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Friday, April 11, 2014

Early Spring in Versailles

Weather was outstanding this week and it was much too nice to stay inside and tickle the keyboard.

The cherry, peach, and apple trees are blooming.  The beans, cilantro, and radishes are up.  The raspberries, however, are making a break for it (those little libertarians) - they are trying to spread willy-nilly all over the bed and will have to be disciplined.

The cold frames turned out to be an excellent addition to the potager.  This year I started the lettuce in them and it grew so fast that we now have fresh lettuce for dinner salad.  Today I will move the cold frames around and put out the tomatoes I grew in our dining room.

Daffodils are long gone but they were replaced by some magnificent tulips from Amsterdam.The roses are about to bloom as well.  The ones in the front courtyard are the vision of health and loveliness even without blossoms:  nice strong canes and shiny leaves thus far free from fungal and other infestations.

The peonies in the back yard were a huge surprise and delight.  These were planted by the old owner, Madame B,in the back of the yard in a place that probably got sun once upon a time but is today shaded by a lilac and that big beautiful stone fence.  After consultation with the owner of a local garden ship who warned me that peonies really REALLY don't like to be moved, I moved them anyway much closer to a section of the yard that gets full afternoon sun.  Well, yippity skip, they not only survived the move but for the first time since we moved in they are actually going to bloom.

It was even warm enough for me to get out some of the solar lights and fountains I bought last year to add whimsy to the garden.  I still want a pond, darn it, but negotiations with my domestic associate have broken down and every time I try to raise the topic there is much mumbling about it being Too Much Trouble.

A few projects have come to fruition and others are in progress.

The Trellis:  The one you can see in the picture above was looking rather shabby so I sanded it down and threw a coat of varnish on it.  Much better.  The wisteria I planted under it is finally taking off.  Give it a few years and it will be lovely.

The Front Gate:  I wrote about my feelings on this one here.  We finally decided that we had to replace it since it was falling apart and scattering rust all over the sidewalk.  We asked for bids which came in as high as 6,000 euros (cough, cough).  Uh, no.  We finally found a shop that would do it for us for a decent price and the workmen came and did the install before I left for Washington.  Here are the before and after pictures:

Old gate (1929)

New gate identical to the one installed in 1929
Front Courtyard Posts and Walls:  Now that the gate is up we need a mason to come in and redo the posts (one is cracked) and the cement finish on the low wall inside and out.  We are still getting bids but hopefully it will be done early summer.  We would have liked to replace the ugly chain link fence too (painted red and covered up with a truly hideous blue plastic that I in turn covered up with something a little nicer) but it will have to wait.

Other Garden Walls:  Now this I can do myself.  When we took out the juniper in the back I gained half a meter of garden space but it also exposed an crappy, unfinished, partially painted garden wall. Ugly as hell and the bricks aren't even beautiful so the logical solution is to paint the damn thing. I'm thinking that I'll just slap a coat of red on it and be done with it but if you have other ideas, feel free to say so.

Other projects in the works are a woodshed (arrived last week and needs to be assembled, varnished and the fire wood that is sitting on the front porch stacked in it to dry), the chicken run (still haven't decided if this is a good idea or not), the rotting railings on the front porch (to be replaced and painted) and the holes in the gutters fixed (this one is probably the priority but, hell, this is least sexy of all the projects on the list and surely it can wait until Fall, right?)

Off to the hardware store this weekend where we will once again spend far too much money under the guise of Protecting Our Investment.

Who are we kidding?  Home improvement is fun, if a bit addicting.  We are like coke addicts when we walk into the store and Leroy Merlin is definitely our preferred dealer.  

Have a great weekend, everyone.


tccomments2013 said...

