Rain at last!

The rain really did come as a relief at long last!  After four months without a drop it was beginning to show.  The river was running low, and nature was beginning to feel the pinch.  I noticed that all the daffodils and narcissus in the garden were smaller this year, and wilted fairly fast.  The water table won’t have been topped up, but at least the earth has been given a good soaking.  And I think it’s really come at a great moment – all the peach and apricot trees are about to burst into bloom, and over the next few days we’ll be seeing whole orchards in various shades of pink.  In some places it feels overwhelming and somewhat unreal, but it’s another sure sign that spring is on the way.  This week I’ve also seen the first swallows darting about…

In the garden the pruning is finished at last!!  Do you remember the tangled mess of the kiwi vine from last week?  You can see the results of its haircut in one of the pictures below.  The lavenders also got a fairly radical treatment, unless they are pruned hard, almost to the quick, they soon grow leggy and need replacing.  For some of the lavender plants it’ll probably be their last season, but there are plenty of cuttings so they’ll all be replaced.  The tomato seeds I put in the propagator a couple of weeks ago have all sprouted and are coming along nicely, and the chilli pepper seeds are starting to show too.  Soon they’ll all be pricked out and moved to the greenhouse in the garden, but that’s for another time.

If you are visiting the area, then a trip to Montpellier should be on your list.  I went yesterday and it struck me just how much there is to see in the old town.  You can just spend hours and hours walking and discovering, and of course there are many cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by and rest your weary feet.  The Musee Fabre houses a world class collection of paintings, and there are a few other museums worth visiting.  The shopping is pretty good also and whenever the sun is out the terraces around the Place de la Comedie are busy!

Spring is on the way?

This week has been under the sign of spring!  With temperatures of up to 25 degrees I’ve been heading for the garden as much as possible.  One of the many jobs waiting to be accomplished is pruning.  Look at the tangled mass of branches in the picture – that’s one of the three kiwi vines in my potager, and it needs a good haircut!  Cyril from Domaine La Madura has lent me his electric secateurs and that makes the task less painful (blisters!) and much faster.  After five years of pruning the kiwis I’m still not entirely sure if I’m pruning out the right canes, but so far there’s been fruit each year!  My table grapes are also pruned already – I’m always amazed when I look at the cut glistening with sap, in some cases positively dripping.   (Continued after the photographs) –>

At the beginning of the week I decided to buy my seed potatoes to get them sprouted ready for planting.  On the way to Beziers the countryside was ablaze with trees blooming their hearts out – white, pink, some already leafing out, and others with flowers on bare branches.  It always gladdens my heart to see all that blossom!  With the good weather the cauliflowers I planted last October have come one very rapidly, and we’ve started eating them – cauliflower cheese, cauliflower soup, cauliflower with pasta, cauliflower on its own….  When it’s really fresh the flavour is absolutely superb, and it cooks in next to no time.  I will dig out Jane Grigson’s vegetable book for a few more ideas of what to do – there are four more heads in the garden to be picked!   Any suggestions??