As I have mentioned before, I bought a stone tent: spalling crépi, dodgy wiring and plumbing, no insulation but plenty of mildew. Folks had died in all the bedrooms and down in the dining room, too, though probably not from the food. The house was sad and in need of rescue. The garden looked to be in better shape. Then it turned out that it wasn’t. As the family ran out of money, they cut corners on maintenance. Improper pruning caused three stunning chestnuts to rot, to the point that they were soon going to fall right over. They had to go. Other trees had not been pruned at all. Bulbs were in desperate need of division. Rose bushes had become spindly. Three years of contractor parking and general abuse basically finished the place off.
This is the first week I have really had the place to myself. I did some shifting of stuff inside. Then it dawned on me; it was finally safe to do a little gardening.
I have a beautiful garden plan with no money to implement it. I have more weeds than plants worth keeping. Until the finances recover, I have one real option: garden triage.
So this is what I am doing. I tackle one little thing at a time. I do that and I don’t worry about what is not done. There is no point. Here I have a planter with thyme that survived the winter. So I added a little more thyme and added a few pelargoniums. I’m hoping the pelargoniums are tough, too, and don’t need a whole lot of water.
I am wildly grateful for anything that survives my style of gardening. Back when I lived in Los Angeles I would search the Western Garden Book for anything that was said to be both invasive and drought-tolerant. Those were my plants. This salvia is one of them and I am glad to have found it here in France. It has gone almost a year with no water, pouring rain, light frost, heat waves and near-constant shade, when it should be in full sun. It is not only alive, it’s in bloom. I love this stuff.
Back in December I thought the contractors would leave in a month or so. The city wants to sell me a strip of land and said they would expedite the escrow; I’d have the property by the end of the year. I believed them. Silly me. So here I am with trees and rose bushes that have intended homes and there is nothing I can do about it. Julien rigged up a temporary planter and we’re hoping they make it until the next bare root season. Most of the trees look a little dubious but this apple, Reine de Reinette, is actually setting fruit. I can’t wait to taste it.
The city approached me about buying that land because it is an attractive nuisance, a partly hidden area where kids like to party. They asked me to put in a wall. I thought yeah, and maybe a barrier hedge, too. So, David Austin to the rescue. The rose on the right is a rugosa, notoriously tough and just look that those thorns. That is a serious barrier. The one on the left is called Queen of Sweden and is earmarked for the planter along the front of the house.
Of course I pay close attention to anything that survived all this abuse and neglect. This bush not only grows with no encouragement whatsoever, it flowers for a month or two and is taking over its corner of the garden. May it live long and prosper.
My favorite discovery of this whole process is that deadheading roses is a meditative experience. If you can protect your knees, weeding is, too. I could learn to like gardening. Faced as I am with an acre of weeds, that’s good.