Oh Victoria,

what a wonderful paradise of gardens you have created! I just loved all your ideas, and getting to see those lovely photos. such a nice and uplifting post to herald Spring and inspire me to get started with some new projects of my own. p.s my late husband and our son created a small pond just off the corner where our screened in porch and large vintage brick patio meet. it was not expensive, and has a fountain - a large frog that spits and circulates the water - with fish and very lovely water lilies, bordered by ancient, large rocks we gathered from a field, now covered with beautiful patches of moss. for 25 years it has given us such pleasure and the only maintenance is bailing out a wheel barrow full of leaves that accumulate in winter with a simple pool net. I encourage you to keep it on your list, even if hubby is overwhelmed this season...maybe next year...

enjoy all your hard work and savor the splendors of it all.


tccomments2013 said...

oops - I've stayed up too late resulting in spelling my own damn name wrong! I meant "Karen".

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Hi Karen, It was an uplifting week. Nothing like getting the hands in the dirt and enjoying the sunshine. If you have any ideas for the garden, feel free to share them. Sometimes another eye is needed to see the possibilities. Your pond sounds lovely. Maybe I could trade the chicken run for the pond. Surely a pond is less work than chickens. :-)

Take good care,


Anonymous said...

Lovely, delightful, two comments - great job on the juniper. I personally really like the rustic wall. As the early responder, first strike juniper killer I vote for preserving its rustic charm. In this case preserving means the no work option and in the rush of spring gardening chores no work is a stress reliever.
and, coming as you do from a family of hard-core pruners, I am going to advocate for lopping off those apples at their terminal bud, i.e. end of tall branch. These strong branches will continue to put all their energy into getting taller, thus discouraging any of those desirable side shoots. And those side shoots/arms are what gives the elegant and gracious balanced form to these trees. Just do it! And any arguments from others should be squelched by pointing to the relevant passage in the Cass Turnbull pruning book.

Blaze said...

I'm envious. Our daffodils won't be in bloom in Ontario for a couple of week, so we are way behind you in spring.


Donna said...

Your garden is gorgeous--not exactly the sort of thing one can have here (it's 92F at 4pm), so it's all the more refreshing to see a real garden, not "desert landscaping".... And another vote for leaving the wall rustic. Ok, strip the segment still painted gray, and re-strip the other bricks to match if need be; but it looks charming with the bricks exposed. Beautiful!

Cornoffthecob said...

"Right Plant, Right Place" by Nicola Ferguson, Pan Books

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea for that wall Veronica:
I'd high pressure hose off the dirt to expose the red brick work first.

Sauve said...

I am so envious! What a lovely paradise you have built. Congratulations!

I've finally come to the conclusion that it will be autumn at the soonest before we can plant trees on our treeless parcel of land. That's because I want a solid wall fence put up first. Wish me luck on finding a good landscape architect.

Marie Ennis said...

So wonderful to catch these glimpses of your beautiful garden. It's a testament to all your hard work your and loving care Victoria. Marie

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Anonymous, OK will do for the apple trees. This is the first time I've ever tried espaliered trees and could use tips.

@blaze, how about hopping a plane and coming to visit? :-)

@donna, I tried to get the old paint off those bricks and it was just a nightmare. The bricks are not the lovely old ones but rather some sort of hollow cheap brick that was meant to be covered over with cement. That's why they are so unlovely. I talked to my neighbors and asked for their opinion and they said to paint the wall a color that picks up the colors in the old meuliere wall in the back. So a kind of reddish yellow. I think that will do and as a bonus it will make my favorite neighbors happy.

@cornoffthecob, Yeah! A garden book recommendation. OK, I will get that one.

@Ken, Wow! Oh I just love those living green walls. That would be perfect in the front courtyard as well as in the back. I'm a bit limited as to what I can plant on that side since it's full shade. But I could always put in ferns - that would really look lovely.

@Sauve, Tell me about your wall. What are planning? Stone, brick?

@Marie, I had a great foundation. Madame B had some good things already planted that just needed a prune (or a move) and some compost. I've been adding stuff here and there as well. Healing, for me, starts in the garden. Nothing like green growing things to tend to make me feel 100% better about life. We'll see what the addition of chickens will do. :-)

Blaze said...

Forget the chickens!

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing. ~D

cornoffthecob said...

More than corn:

Cultivate: ""

Be sure to go to ""

Notice the article on "AGM-winning climbers and wall shrubs for winter interest."

Don't miss the fantastically useful "" section.