A quick trip in May 2023

We were thrilled to nip back to Le Hot for a very short visit right in the middle of May this year. It meant that we saw all sorts of plants in flower that we usually miss! For instance the Iris pseudocorus alongside the entrance pond:

It was lovely to see the irises and arums out along the pond….

The wisteria on the side of the house smelt fabulous:

We are not often able to see our wisteria in full bloom!

and the Iris sibirica was displaying the extraordinary markings on its beautiful petals:

The markings of Iris sibirica are stunning, aren’t they!

Much of the back garden was not yet in bloom yet though – deliberately, its main season is high summer, which when we spend the longest amount of time here. Everything looked green and growing well..

The garden looking green and full in mid-May

At the top of the garden, a small Abutilon vitifolium was laden with its sweetly-lavender flowers:

Abutilon vitifolium all dressed in ethereal lavender

and a Viburnum plicata ‘Mariesii’ was gloriously decked-out on the tumbledown barn:

Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ in full glorious bloom

Two big thrills: One was how well the little wood we planted was starting to look like a …proper little wood! The trees coming into leaf and flower are starting to cast some real shade, and there is a palpable sylvan atmosphere down there now:

The trees are coming on nicely…….
Viburnum opulus in the woodland with its shining flowers

The other excitement was seeing three little heads popping up from the huge stork nest built on the telegraph pole in our garden. The parents have done a great job of building up the nest which was ravaged by the winter storms – let’s hope it will be big enough to support those three storklings when they are ready to fledge!

Three gorgeous storklings in the nest this year

Due to last year’s summer drought, and possibly the bitter cold in January of this year, we have lost a couple of plants in the Cottage Garden – a cherry ‘Kojo No Mai’, and a rose ‘Champagne Moment’, but we were lucky not to lose more, I reckon. A January storm brought down our ancient mistletoe-laden apple tree, so we will have to find somewhere else for when we need shade for summer lunches…

A rose story to finish. Most of the dozens of roses were still only in bud, but R. ‘Cecile Brunner’ was looking pretty on the pergola,

Rose ‘Cecile Brunner’ sitting pretty on the pergola

Last autumn, we had cut down an ancient and ugly climbing rose on the tower which we had inherited when we bought Le Hot in 2006, and have started training another rose in its place. Look what it’s gone and done – a massive strong shoot from those gnarly roots in the gravel! We’ll have to keep it now!

An unbelievable shoot from the decades-old rose we cut down…….!

We managed to get plenty of garden work done during our brief three-day stay, and it felt really worthwhile to come at this time. We’ll soon be back!

How 2022 ended at Le Hot

After the long hot summer of 2022, the garden at Le Hot was happy to relax into mellower days.  During September the razzmatazz colours were mostly over, but there was a tranquil beauty to the fading foliage and developing seedheads.  The stork family had all left and the big nest was full of twittering little birds until the main occupants return in early spring.

The perennial beds looking distinctly autumnal after the hot summer in 2022

A 10-day return in early November showed us the full panoply of autumn colour among the leaves, fruit and hips.

A bright leaf of Liquidambar Worplesdon looking like a jewelled brooch on the grass
The glowing berries of Cotoneaster cornubia
The Virginia creeper starting to show its autumn finery on the pagoda
The crab apple espalier looking a delight in autumn with its bright fruits so beloved by the birds

But we were STILL able to pick small bouquets of roses as we harvested the last of the chillies.  

A beautiful bouquet of roses picked from bushes still in flower in November…….

I spent much of my time on this trip excavating the brambly banks of an area of poor soil (a foot of soil over the concrete base of a barn that used to be there). My plan is to use this area to try and develop a sort of ‘prairie meadow’ of wild or prairie-type plants.  The soil in almost every other part of the garden is far too lush for these plants to survive – the grass and nettles take over almost immediately, despite all the yellow rattle I spread around.  Parasitizes the grass and weakens it? I wish.  

I got busy digging out the banks for my ‘prairie meadow’ experiment………..

