickly followed by the delicate light pink blossom of the almond tree.

    All around us we see the flowering almond trees, not just in the gardens but growing wild on the hillsides and we feel it is part of the flora of the region.

    The history of the almond tree is quite interesting. It is native to the Mediterranean region of the Middle East, spreading eastwards up to Pakistan. The Phoenicians, Greek and Romans who all introduced the almond tree to the rest of the countries around the Med, as far as Spain and northern Africa. The almond tree was first introduced to France in the 8th century and to north-western Europe at the end of the Middle Ages. The first almond tree was planted in England in the 16th century. In Elizabethan cooking large quantities of the nut were used and almond water was used as a substitute for milk in recipes. Nowadays the major producer of almonds is the USA with 41% of the world production, followed by Spain with 13% and various other countries making up the rest.

    There are two types of almonds, Prunus dulcis var. dulcis (sweet almond) and the Prunus dulcis var. amara (bitter almond). Quite difficult on sight to differentiate between the two, but in general the bitter almond flowers are a deeper pink and the nuts are broader and shorter than those of the sweet almond. Both the sweet and the bitt er almonds contain al mond oil (50% of the nut) which is procured by pressing the almond.

    The bitter almond is used to boost the flavour of products made with sweet almonds like for instance the liqueur Amaretto. The bitter almond contains prussic acid, which occurs in many of the leaves and seeds from our most common fruits like apple pips. Prussic acid is poisonous and the bitter almonds have to be heat treated before they can be used.

    Sweet almonds are used for culinary purposes and almond oil is a widely used oil in cosmetics, in massage and as a the most common carrier oil for aromatherapy.

    [Bibliography : Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia; Malcolm Stuart – Herbs & Herbalism; Antonio Carluccio – Carluccio’s Complete Italian Food]

    Wednesday, 3 March 2010

    Hellébore ou éllébore

    Hellébores ou éllébores (nom masculin comme le colchique ...) ils ont fleuri tout l’hiver d’abord les blancs helleborus niger, les Roses de Noël puis les colorés helleborus orientalis Roses de Noël d’Orient.

    Vous pouvez dès maintenant replanter au jardin l’hellébore que l’on vous a offert à Noël, c’est une plante facile à vivre, il préfère les situations ombragées, tolère les sols lourds mais bien drainés. C’est une plante gourmande, il faut lui apporter de l’engrais (corne broyée) ou du fumier décomposé.

    Après la floraison ces vivaces forment un nouveau feuillage, coupez les vieilles feuilles, elles gêneraient les nouvelles et cachent les dernières fleurs.

    Attention cette renonculacée est très toxique
    à propriétés tonicardiaques.

    Monday, 1 March 2010

    ABC of Trees

    I’ve tried to make a list of suitable trees for our area of Provence, with cold night temperatures, above freezing during the day in winter and hot summer temperatures, very often above 30°C.

    During the first two years after planting , the best way to water them is once a fortnight and plentifully, at least 20-30 litres per tree. This way the roots, when they get thirsty between the watering periods, will seek water and find their way deep down into the ground, which is exactly what to aim for and then when they are really getting desperate, they get this nice dousing of water. Any suggestions to add to this list, would be welcome.

    Although not all our gardens are big enough for very large trees, a few trees planted about give a certain structure to a garden. With the trees mentioned below I hope everyone can find something to fit their garden.

    Conifers :
    Cupressocyparis leylandii (Leyland cypress, often used for hedges) H-35m S-5m; C leylandii ‘Castlewellan’ H-35m S-5m; C leylandii ‘Harlequin’ (columnar variegated conifer) H-25m S-5m.
    Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey cypress) H 30m S 4-12m; C sempervirens (Italian cypress) H 20m S 1-6m; C sempervirens ‘Stricta’ is narrowly upright H-20m S-3m.
    Junipers grow in all sorts of soils, including alkaline, can cope with heat and drought.
    Juniperus chinensis Keteleeri H-10m S-2m; J chinensis ‘Obelisk’ H-2.5m S-60cm; J chinensis ‘Kaizuka’ H-6m S-3m; J oxycidres (prickly juniper) native to our area H-10m; J scopulorum ‘Blue Heaven’; J scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’ H-6m S-50-60cm; J virginiana ‘Burkii’ H6m S1m; J virginiana ‘Robusta Green’ H-3m S-60cm.

    Pines likes clean air and not too much shade. Although some do not like alkaline soils the ones mentioned below grow in all types of soil :
    Pinus canariensis H-25m S-6-9m; P halepensis (Aleppo Pine) native to our area H-20m S-6m; P jeffreyi (Black pine or Jeffrey pine) H 25-35m, S 6-8m; P muricata (Bishop pine) H-20m, S 6-9m; P pinea (Umbrella Pine) native to our area, H-15-20m S-6-12m; P sylvestris f. fastigiata H-8m S1-3m; P wallichiana (Bhutan or Himalayan pine) H-20-35m S-6-12m.
    Thuja – many varieties to choose from in all sorts of colour and shapes, a very good conifer can cope with all sorts of soils and it is very resistant to heat and drought.

