After ten long months of COVID restrictions, closed borders and lockdowns, we were overwhelmed to get back to Le Hot on May 31, 2021, having been away since September 2020. It was an emotional reunion with the house, the garden, and with the stork family, who had two youngsters again this year.
The garden was an astonishing mess of weeds amongst the flowers, but still looked sort of beautiful and the roses were in gloriously in flower. The ONLY way to tackle it all was one little section at a time, slowly, slowly rescuing the cultivated plants from the couch grass, thistles, bindweed and goosegrass that thronged the borders.
The weather was pretty poor most of the summer which at least kept the soil moist and soft enough to dig out the deep-rooted weeds and tree saplings………………
The clematis were all sprawled over the ground and had to be hauled back up – but they still flowered beautifully.
Gradually I wrestled the flower borders in main areas back into a state of sort-of tidiness, while grass was mown, shrubs were pruned and hedges were neatened.
Nothing like three weeks of solid manual labour to concentrate the mind on the fact that we are getting older and more decrepit!
Along with all the other areas of lawn, hedges, vegetable patch, orchard and copse, 18 long wide borders of shrubs and perennials plus a whole Cottage Garden is an awful lot to maintain, for two old codgers.
With a view to expanding it in later years (!), I cleared the central area of Bed 5 on either side of the pergola, and Nigel made small paved seating areas.
The fruit-set was poor on the whole (we think a late frost did a lot of damage) and we did a lot of pruning to make the trees smaller and more spreading – it wasn’t like we were sacrificing a huge harvest or anything this year! For obvious reasons, I hadn’t been able to plant potatoes, shallots, broad beans etc. in April, and the tomatoes and chillies in the greenhouse never really got going because they were so small. Lots of blackcurrants, wineberries and figs, though, and the flower gardens were full of butterflies and pollinating insects.
Having finally cleared the Purple Borders beds of most of the weeds, I splashed out on a thick cocoa shell mulch for them (it smelt deliciously of chocolate as I applied it!) to try and deter the weed-seeds from germinating. Much of the Cottage Garden enjoyed this extra attention, too.
The Cotentin Cote Jardins flyer mistakenly only gave a tiny handful of the dates that the garden was supposed to be open, so we had few visitors this summer – the figures would have been COVID-affected as well of course. We were really pleased that the family were able to come to stay over the summer though, and got to work making some special areas for them. Nigel constructed a Tree House for them at the end of the pergola.
Then we created a cleared area around the shelter in the copse, for campfires and picnics.
I also turned one of the nursery beds by the greenhouse into a Grandchildrens’ Flower Bed for them, complete with a tiny pond.
We were able to get back to Le Hot twice more during 2021, at the end of October for 12 days and at the end of November for a week. There had been a big storm here on October 20th, but the garden hadn’t suffered too much damage beyond a few branches down, two pergola poles snapped off, and a large Callicarpa stem broken in the Cottage Garden. Nigel put up guttering on the log store as well as water barrel. I dug out as many nettle-roots as I could find in the copse-clearing, and found that two of the ‘crab-apple’ trees planted there were laden with delicious eating apples!
I also dug out the huge roots of the ancient rhubarb in the veg patch, and planted 2 new rhubarb plants in the second Nursery Bed. I moved all the Claire Austin roses out of the Cottage Garden – temporarily into the Nursery Beds – because they had never flowered well in that shaded spot. The gravel path in the Cottage Garden had spread much too widely over the years into the veg patch and needed digging out and re-edging.
So we are hoping that we have left Jardin Le Hot in pretty good shape for 2022, and are really excited to see how it will develop this year……….