A chilly visit of 5 days in early December meant that we were able to take some very picturesque photos of Le Hot in the snow.  Not much gardening done, I’m afraid – it was more a question of cosy drinks by the fire, planning for next year’s garden…………………

The snow looks so decorative on the barn steps
The back of the house looking picturesque in the snow

Very happy to be back for the summer!

We arrived back at Le Hot five weeks ago, to find everything looking very lush from all the rain of the last few weeks. Some of the roses were heavy with sodden petals, but most had been relishing the weather and were in glorious full bloom. As were all the clematis who were clearly enjoying themselves immensely.

The clematis all LOVED the rain and then the sun……………..!

We were thrilled to find that, for the first time ever, the storks in our garden had managed to raise three strong chicks in their enormous nest on the telegraph pole. Very sadly, there was a really wild storm a fortnight after we arrived, and it blew one of the storklings out of the nest – it must have been taken quickly by a fox, being unable to fly at that point. The remaining two look happy and strong – and the nest looks very crowded, especially when the parents fly in with food for them!

Our stork family of 2022

The kestrels at the end of the barn have three youngsters this year, and the moorhens on the pond have four – looking like black tennis-balls with enormous feet, as they scamper over the drive and the lily pads! Many fewer swallows this year, and none have nested in ‘Sebastian’, the covered area outside the back door; there is a lot of concern in the press that climate change is affecting their ability to re-fuel on their long migration North every spring.

The pond in 2022 – full of frogs, fish and baby moorhens!

We achieved a mountain of work before 11 Eastbourne friends arrived on June 23 to stay for 5 days, and we held a musical lunch party for 40 on Sunday June 26. Here’s a flavour of some of the tasks we got through:

Managed to get various things fixed like the ride-on lawn-mower, the immersion heater, the landline phone, the white metal bench, the leak from the Chambrot Room shower etc. ; cleaned the house from top to bottom, altered a parasol and stand for the new seating area in the Purple Borders; masses of mowing, strimming, cutting-back etc. etc.; filling the planters on the terrace, completely re-doing Nigel’s herb bed, using the brazier for small safe bonfires of rubbish; testing air-beds (the mice had holed them – aaargghhh!) and erecting a tent for the campers………and so on, and so on……

The five days with the Corridor Club here were brilliant fun, and included a couple of restaurant meals, a lot of drinking and laughing in the garden, and a 9-course Black Tie dinner on the Saturday night.

All dressed up for a grand dinner…………….

The Sunday lunch party was blessed with lovely weather, perfect music from the Spad Trio, and relaxed and happy atmosphere – phew!

A happy lunch party in the sun on the terrace…………………

The weather has been hot and cold, wet and dry, windy and still, cloudy and sunny – we have barely had two days together the same, so far!

Thirty lovely Belgian gardeners from the ‘Cercle Horticole’ spent the morning here on June 30, and on July 5th we are looking forward to hosting the gardeners of the Cotentin Cote Jardins Association for a picnic.

It was lovely to meet 30 enthusiastic Belgian gardeners here on June 30, 2022

The Cotentin Cote Jardins folk were here for a picnic on July 5, again blessed with good weather, and plenty of stork action!

Cotentin Cote Jardins gardeners’ picnic at Le Hot on July 5, 2022
The stork family were posing beautifully for the cameras

Since then, blazing weather has meant that we have confined gardening activities to the early mornings, and spent the afternoons doing jobs and writing etc. inside the house. The grass is turning brown, of course, and the veg patch is starting to suffer badly from lack of water, which we are beginning to ration out carefully.

The family will start arriving on July 22, once the schools have broken up for the summer holidays – can’t wait!

Our next projects are to re-roof the summer-house with lighter tiles, build an extension on the treehouse, and re-plant the Arbutus and Corner beds in the Cottage Garden. All exhausting, all enjoyable – on we go………..!!

Working in the spring sunshine


We have been back at Le Hot for a week now and have been revelling in all the hard labour of preparing a large garden for the summer ahead. Not to mention all the indoor jobs. We have lucky enough to have some good sunny weather for all the work, though that East wind has been CHILLY!

The stork couple in the nest on our telegraph pole have surveyed all our activities calmly, whilst they take turns sitting on their eggs. Several times we have seen small parties of young storks flying over surveying for suitable nest-sites – just like ours did in 2014.

