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”