    Lac de Ste Croix

    Evergreen trees :
    Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree), native to our area H-6m S-6m.
    Cotoneaster ‘Hybridus (Salicifolius) pendulus’, semi-evergreen H-3m.
    Eriobotrya japonica (Japanese loquat) – [néflier] H-6m S-6m.
    Laurus nobilis (Sweet Bay) H-12m S-10m.
    Magnolia grandiflora, will tolerate dry, alkaline soil H6-18m S-15m.
    Olea europea (Olive) – in our part of the Var the varieties to choose are : Agla
    ndau, Cayon and Picholine throughout the Var, Bouteillan (Haut Var), Salonenque (Varages), Petit Ribier and Cayet Roux (Draguignan).
    Quercus cerris (Turkey Oak) H-30m S-25m, there exists a variegated form of this tree; Q ilex (Holm Oak), native to our area, H-25m, S-20m; Q x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’ (semi-evergreen) H-25m S-20m; Q x turneri (semi-evergreen) a cross between Q robur and Q ilex H-20m S-20m.
    Although most oaks like deep, fertile, well-drained soil, the above mentioned oaks will cope with alkaline soil.
    Ulmus parvifolia ‘Sempervirens’ (semi-evergreen) H-12m, S-10m; Ulmus parvifolia ‘True Green’ H-12m S-10m.

    Trees with showy blooms :
    Aesculus indica ‘Sydney Pearce’ (Indian horse-chestnut) deciduous H-15m S-15m. The normal horse-chestnut is also suitable as it likes alkaline soil.
    Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree), fruit and flower appear at the same time in late autumn H-6m S-6m.
    Caragana arborescens ‘Pendula’, deciduous H-2.4m.
    Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree), native to the region, deciduous H-7m S-7m.
    Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul's Scarlet’, deciduous H-4.5m.
    Fraxinus ornus (Manna ash), deciduous H-15m S-15m.
    Koelreuteria bipinnata, deciduous H-10m S-12m.
    Laburnum x waterii ‘Vossii’ H-6m.
    Laurus nobilis (Sweet Bay) H-12m, S-10m.
    Magnolia delavayi, deciduous H-10m S-10m; Magnolia grandiflora H6-18m S-15m.
    Melia azedarach (Bead Tree, Persian Lilac), deciduous H-10m S-10m.
    Prunus ‘Amanogawa’, deciduous H-6m S-4m, Prunus dulcis (Almond), deciduous H-8m S-8m.
    Punica granatum (Pomegranate), deciduous H-5m S-4m.
    Robinia pseudoacacia, deciduous H-25m S-20m.
    Sophora japonica (Japanese pagoda tree), deciduous H-30m S-20m.
    Sorbus domestica – native to the region, deciduous H-20m S-12m.
    Tamarix H-4m S-3m.

    Fruit trees :
    Most of the fruit trees will need watering, they'll survive if not watered, but they look quite miserable during the height of the summer.

    Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree) H-6m S-6m. Fruit contains many pips, but is very nice as a jelly or compote.
    Castanea sativa (Sweet Chestnut) only in acid soils.
    Diospyros kaki (Persimmon) H-10m S-10m, lovely autumn colours and fruits stay on the tree after the leaves have dropped.
    Eriobotrya japonica (Japanese loquat) [néflier] H-6m S-6m.
    Ficus carica (edible Fig) H-3m S-4m, they are quite hardy, but even the fig can look a bit sad during the hottest period and would benefit from some water.
    Olea europea (Olive), various types mentioned above.
    Morus alba (White Mulberry) H10m S-10m; Morus nigra (Black Mulberry) H-12m S-15m.
    Poncirus trifoliata (Japanese bitter orange) H-5m S-5m.
    Prunus armeniaca (Apricot) H-6m; Prunus domestica (Plum) H3-6m; Prunus dulcis (Almond tree) H-8m S-8m.
    Punica granatum (Pomegranate) H-5m S-4m.

    Other deciduous trees :
    Acer griseum (Paperbark maple) H-6m.
    Acer monspessulanum (Montpelier maple) H-8m S-8m.
    Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven), very invasive H-25m S-15m.
    Celtis australis (Australian nettle tree) H-20m S-20m.
    Crataegus prunifolia H-4.5m.
    Platanus x acerifolia (Plane tree) H-30m S-25m.
    Populus alba (White Poplar) H-20m S-20m.
    Prunus serrula, grown for its bark H-10m S-10m.
    Quercus pubescens (Downy Oak), native to the region H-25m.
    Salix x sepulcralis ‘Chrysocoma’, needs occasional watering H-15m S-15m.

    Palms :
    Chamaerops humilis (European fan palm), native to the Mediterranean H-4m S-1.5m.
    Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan palm) H-8m S-3m.
    Washingtonia filifera H-30m S-5m.

    [Bibliography : Royal Horticultural Society – A-Z Encyclopedia; Hugo Latimer – Mediteranean Gardener; Heidi Gildermeister – Mediterranean Gardener; Collins – Mediterranean Wild Flowers; Peter Mc Hoy – Choosing Small Trees; Adrian Bloom – Making the Most of Conifers & Heathers; Tirion – Bomengids in kleur.]


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