Fabulous February!

I can’t believe that it was way back in the middle of last year that I wrote the last post on this blog. Time doesn’t just fly. It seems to warp and suddenly months have passed by in a blur of heat and cold, sun and rain, freckles of snow and mighty wind, abundance and scant growth.

Look at these photos for summer/autumn abundance.

Labastrou, garden July 22 2014 - 23

Belle de Nuit self-seeding everywhere and dominating the front of this bed below the terrace.

Labastrou, garden July 22 2014 - 20

Aniseed-scented agastache with verbena bonariensis below.

Labastrou, garden July 22 2014 - 32

Hibiscus, stars of late summer. They grow abundantly around here but do suffer a little in dry conditions.

Labastrou, garden July 22 2014 - 18

The ever reliable, vividly coloured salvia with geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue, I think and mint ‘sari’ jostling for space.

And today, one of the most beautiful of February days, that followed yesterday, another beautiful day, the garden looks like this.


Hard, bare earth.


Clear, blue, winter sky. Not much colour in the flower beds.


The below terrace bed where Belle de Nuit reigned supreme. Winter flowering jasmine on the right has just about had its fling.

It is that moment in the year when I think that the garden will never again be as beautiful as it was in the year that has passed. But knowing Mother Nature, she will not disappoint and splendid, colourful, delightful life will spring again from the bare soil.

Right on cue, some bulbs pushing up their noses to see if it safe to come out. Daffodils, I think.


Frosted crocus. One of my winter favourites because they never fail to put on a great show year after year.


The Japanese quince has been ready to burst into raw, red flower for a while now. The below freezing temperatures have been holding it back.


There are buds on this apple tree, below.


The Catalpa – Indian Bean tree – looks elegant with its decoration of slim, seed pods dangling in the sun.


But the sun hasn’t yet reached this part of the garden below and the cabbages cower after the early morning’s deep frost. A reliable winter vegetable though, even though they don’t heart up much, there are plenty of leaves for picking and eating by us and the hens.


Talking of hens, the usual suspects have flown the coop and are out for a morning stroll. A young grey and white hen that we reared – you can see her below taunting her ginger-coiffed sister – and the old, original big-daddy cockerel, posturing before his ‘ladies’. As soon as they are out, these two want back in. As soon as they are in, they fly back out. There’s no pleasing some hens. I fear wing clipping is the next step.

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The pond is frozen over but there are signs of plant life below the surface.


The agapanthus has been hit hard by the frost. I can see healthy green underneath so I hope the layer of horse manure I put on in the autumn is enough to protect it until the spring warmth comes again.


The cold frames are opaquely frosted and I open them to the air and the February sun. I must remember to close them again before tonight’s dramatic temperature drop.


The more delicate plants are overwintering in these home made cold frames. With their double glazed panels and wooden sides they give great protection from frost and wind. More aloe vera plants than you can shake a stick at, they’ve probably taken root into the gravel now so are a permanent fixture.


The plants overwintering in the poly tunnel appreciate some fresh, winter air so I open just one door for aeration. I always ‘tent’ the tunnel by pegging another layer of fleece on the inside of the plastic. This gives a bit more insulation from the cold.

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Plants seem fine in here and even though it is heated only by the rays of the sun, the sometimes below zero temperatures don’t seem to bother them too much as the poly tunnel protects them from the worst of the frosts and the biting winds.

My thoughts are turning now to the Plant Sale and Open Weekend that we are planning here on Saturday and Sunday, the 9th and 10th May 2015. I need to keep a close eye on all the overwintering plants because these are the stock that I will be selling or propagating from.

Practically all of them are plants that I have growing in the garden. Plants that thrive in hot, dry conditions and can cope with our often very cold winters. Plants such as salvias, agastaches, heucheras, roses, nepeta, verbenas, ‘Patty’s Plum’ poppy (one of my favourites)…. the list goes on. This means that I can show people what the plants look like and how well they grow once planted out. They can see the plants in situ.

I know these plants are all the stronger for having to survive the harsh winters without artificial heating and the hot, dry summers without much shade. I have a make or break, do or die approach to the plants. I will give them the best of starts, make sure the soil is healthy and nutritious, water them when they need it but after that, they are on their own. If they don’t survive without a lot of mollycoddling then they are not a suitable plant for growing in this part of the world. Absolutely no point in trying to grow what won’t thrive here. You are just on a hiding to nothing.

Up to now, most things are looking O.K. There are always some losses but then I can always walk out into the garden and take more cuttings from the strong stock growing there. And what a joyful job that is!


Spring on the verge of arriving…


Aubretia, back from the dead and about to put on a magnificent show.


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