TAKING ON a garden that consists entirely of untended grass, 11 neglected trees, two overgrown flower beds, a large concrete slab and a pond is enough of a challenge to ensure that five years on it can still only be classified as “work in progress”.
But then, as any gardener will tell you, gardens are always “work in progress” or we wouldn’t be interested!
The first priority was find somewhere to hang the washing. The presence of one post well-embedded in concrete and complete with a T-bar was significant but of its fellow there was no sign. Madame Voisine was of the opinion that there had to be the fitting for a rotary dryer somewhere since the previous occupant, or maybe the one before, she wasn’t very sure which, had taken the dryer with her when she left.
And it had not been hers to take, she added with a sort of gleeful disapproval.
She indicated the general area of waist-high grass where this fitting might be found and we finally discovered it in much the same way that Mole “discovered” Badger’s foot-scraper by falling over it. At least we could now get the washing dry. Once we replaced the rotart dryer, that is.
The season being well advanced — we were now in high summer with temperatures up to around 32C — the next priority was to remove the surplus vegetation and see just what was lurking underneath but Madame took the view that since there was a small discrete area beside the garage of no more than 10 square metres and not too desperately overgrown it would be worth digging that out, finding what the earth was like, and seeing if it would produce a crop of late carrots or beetroot and possibly a few radishes.
In the event it produced all three and mightily chuffed Madame was about it. Which proved to be a mistake (or not) because she was rapidly appointed i/c root vegetables (except potatoes which are most definitely man’s work!), a post she has held ever since.
Meanwhile work to reduce the grass to manageable levels was under way with assistance from an employee of the commune who was able to use an industrial strength grass cutter to get rid of the worst of it via eight trailer-loads to …. well, we didn’t ask where. He also cut down the 30-foot laurel that was crammed into the corner between our garage and next door’s barn to the benefit of none of them. Five years on the stump is still there, rotting slowly away but there is a magnificent suntrap and an ideal place for growing melons!
A debate on whether to cut down the fir tree which was hiding a view of the pond from the house reached no conclusion and the decision has been deferred each year since, which almost certainly means it has been made and that the tree can rest easy. In any case plans for that part of the garden have changed.
The most invasive and persistent weed — more so than the dandelions and the clover — turned out to be the hibiscus bushes which were forming a barrier between the terrasse and the lawn and along the boundary with the bakery next door. Copiously self-seeded they were living cheek-by-jowl with each other, roots underneath and in some cases through the concrete and intertwined to the point where cutting back and liberally applying stump killer was the only practical solution.
We are still not completely rid of them yet.
Once the grass was cut back it was apparent that there was a lawn (of sorts) in front of the house and that the ground from the garage to the clothes dryer had, relatively recently, been beds of some sort though there was no evidence to suggest whether for fruit, flowers or vegetables. It was clear that this would be the potager and work to clear it started in the autumn with a view to getting most of it under vegetables the following Spring.