Our bossy know-it-all gardening man, who comes to cut our hedges in the autumn, has taken it on himself to make us take our neglected side garden in hand, or rather to pay him to do so.
When we first arrived here sixteen years ago, it was the only bit of garden the house had, otherwise it was pasture right up to the back wall - in which there were no doors, windows or openings of any kind. Even so it was just a bit of top soil on a rocky base, with nothing round it save a few stones, where Victoire, the very old lady who lived her until she died a couple of years before we came, grew a few leeks and potatoes. It caused people hereabouts some amusement that Roland, the village dog of the time, a sweet but rather independent character, used to pee freely on Victoire's leeks, which she happily then picked and put in the soup quite unperturbed, presumably after a a quick rinse in the cracked old stoneware sink in the corner which was for a while our sole kitchen water facility too.
It's next to an unlovely but fairly neat and very useful corrugated iron lean-to, which we've never got around to remodelling, though Tom's given it a good gravel floor and it's very orderly inside. We fenced the ground with a very carefully hand-made-by-us wooden paling, the kind of thing we grandiosely thought we had all the time and energy in the world to do in the early days, and planted some shrubs, but little thrived there except a an evilly-thorned yellow berberis hedge, which we planted in our ignorance and regretted ever since, and it turned into a dark, thorny, wasted corner.
But our overbearing good-angel gardener has now ripped out most of the evilly-thorned berberis hedge and carted much of the cuttings to the tip, (though it's sprouting back from the stumps, it really is the Devil's shrub), and then he suggested we plant a flower mix instead of grass seed. He could just stop by, treat and rotivate the ground in the spring, no worries, we'd only have to mow it once a year...
So sometime in March a scribbled note appeared in the letter box 'Attention Moolie, le traitement a été effectué' (he's a man fond of dogs, which endears him to us). I know there are many who will frown at the use of herbicides here, but it really is quite difficult to get a good result in these cases without it, I think. One could I suppose use a textile mulch and scatter seeds and a thin layer of topsoil on top of that, but I'm not convinced that applying a large area of permanent plastic to the ground is necessarily any better, and I've damaged the lawn mower too often chewing up the edges of that stuff. We generally only use weed killer very sparingly if it all, it bio-degrades quickly and is nowhere near any food crops here. But mea culpa etc, and pace to all deep-green organic folk.
A few weeks later he was back with his mighty rotivating machine, (big kit is also his thing), scooped up a load more berberis waste and took it away, and sowed and rolled the seed.
As with everything he does, it ended up costing us rather more than we anticipated, but owing to some kind of strange function of the tax system here which favours jobbing gardeners who operate under some a special business régime, we can claim 50% of his labour costs (much the largest part of the bill) back off our taxes, which is nice.
And to my mind, it's worth every eurocent. The flowers are mostly Cailfornian poppies and those mixed coloured toadflax/snapdragon type things (I'm sure some of my more serious gardening readers can fill me in on what they're really called, once you've upbraided me on the use of weed-killer), but there are also some orange and yellow osteospermum and later I think there'll be a few corncockles. Some annual weeds stiIl came up with it, notably quite a bit of shepherd's purse, perhaps the seeds were even in the mix or in the sand he used to scatter it, and I still have to weed around the edges, but in spite of the caltrops of berberis thorns still lying in wait for my fingers, weeding here is no hardship, with my eyes on a level with a sea of swaying orange and purple, and of course I take plenty of photo-breaks.