Pleach if you please

pleach [pliːtʃ]vb (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Horticulture) Chiefly Brit to interlace the stems or boughs of (a tree or hedge) – also plash

Hervé attended a pratice session on pleaching two weeks ago, and he was willing to share this noble and valuable practice on this blog – many thanks to him !

” Not the best of weathers, but anyway… We had at heart to learn and get our hands onto the work !”

Pleaching comes from a very ancient time, they were used as hedges in the landscape of many regions in France. Pleaching consists in bending the branches into a hedge, so that farm animals wouldn’t leave their plot.”

“Pleaching is quite different from tree-weaving, which consists in weaving  cut branches around ‘dead’ stakes. We were initiated to the technique used in the Dunkirk area : the big branches are bent from the base and tied to stakes erected with a 1 meter gap between each one.”

“The ties are made of osier”

“The branches are cut 2/3 of their diameter, then bent at a 30° angle”

“Everything in this hedge is alive – even the stakes.

Today, the use of this technique enables to serve as an enclosure for farm animals, but also to protect them from the wind. We have noticed their value from an ecological viewpoint : they provide food and sheter for small and less small mammals, birds, amphibians, numerous insects… They also help maintaining biodiversity, keeping the soil in place, infiltrating rainwater…

That’s why it’s important to have more and more of this type of hedge, even in cities. They serve as landmarks for the landscape and provide a feeling of well-being.”

Dec 3, 2012

about turf and meadow

This post is a kind few lines dropped by my friend Hervé who teaches landscape design at my school.

So there it goes, students : memorize once and for good please !

Here are some examples of turfed areas :

natural turf in Brittany













Armeria maritima













Turfed areas can be found by the sea, like the pictures above, taken in Brittany, or in the mountain or on some chalky plateaux. They are almost never maintained. These areas appear and develop by themselves. Plants are low on the ground, they flower and produce seeds.

In a meadow, the plants also flower and seed. They can be used as food for cattle and they have an aesthetic value : the waving of the tall grasses in the wind and the bounty of colours and shapes are visible signs that Nature is alive and worth preserving.

let us sow meadows to replace lawns, that demand too much water !

Some examples of the flowers that can be found :

Dianthus superbus

Hesperis matronalis












Leucanthemum vulgare













Nigella damascena (blue) and Calendula officinalis (orange)

Aren’t they truly irresistible ? They exist in the wild – the photos have been taken in the countryside around where I live.

Of course they can be purchased in garden centres. In fact they have settled here at Botanic Bay when I untertook to plant in-between my young row of bushes in the hedge flanking the street last fall. I used multi seed packets bought from my local garden centre, and it worked beautifully. My secret hope is that they will have self-seeded in my neighbours’ gardens !

What about your meadow plots ?


Oct 14, 2012

think BIG

If you’re looking for a shrub that will look stunning at this time of year, go for a paeonia. I have none in my garden, but this one I captured on a short visit at Hervé’s garden.

He got my interest by saying : ‘you’ve got to see my paeonia. Flowers spanning 27 cm !’. I gave him a lift back to his house, and grabbed my camera that was cunningly with me that day – I was hoping to catch something interesting going on at Lycée Horticole. But that’s another story…

Waoh ! Here they were, in his front garden, displaying their massive heads at the passers-by :



They’re very easy to grow, very hardy and with amazing flowers. Paeonia suffruticosa, is a bush that could reach 3.5 m.

Hey, I’m still looking for a bush to go on the side of the new trellis that was put up this week-end. Paeonia, you’ve got a deal ! Welcome (soon) at Botanic Bay !

Mike Lucky Spade in his main role, last Sunday at Botanic Bay

May 14, 2012

slowly rising…

…from the winter stir in Herve’s garden,

I captured snapshots of the little wooden man among the muscari, goggling at the waving daffodils, and the lazy tulips, not yet fully open :

and the cornus controversa is newly leafing

Hervé told me to come back in a few weeks when he has had time to tidy the beds … That’s a deal !

Apr 2, 2012

the Tulip tree

Liriodendron tulipifera derives its name from the Greek word lieris, lilly and dendros, tree. It belongs to the Magnolia family, and comes from the South East of the USA, but it spreads all along the East coast all the way up to Canada. It was introduced in Europe in 1663 and particularly in France at the beginning of the 18thC, thanks to Roland Michel Barrin, Count of La Galissonnière.

La Galissonnière was the governor of Canada in 1747 and a botanist at heart, whenever his sailing missions would give him the chance to collect seeds and bring them back to his castle not far from Nantes, in France. He has sailed many a sea, from the Carribean where he fought pirates, to the Atlantic when he sailed to Senegal, and the Mediteranean, when he was ambassador for France in Constantinople. He is said to have been the one who has first imported the liquidambar from Turkey.

See how I get carried away ! I mean to write a post on a particular tree I spotted in Hervé’s garden and I come back to he topic of the tree I have in my garden !

So about the Tulip tree : the most famous one was planted at le Petit Trianon in Versailles for Queen Marie-Antoinette in 1771, but was sadly uprooted by the 1999 storm. The following year, the tree was bought by Mr Vialis, a cutler in Aveyron (in the South of France). He made knives from the wood, and each one was numbered from 1 to 1755. The stump of the tree can be seen in Mr Vialis’ s village – Sauveterre de Rouergue.

In Europe, Liriodendron tulipifera can grow up to 40m and live up to 300 years, with a 2m diameter trunk.

The one in Hervé’s garden is much smaller, and I bet you have never seen one shaped like that ! Hervé masters pruning very well and he chose to limit the growth of his tree given the size of his garden. He forced the branches into this amazing crown, as if a gigantic windpipe was blowing from underneath !


Nov 12, 2011

set autumn flowers free !

Summer chrysanthemums (on the photo) and autumn ones are a treat for the bees and the beneficial insects, especially at a time when there are less flowers.

My tip : keep the flowering season as long as possible in your garden. You can have flowers right in the heart of winter ! (but I don’t guarantee the bees then …)


busy bee in autumn

Oct 18, 2011

soft shades of autumn

My rose tree “Douceur Normande” with its salmony pink flowers is a true feast for the eyes.

It should flower til January – at least it did so last year.

Beware of the pricky stems !


Oct 12, 2011