We’ve been taking advantage of the nice weather to get out and do a spot of seasonal gardening. Well, Mrs B does the garden and I say nice things about it, which seems to keep both of us happy.
The only jobs I’m allowed to do outdoors are things that involve the chainsaw or other hazardous machinery – I’m not quite sure why the family are always encouraging me to dangle perilously from a tree with a chainsaw in hand but I’m sure there’s a good reason.
“Can’t you just crawl a little further along that thin dead branch”, they call out together, almost as if they had been rehearsing what to say…
In fact, I understate the need for a chainsaw – our garden has rather a lot of trees, undergrowth and overgrowth. And if a twig is more than a centimetre thick it is apparently my job, so I now find that I am quite an expert at tree-pruning and shaping, chainsaw style.
Recently someone showed us a newspaper article, about the exodus of Brits from from France as it happens, which included a photo of the gardener at Marqueyssac. (Aside: why the gardener at Marqueyssac, one of the most famous of French gardens, should be used as in a feature about retreating Brits was unclear – it gave the impression from the article that it was a member of the English gentry in front of his mansion about to be driven from house and home. Surely it wasn’t because they couldn’t find a real departing expat to photograph?!)
Anyway, point is, they still do things the old fashioned way, carefully shaping the manicured box hedges with hand clippers. Why do that when you could pass a chainsaw along the top of the hedge and have it finished in about 20 seconds? How many visitors would really notice – most of them come for the candlelit-nighttime walk anyway!
The paradox is that having spent the first five years here planting loads of things so the gardens looked interesting, we now find there’s no stopping the plants from spreading, especially when autumn is wet and winter is mild, and it’s a major battle stopping things from popping up where they aren’t wanted.
The black bamboo that threatened one terrace has been removed to the edge of a field, and the pretty but rampant tree that now threatens the gite terrace will shortly have to go the same way. We used to be flattered when someone asked for a small cutting or a handful of seeds. Now we wait until they’re not looking and fill their car boot with our surplus banana palms.
There is a further garden complication, to do with hedgehogs. Mrs B won’t let me light a bonfire between November and March in case a family of our prickly friends have set up home inside it.
So we now have four enormous bonfires scattered around just waiting for the first day of spring to arrive, at which point we will ask the hedgehogs to leave and have a vast inferno – doubtless blacking out the Lot-et-Garonne skies and making passing aeroplanes lose all sense of direction.