Friday, 8 May 2015

How to create a potager: aka what a man will do for a woman Part 1

Once upon a time there was a line of very tall conifers, and then there wasn't. There was a line of tomatoes instead. This is the story of how a man's idea of tidying up his property turned into something he did for a woman. Me.

Jean-Claude and I often joke about how he's got a tronconeuse (chainsaw) grafted to him. He's scarcely happier than when he's chopping down trees, very big trees, all by himself. A line of Thuja conifers  was shading his house and getting a bit unwieldy and the previous use of the land they were on wasn't relevant; things were looking very untidy. So, he proceeded to chop down each tree. Not wasting anything.

It took a year. That left a line of concrete blocks, concreted-in concrete posts and wire fencing. Removing all that was beyond him to do so in came a man with an orange digger.

Removing all the tree stumps and concrete and wire made a VERY deep and long  hole. I tried it on for size. It was big enough for a large house. Yes it was costly, but JC wanted to open up the view from his house so he could see his orchard. He loves big open spaces and hates fiddly things that take a lot of ongoing maintenance such as gardens. Mission accomplished. And there the matter may have stayed but his thoughts kept wandering to me and my love of gardening.

Every weekend for four years I've been obliged to pack a bag and move to his place in order to spend time with him because he's had no interest in spending any time at my accommodation. That means there's almost nothing for me to do at his place because I'm not such a hermit and 'I'm not a lumberjack and that's OK'.

I have a passion and talent for gardening so he started asking me advice on what to do about putting some plants in where he'd erected a fence to close off an old entry to his property.

One Friday I arrived at his place to find a very surprising sign installed that he'd made. He joked about it, that he'd give me a wee bit of space to plant some plants by his new bushwood fence and I could choose those plants, whatever I wanted. I thought it was a very romantic thing for him to do - making that sign.

We marked out the area; I showed him how to use a hose to get the curves just right, all the time wondering why men find it so hard to listen to women's ideas and accept them. Ideas get poo-pooed, then reflected on and then acted on quietly.  But, this is a man who reflects on things and tries to make me happy.

This new plant bed focuses on a predominantly blue and white theme (with a few exceptions to accommodate spare plants already available. JC hates weeding so everything has to be well prepared and then covered with a plastic mat into which holes are made for plantings. Now there's a decorative bark layer added.  It's very, very time and effort consuming as he is very particular about how to do it. This is to minimise maintenance in old age, and fair enough.

Plants include a pittosporum (to remind me of NZ) pieris, acanthus mollis, fuchsias, clematis, geraniums Roxane and Johnson's Blue, corydalis, ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens, (black dragon grass), viburnum, roses, lupins, hostas, heuchera, ferns, shasta daisies, ajuga, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and two blueberry bushes. Everything has to be chosen to withstand the harsh winters here.

I thought that was the end of the matter but JC surprised me and himself  by then deciding to give me more land, and this time for the thing he'd insisted for years he'd never, ever have - a potager, a vegetable garden. Click on any of these photos to enlarge them.

 Next post I'll explain the construction
and design of the potager and ancilliary beds.


Elizabeth Eiffel said...

A lot of work but incredibly worthwhile. There is no taste that compares to that of the fruits and vegetables, which are home grown without nasty pesticides and herbicides. I will never forget the taste of the first herbs & cherries we pick from our overgrown garden in France - delicious and incredibly flavoursome. Bon week-end.

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