Our resident storks take it in turns to sit on their eggs in the enormous nest on our telegraph pole

The moorhens on the pond are getting used to our presence again, though they made a fearful racket the other day when a mallard drake and his mate landed on the water to check it out! Our avian residents do seem to defend their home territory fiercely!

The entrance pond in the spring sunshine where the moorhens defend their home territory fiercely!

I have been spreading a great deal of compost on the borders and veg beds, planting potatoes and shallots, doing lots of weeding and pruning, a myriad of different little gardening jobs. Nigel has cut the grass, tidied the drive, done some chainsawing…..his big task of the week was to put a rope banister on the stone spiral staircase – about time too, probably! It’s looking good.

Nigel putting the finishing touches to the rope banister on the stone spiral staircase

More blossom has been opening on the trees daily – blackthorn, pear, plum, magnolia were already in full flood when we arrived

Magnolia sieboldii – magnificent in the spring sunshine

The Amelanchier has got better and better, and now the apple blossom is opening, which is perhaps my favourite of all.

The gorgeous blossom of crab apple Malus ‘Red Sentinel’ grown as an espalier

Rainy today, so it’s more indoor jobs – and garden writing!

Spring beauty!

Wonderful to be back here at Le Hot with spring in full swing! The banks are full of primroses, the gardens are full of daffodils, and our lovely Amelanchier is veritably glistening with blossom! The rust-coloured calyces just enhance their beauty:

Amelanchier lamarkii – a gorgeous addition to the spring garden!

Plenty to do to get the house and garden ready for summer – lists everywhere! So I need to get OUT THERE…………………………..

We made it back! 2021 at Le Hot

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.

So pleased to see the stork family happily in residence……

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 borders were riotously overgrown with weeds!

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………………

A metal seat disappearing into the undergrowth….

The clematis were all sprawled over the ground and had to be hauled back up – but they still flowered beautifully.

The clematis had to be hauled up off the ground but 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.

The roses were in magnificent flower despite all the weeds…………..!
Looking a lot tidier than when we first arrived!

Nothing like three weeks of solid manual labour to concentrate the mind on the fact that we are getting older and more decrepit!  

All looking a little more ‘kempt’ at last…..

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.  

The tapestry beds in full fig at the beginning of August

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.

Arthur and Stanley helped Grandad make the paved areas among the flowers
The new paved areas in the borders – perfect for an afternoon cuppa!

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.

Not a hot summer, but still plenty of butterflies – this Red Admiral is enjoying the globe thistles

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.

Hard at work spreading mulch on the Cottage Garden beds.

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.

Nigel got on with making a treehouse for the grandchildren

Then we created a cleared area around the shelter in the copse, for campfires and picnics.

I created a clearing in the young copse
The clearing in the copse – good spot for a picnic!

I also turned one of the nursery beds by the greenhouse into a Grandchildrens’ Flower Bed for them, complete with a tiny pond.

Arthur and Stanley getting to work on their new garden
Arlo and Edie admire the pond they have just built in their new little garden

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……….

Self-seeded Ammi majus flowering happily

Jardin Le Hot in a time of Covid

A year like no other, of course, and a severe challenge for the whole world….

Having had two holiday homes in the same area of Normandy before buying Le Hot in 2006, 2020 was the first Easter period for almost 30 years when we weren’t able to get to France. Friends who live near us in Manche were kind enough to send us photos to show that the house and garden were still all right, if a little ………woolly! Our garden in Eastbourne certainly benefitted from our prolonged presence due to lockdown, and it was the most beautiful spring and early summer. The roses had never been as good ! Though our scheduled opening for the National Garden Scheme had to be cancelled of course.

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Creation of Jardin Le Hot

Welcome to Jardin Le Hot! My name is Elaine Fraser-Gausden and, with my husband Nigel, I created this garden.

When we bought the house in 2006, everyone told us that we were mad to take it on, but my husband was sure that we could restore the house, and I was excited about making a garden from the 2.2 acres of land we had acquired.

Continue reading “Creation of Jardin Le Hot”