Saturday, 25 October 2014

Ready for winter!

Before I begin, what do you think of the new layout and colours?  As I've been doing the blog for close on two years now, I decided it was time for a change!

You'll see that I've called this post "Ready for winter".  My friend Anne has returned to the UK, we have stocked up on logs for the wood burner and Danny has "winterised" the pool.  Only it seems that winter isn't ready for us!  For weeks now we've been enjoying the most beautiful dry, sunny and warm days.  Some days have even been hot!  Not that I'm complaining, especially as it's given me an excellent chance of tidying up the garden, which I had neglected badly for some time now.  More about that later.

So, the pool now has its 'winter cover' on, some of the water has been drained off and all the pumps have been turned off.  It was no mean feat achieving all this and we have learnt that it is common for people to call in an engineer to do the 'winterising'! (Thank goodness for Danny's engineering brain, then!)

So this is what the pool area looks like now...

Even the heat pump has its own little winter cover....

I think the first photo above shows what a difference we've made to the whole pool area in the last couple of months.  As you can see, the grass seed has really taken and we have new grass to replace all the ghastly mounds of earth and boggy tyre tracks from the endless digger and dumper journeys! 

And around the pool terracing various evergreen shrubs have been planted now, along with lots of small ground covering plants which we hope will eventually form a carpet of colour to disguise the green membrane.  All I can say at the moment is "watch this space"!  

Since we got all that sorted out, I've been concentrating on tidying up the front garden.  Most of what I've done is straightforward pruning.  However, I've also started on some radical changes!  You might remember, a few months ago I decided that it was about time we made the garden 'ours'.  I've always had an aversion to removing live plants but I've come to realise that when we take our garden waste to the local déchetterie it goes from there to be recycled.  So now if I do want to make sweeping changes, I don't feel guilty about uprooting plants that are very much alive as I know they will have a new purpose elsewhere.

When our friends Ron and Barbara were here recently, Ron dug out two old rose bushes that were really past their best.  I intend planting out the empty troughs properly in the Spring but in the meantime, as I found these pretty cyclamens on offer, I thought they'd brighten up the front of the house.

(In case you're wondering why the window boxes of geraniums are on the step, despite the good weather we have also had a few windy days and the boxes were at risk of falling off their perches!)

So onto a more radical change!  When I cut back a hardy fuchsia bush it revealed a large hole that we suspect was dug by Bertie, as he has a penchant for digging where he shouldn't!  He might have got away with it, had I not been on this pruning mission!  So this is what I was faced with...

.....but it gave me an idea!  I talked it over with Danny and we made the decision to get rid of the large conifer, grass over the whole area and place my mum's old garden bench (suitably restored) under the ornamental cherry tree.  As well as being attractive (we believe!), it will make that whole area so much easier for Danny to mow. 

So over the next two or three days, we hacked away and here is the conifer, going....



There are a few deep roots left but we have asked our digger man Phil if he will pop by and dig them out for us!

The most recent thing I've done is tidy up the area around the well.  It had become so overgrown that I imagine some of our guests wouldn't even know we had a well.  So here are 'before' and 'after' photos...

Now comes the best bit.  After all the hard work, I can go out to buy some new plants to put in the trough that's in front of the well itself. 
So, that's pretty much it for this update.  Looking over it, it's all about the garden!  But in truth, that's about all it has been the last few weeks!  Despite that, Danny has fitted in time to do more of his model work....he's currently making a model of a London Bus.  Here he is at work!

Until next time, à bientôt!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Guests and grass!

This post's title sums up the last couple of weeks since I last wrote my blog.  And what an exhausting time it's been!

You may recall that we had had the last of the mountain of earth (from the numerous diggings of the pool-hole) removed and the ground levelled.  It meant that by the end of the third week of September, we were in a position to prepare the ground around the pool terracing for grass. 

I think it would be a good idea at this point, to remind you what the ground around the pool looked like at one stage.  This was back in May and although I don't have photos to prove it, take my word that time didn't improve it!

Our friends, Ron and Barbara (who were our neighbours in the UK - and very keen, not to mention, most adept, gardeners) arrived on the afternoon of 22 September and the very next day got stuck into helping us.  To be fair, it was Ron and Danny who got down to the hard graft while Barbara and I mooched round garden centres and nurseries choosing plants for what will be the flower borders adjoining the terracing!

To prove my point, here are Ron and Danny, hard at it.....

By way of explanation (and to try to give you some idea of the sheer scale of the job) the whole area which was to be seeded for grass measured 450 square metres.  Before seeding, the ground had to be rotivated, raked, flattened then raked over again.  In some areas, weeds had grown and had subsequently been sprayed with a weed killer.  But those weeds, albeit by now very dead, had to be raked out!

Eventually, after a few days of that, the ground at the far end of the pool was pronounced ready for seeding.  So, on 27 September, Ron and Danny got busy, sowing seeds....

I don't want you to think that we worked our guests so hard all the time.  As well  as all the work Ron did in the garden (I should mention that he also pulled out some very stubborn roots for me!), we made sure there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy our French wines and patisserie.  And, they enjoyed our swing seat too!

Ron and Barbara's week's holiday went by so quickly and before we knew it, Danny and I were left to finish the rest of the grass seeding and prepare the flower beds for planting.  There will be flower beds to three sides of the pool but the largest is the area beside the "pool house".  These next photos show the result of another couple of days of hard work; moving top soil, raking it over and fixing a membrane, which will hopefully keep the weeds at bay.  

We went out last weekend and bought lots of plants!  I've chosen a selection of evergreen shrubs which look a bit sparse at the moment but hopefully, they'll grow and provide year round colour.  My plan is to add other, perennial and annual, plants as time goes by.  Here though, are the pots of plants ready to go in..
The weather has changed since then and we are having a week of heavy rain and wind.  Unfortunately, this means I shall have to wait to get the plants in but on the plus side, it has done wonders for the grass seeds.  A couple of days ago, eight days after sowing the seeds, we realised the area that Ron and Danny seeded, was now starting to look green!  It's not so easy to see in the picture on the left but the grass really had begun to grow - I know this will sound crazy but it felt quite magical!!

And, this is what it looks like today!

So there you have it!  It's been a lot of very hard work but it's worth it when the results are so easy to see.  

Of course, you can't have all work and no play and with my friend, Anne, about to return to the UK for the winter, she and I took the opportunity to spend last Friday afternoon together looking round the Parc Oriental de Maulévrier.  It is a beautiful Oriental park, only about 40 minutes from where we live.  We were lucky with the weather as it was still warm and sunny and it was nice to enjoy a work-free afternoon!  Here is a collage of some of the photos I took that day..

 I suspect we'll be taking next year's visitors there for a look and if you want more information about the park, click here.

Well that's about it for this update.  I'm aware that the animals have not featured in this post but suffice to say the dogs thoroughly enjoyed Ron and Barbara's visit as they were very spoilt!  So, to finish up, here is a photo of the dogs just about to be given one of their new treats...Danny knows someone who makes home-made dog treats and we brought back a boxful when we came back from England last month.  As you can tell, the dogs know exactly where they're kept!

Until, next time then, à bientôt!