Trouble Shooting a Garden

JL has a very large second-home garden – 500M2, in France. It was unwanted; but went with the house, which was going for a song. Irresistible or what? However, with 3 visits a year making a stay 2 of months in all, garden maintenance is a bit of a problem. It takes JL 2-4 hours day, when in residence and he is no spring chicken. The challenge is to maintain the garden as desired with an acceptable level of effort.

Meeting the challenge has not been easy, in-spite of JL being supported by the ideas of an ex-colleague and friend – AL, who happens to be a landscape gardener. The idea behind the post is two-fold. First, to open up the challenge to others, friends and readers; who are also interested in gardening. Second, to report attempts to add meaning to the designing and implementing of such a garden.

The process is as follows. JL posts photos, showing the state of the garden. Also, identified will be maintenance problems, their associated solutions and their effectiveness. Others are welcome to suggest ideas, intended to help meet the challenge.

Here is the original plan of the garden made by Doris Long – the gardener of the family.

Key F=Feature

The summer ’20 visit to Auzon followed a previous visit in September of last year, the Easter visit being cancelled.The garden, then, had not been maintained for 10 months or so.

Before – 2 Flower Beds (F8) and 2 Mosaics (F9) (Cochon d’Auzon; Chateau d’Auzon)

Before – 2 Flower Beds (F11) and 2 Mosaics (F12) (Coq Francais; British Lion))

Completely overgrown.

Earlier Problems – Excessive peony growth, weeds.

Earlier Solutions – Reduce peony groups and number per group, treat weeds.

Current Problems – Excessive peony growth. Weeds in mosaics.

Current Solutions – Flower beds – more tiles, more bark, reduce peony number per group. Spot treat weeds.

After – 2 Flower Beds and 2 Mosaics (F8 and F9) (Cochon and Chateau)

Any other ideas anyone? We must be told!

Exchange between JL and AL

j – New concept of the ‘Weedy Garden Cottage’

  • ‘Weedy’, because their presence is now accepted as inevitable, given the time available to maintain the garden and the growth rate of the weeds.
  • ‘Garden Cottage’ in contrast to ‘Cottage Garden’. The latter is a type of garden. The former a type of cottage.
  • All flower beds, mosaics and minor paths between:
  1. Problem=weeds
  2. Solution=plastic, gravel, bark, spot spray (Solution implies acceptability)
  3. A – So no intervention necessary?
  4. J – For as long as this works……..
  • All main paths 
  1. Problem=weeds
  2. Solution=plastic, gravel, clear, spray.

A – Not sure if TQ (Task Quality – how well the task is performed) and adequate and UC (User Costs – time and effort of the gardener – JL) acceptable in this case? If so, no intervention necessary?

J – Yes, OK so far.

  • Peach trees x 3.
  • Problem=excessive growth, UC unacceptable for cloud pruning.
  • Solution=cut back bifurcating trunks (not sure about this).

A – Probably better to do this during your autumn/winter visit, as summer pruning presents a greater risk of disease.
Perhaps also desirable  to discuss the method with reference to a picture of the tree(s), as approach may depend
on size of the branch for removal and how high up the bifurcation occurs. Iphone image should be fine.

J – leave as is for this at present.

  • Holly tree/bush/laburnum/wisteria (Doris and pergola)
  • Problem=growth.
  • Solution=rigorous pruning.
  • Terrain de Boules (F13)

A – Again, not sure if TQ adequate and UC acceptable in this case? If so, no intervention necessary?

J – Yes. So far, so good.

Terrain de Boules

       1. Problem=Weeds. Too many for me to clear on a single visit. Due to faster growth and JL slower workrate.

       2. Solution=Cover as much of the ground in whatever way possible.  Let weeds grow where they are acceptable, for example, in parts of the artefacts (or in the case of the boxes through them).

Herb and Flower Plot (F3)

         1. Problem=Weeds.

          2. Solution= add vegetables to the plot.

From Karen Davis (to see photos of her and Denis’ garden go to Garden Arts)

K. How often do you and Paola visit Auzon?  

J. About 3 months in all. 3 weeks at Easter. 7 weeks in the summer. 2 weeks in the Autumn.

K. How do the peach, laurel, fig trees, wisteria and iris get enough water to stay alive when you’re not there?

J. When it rains…… Seems to work. None has died. In fact, they all thrive. The soil is very fertile.

 K. In my opinion, accepting the weeds and letting them rule the garden is to embrace chaos.

J. Of course, I agree, but it depends how you look at it. Also, what you think a garden is and what it is for. What you think gardening is for you. How you may, or may be not, be willing to change your thinking and feeling with respect to garden and gardening.

 K. Are there any young people in Auzon (younger than 70 or 80), you could PAY once or twice a year to pull out the offending weeds – keeping the pretty ones if growing in acceptable location.

J. There are. I tried this, when Doris’ health was failing. Neither followed my instructions. They just do in the garden, what THEY think the garden should be and look like. Virginia grew flowers. Jacques just cut back the weeds the other side of the garden wall (not part of my garden).

K. Some of those weeds are very invasive and will ruin the peace of your garden by becoming a tangled mess.

J. Correct. I have photos to prove it.  

See above.

One or two people could probably get the weeds out in 1 – 2 hours?  Then you would have a tidy view of the garden allowing for clear analysis of what else is needed – likely some pruning and that’s it.  Garden now peaceful and zen-like letting your artistry with found items shin

J. Maybe. But see above. 2 people would not be able to agree what they should do, which in neither case would be what I want. Also, I enjoy gardening. Further, I am old fashioned, if you have a house – look after it. Same for the garden. Zen-like has given me an idea.

Will return to this.

Karen, thanks for this. I found it very interesting and helpful. A good test of my ideas and feeling about the garden.