Still time to divide your irises

Princesse M

Princesse Caroline de Monaco (Cayeux 1998)

I feel like a character out of a fairytale. After two months of total inertia hiding indoors from searing temperatures of up to 36°C, and only a drop or two of rain, we have recently enjoyed the occasional day of downpours and temperatures are now back in the mid Twenties. Bliss. And suddenly my energy has returned and my head is buzzing with projects and plans for the garden.

It is not too late to divide your bearded irises, indeed summer is the best time for it (unless you have total drought and searing heat – see above…) After a few years bearded irises get overcrowded; their rhizomes have multiplied up to the point where they are gasping for room, the central fleshly rhizome is withered and spent and the flowering tapers off or stops altogether. Continue reading

Dealing with “La Canicule”

We have been sweltering in South-west France for the past week or more in temperatures of 35C and over in the shade. In the sun it could well be up to 50C. The French call a heatwave like this La Canicule, from the Latin canicula or “little dog”, another name for the star Sirius. It originally only referred to the period from 24th July to 23rd August (hence the English expression “the dog days” or “dog day afternoon”), when Sirius rises and sets with the sun, but it now used in French to encapsulate any summer heatwave. This one started late June and the end is not in sight.

Hazel's way of dealing with "dog day afternoons" - out of the garden and flat out on the metal of our unfinished staircase

Hazel’s way of dealing with “dog day afternoons” – out of the garden and flat out on the metal of our unfinished staircase

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Rendez-Vous aux Jardins

Crammed with plants

La Barrière garden, packed with plants

I always think June is the best time to visit gardens, so it is appropriate that Les Rendez-Vous aux Jardins 2015 opens its gates again for next weekend 5th, 6th & 7th June.

One of the gardens I had a preview of this week is that of my friend Catherine Smedley just north of Caylus (Tarn et Garonne). This small walled garden is a true labour of love and has been created from what was a bare field by Catherine and her partner Des over the past 20 years or so. I have known them since its beginning and watched it evolve with admiration. It is now packed full of plants and looks particularly glorious in summer. Catherine artist’s eye can be seen in the palette of different but harmonious flower colours and plant textures and in the quirky decorative touches you discover as you wander round. Continue reading

Taking Cayeux Iris to Chelsea


Iris ‘Noctambule’ created by Richard Cayeux

This week my friend and former client Richard Cayeux, French iris hybridiser, won his first Gold Medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. My breakfast here in France was spent telephoning to congratulate the team and publicising my delight on social media. A very timely award, as I was about to start a post on bearded irises and all the irises in my garden originated in the 55-acre Cayeux Iris nursery in central France.

Richard in his 22 hectare nursery

Richard in his 22-hectare nursery

Around 2001 a French nurseryman I knew nothing about came onto my English Gardener stand at the Journées de Plantes at Courson, near Paris, where I was selling British garden tools. He went away with a pair of Burgon and Ball steel hand ‘sheep’ shears – perfect, he said, for quickly cutting down the leaves around iris rhizomes before packing them into straw for dispatch to his clients. “Send me the bill!” he said vaguely as he walked off with them, “I’ll send a cheque.” Somewhat nervously I did, and he did. And so began our professional relationship. Continue reading

Busy planting

The problem with writing a blog about something you love doing is that you are so busy doing it that it’s hard to find time to sit down and write. Especially with gardening at this time of year.

I’ve been busy planting the last few weeks, mostly shrubs and perennials in what I call the kitchen bank, sloping down from the kitchen terrace towards the courtyard. This is the only area I am (initially) permitting myself to have as a real ‘bed’ or as the French say a ‘massif’ (and Sean insists he will keep me to this and curb my expansionist tendencies).

PLanting 1

Planting into weed-supressing fabric, early April.

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