Archive for June, 2012

The big Welsh leek and the little French chef

Although the celebrations of the big 60th birthday should have all been done and dusted by now, we’re taking a ‘Royal family-type’ approach to our birthdays this year and extending them for as long as possible. So, last week we spent the day with Medwyn Williams (10 times gold medal winner at Chelsea) at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saison (home of zee leetle Frenchman, Raymond Blanc). Thankfully, the rain held off and that big orange thing in the sky actually made an appearance.

Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saison

The day started with a talk by Medwyn on how he started out growing show-quality vegetables before going on to win 10 (or was it finally 11?) gold medals at Chelsea. It was a fascinating story and amazing to see the number of wheelie bins that are used to grow those famous long carrots in. The amount of time and dedication that goes into growing show-quality veg is incredible. I’m not sure it’s for us – we’ll stick with exhibiting a few dodgy carrots at the local village show!

We were then given a guided tour of the gardens at Le Manoir. The 1.5 acre vegetable garden is completely organic and supplies between 15-20% of the total fruit and vegetables used within the hotel. We were glad to see that their radish were struggling too!


There is a lovely Elizabethan knot-style herb garden where herbs for tea infusions are grown.

The garden also houses a series of polytunnels, one of which is used to grow micro leaves.

The whole garden is a lovely tranquil space in which to wander; the ponds and Japanese garden all add to the effect.

As you wander around you notice a number of bronze sculptures – even the scarecrow – which add to the architecture of the garden design. The face of the scarecrow is modelled on Raymond himself.

After a champagne reception on the terrace and a ‘very tasty thank you very much, can I have another?’ canape, we went in for lunch. Just as we are positioning napkins on laps, who should walk in but zee leetle Frenchman himself – what a bonus to the day! After giving a thoroughly entertaining few stories of his experiences of growing vegetables, he left us to enjoy our lunch. And what a lunch it was – the Horseradish Sorbet was to die for. In fact, it was all to die for.

“OK, so you can grow big leeks, but do you know how to cook them, mon ami?”

The day finished off with a further meander round the gardens before heading home with our goody bags of seeds and ‘powdered gold’ fertilizer to attempt to grow our own 4-foot carrots! All that was left was to remember where we had parked the car…

…oh, we’ll just take this then!

Thankfully, it’s my birthday at the end of this week so another excuse for a celebration – this time it’s Monet’s garden. Let’s hope ‘le soleil’ makes another appearance.


The celebrations continue…as does the rain

Well, what a hectic couple of weeks we’ve had. So much jubilation and partying. Not only was the Queen celebrating 60 years on the throne but one of us was also celebrating his 60th birthday…and what a birthday – surprise parties, surprise cakes (all in the allotment theme, of course), surprise trips to Budapest, loads of presents and cards. The list goes on and the surprises aren’t all over yet. He may not have had a soggy wet pageant down the river Thames laid on for him but everyone had certainly ‘pushed the boat out’ to make his birthday a time to remember.

Anyway, that’s enough of the spotlight on him…what about our plot and the garden? Well, despite the wind and rain, the jubilee baskets are holding up well and luckily were in full flower for the weekend. Here’s a few pics…


As far as the plot goes, the last couple of weekends have been hectic. We’ve tried to get everything finally planted out and this rain has made weeding a nightmare. We’ve spent many hours bent over solemnly picking out weeds, and that blasted bindweed, until we’ve felt like we’ll never be able to stand up straight again! Our hard work has paid off though as the plot is now looking excellent. I think we can declare it full – there’s not an inch of space left to plant anything else.

The cut flower beds have been all planted up and are doing well. There are three varieties of Cosmos, some Sweet Rocket, Zinnias, Calendula, Love Lies Bleeding, Stocks, Scabious, Echinacea and a number of other things.

That’s all before the 30-odd chrysanths and the 20-odd dahlias…

Why did we need so many dahlias? Who knows, but now they’ve taken up all of the remaining space so I’ve now declared the cutting section full. The good thing about the dahlias is that they have won us a number of prizes in local shows in the last few years, so hopefully this year we may be in with a chance of a bit of silverware! Fingers crossed.

The greenhouse has also been transformed – all the chillies and peppers have been planted, along with a couple of melons and a cucumber. We’ve even got a few chillies already.

The only disappointment this weekend was the weather which did put a bit of a damper on the village Open Gardens day on Tuesday where 14 different gardens plus the allotments were open. There were some absolutely lovely gardens. We’ve lived in the village for four years and had never realised there were such wonderful houses and gardens hidden away behind gravel drives and up little lanes. It’s just a shame the sun didn’t come out to attract a few more visitors. That said, a jolly time was had by all and it was all for a worthwhile cause – Marie Curie.

Let’s just hope the rain stops soon so that we can finish netting the strawberries before the birds start tucking into them!