Flowers and French gardening tips

It’s been a festival of flowers here this week, I LOVE it when the veg patch starts to bloom. First, in the polytunnel, the ‘Charlotte’ potatoes: they’re almost ready to lift now and my mouth is watering at the thought of those soft, buttery little beauties.

Oh, you pretty thing!

At the back of the tunnel I’m letting the wild rocket and coriander flower and set seed. They’ve made a lovely wild tangle which is attracting masses of pollinators – hope they stick around to do the business with the toms and their tender friends later on.

Bright yellow rocket and frothy white coriander: the hover flies love them both.

The first French marigold in the tomato bed is out; this is ‘French Petite’, it’s very dainty but will have lots of blooms on one plant.

‘French Petite’ marigold: the first to flower.

The French, by the way, call them ‘Indian Carnations.’

Outside the flowers are fully open on the broad beans and wafting their glorious scent all over the garden,

Flowers on the broad bean ‘Imperial Green’ smell wonderful.

while next to them I’ve spotted the first delicate blooms on the ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ peas.

‘Kelvedon Wonder’, a sweet little pea flower.

 Wonderful! Who needs Chelsea?

I’ve spent much of the week on maintenance jobs in the patch: daily weeding, tidying up the bed edges, more stone picking and raking down the bed for the still-too-tiny leeks. In the warm sunshine it’s been a joy; the garden is full of baby birds and the crickets have started chirping again which must be a sign that summer’s on its way. The swedes and Florence fennel I planted a couple of weeks ago have germinated and so too at long, long last, has the beetroot ‘Plate d’Egypte’ – hello, slowcoaches!

Blimey, beetroot – you took your time!

 I read recently that there is a recognised fear of vegetables (yes, it’s true) – it’s called ‘lachanophobia’. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve got the opposite, a fear of lack of vegetables (I’m not sure what that would be called).  Case in point: we still have two good rows of loose leaf salad in the tunnel, plus 20 mixed ‘Salad Bowl’ and 30 ‘Little Gem’ lettuces following on in the garden (not to mention young chard and spinach leaves and lots of fresh herbs…).

Chervil, a perfect herb for salads.

Why, oh why, then do I feel the need to pop in another row of ‘Mesclun Saladina’ just in case? Just in case of what? What possible vegetable emergency could arise that requires two people to have enough salad to feed an army? Lock up the seed basket and hide the rake, I think I need an urgent seed planting detox. 😦

On a trip back to the UK next month, I’m running in the Shrewsbury ‘Race For Life’ in aid of Cancer Research. It’s ‘only’ 5k but unlike my marathon-running husband I am NOT a natural so let’s just say the training is neither easy nor pretty! However, as I plod through several tiny hamlets it does give me the chance to have a nose at other people’s veggie gardens and pick up some tips for next season. One thing I am definitely going to do is plant a bed of perennial flowers in the veg patch. I’ve sown lots of annuals this year to attract pollinators but apart from the sweet peas, there’s no sign of flowers yet.

The sweet peas are just starting to bloom (autumn sown in pots in the tunnel, planted out in early February).

We have a garden full of bees but they are all showing a marked preference for the flower garden rather than the broad beans and peas, which is where I’d like to see them. So, following the French style, I shall move some granny’s bonnets, centaurea, iris and other bits and pieces closer to the veg and hope the bees are good enough to follow.

Hey, you bumbles! What about my broad beans?

 Another thing I need to try and do is be more patient when it comes to planting. The locals do nothing in their gardens until the beginning of May, then everything goes in together and within a couple of weeks it’s all through and romping away. There’s no faffing about starting things off early in pots, everything goes straight into the ground. I’ve seen the benefit of this approach in our patch. Take a look at these sunflowers:

My ‘Starburst Panache’ looks a bit pathetic compared to “Bird Food Wonder”!

the small one in the foreground is a ‘Starburst Panache’ I started off under cover in February and planted out in early May; the big one is self-set from winter bird feed. Say no more! Next year, they can all go straight into the ground as seed. I’ve had mixed results with my climbing bean plants, too: the ‘Borlotti’ were happy in pots and are just as happy in the ground, they have never looked back.

The ‘Borlotti Lingua Di Fuoco’ climbing beans are reaching for the stars…

On the other hand, the ‘Yard Long’ – also happy in pots – look completely miserable in the ground, and I’ve pushed some more seed in at the bottom of the poles as I’m not sure they’re going to make it.

…but the ‘Yard Long’ seem to have crash landed.

Patience, then. Oh dear, that will be as hard for me as the running!

One French tip we picked up several years ago are these funky tomato supports.

‘Sungold’ tomato supported by a twirly-whirly cane.

They’re brilliant: simply push them into the ground and gently wrap the growing point up through the spirals. The plants are fully supported without any need for tying in and at just under €1 each, they are the same price (believe it or not) as a single bamboo cane here so definitely the better buy.

Please note the considerable effort I have gone to in past weeks gathering wine bottle corks for the tops: there are some French habits I’m more then happy to embrace! 🙂


4 thoughts on “Flowers and French gardening tips

  1. All looking good. Congratulations on your valiant cork related activities!

    We eat Rocket flowers – the tender stem, unopened and just opened flowers. They look good in salads and have a mild Rocket flavour. Same with Mizuna flowers.


  2. Those yard long beans never do any good. An old boy on our site saw me sowing some and said that I’d be lucky of the whole plant got to be a yard long. He was right. The rest of the beans raced up the poles and cropped like crazy and the yard longs just sat there, not even a foot tall, and sulked.


    • Well, thanks for telling me – now I don’t feel quite as bad about them! They look such an awful colour I can’t believe they’re right and yes, they are very definitely sulking. Think I’ll try something different next year. You live and learn!


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