Luckily for us just a short hop over the Channel and we are in Normandy, home of the delicious Normandy Cider and also an area which is one of the biggest producers of Flax in Europe.
This annual crop grows to just over a metre tall with delicate pure blue flowers. The fibre from the plant is used to make clothes and household linen, the seeds are used to make linseed oil – rich in omega-3 acids – which can be taken to supplement the diet.
This is the time of year the plants are in full bloom and the villagers of Normandy come out and celebrate the crop in the ‘Festival du Lin’:
Flax has been cultivated for thousands of years with evidence from the ancient Egyptians using linen bandages in the mummification process of the deceased and the Romans used it for the sails of their ships. Europe and North America depended on linen for cloth until the nineteenth century when cotton became more economical to use and other materials were more versatile. The biggest grower of Flax today is Canada, who produce it mainly for linseed oil.
Usitatissimum in latin means ‘useful’
The fine fibres of the stem when bundled up after treatment resemble blonde hair, hence the description ‘flaxen’
This weekend I am taking the ferry to Dieppe to enjoy the Linen festival in Sotteville-sur-mer and Veules-Les-Roses:
…and I have already identified an area of the garden for the potential cultivation of flax next year…
We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny Sunday for the Open Garden at Dyke Farm House, Poynings. Many people came from far and wide and from the village itself, over the course of the afternoon. My family came along and Louis, my eldest son, larked about on the trampoline while I showed my parents around the garden. It felt like a real community spirit.
A lady arrived who had worked at the house as a secretary when it was previously run as a hotel. She enjoyed an emotional tour of the house. She also brought with her a pretty watercolour painting of the house that she had been given at the time and gave it to the present owners as a gift and a donation to the event.
There were plenty of delicious cakes and cups of tea to be enjoyed on the patio and the event raised £1000 for Martlets Hospice.
I love the finished look of freshly clipped Box hedges and balls as it adds the perfect neat contrast to the shaggy fullness of a June garden. I even pride myself on getting the shapes just right, but picking up the little pieces afterwards is a bit of a nightmare.
There are 2 things we try to do to make the job a little easier: Firstly by draping an old tablecloth around the base of the plant and if there are other plants all around it, the cloth will gently lie on those plants and still catch the majority of the clippings. Secondly we try and remember to add mulch to the border – either mushroom compost, a soil conditioner or decorative bark chippings AFTER clipping, thus leaving a tidy finish.
Don’t forget to give the plants a good long drink and a feed at the end of the job.
Goes to our wonderful volunteers at Nigs’ Garden (Dyke Farm House) Poynings. The lovely ladies Marissa and Jill have put in many hours and we are grateful for their continued commitment, sheer hard work and ‘joie de vive’ in bringing the garden together for Open Day on June 29th in aid of Martlets Hospice.
Much of our time at the moment is taken up with weeding and watering. We water all the pots at the beginning of the day (and maybe at the end too if we are not returning to the garden for a while) and with the prediction of a drought, this is a necessity. All the plants in the border are left to fend for themselves unless we moved them this year and then they will need watering too. It’s hot, but we have made the mistake before of wearing shorts and vests. Now it is time for trousers, hats and long sleeves as the horseflies are out in force. We also cover up in the sun as that beats any sun protection in a bottle.
The clematis are making the most of our rustic arches but having divided them earlier this year, the flowers are smaller and the growth less prolific. However they are still delightful.
When we start getting really hot we head to the shady parts of the garden so these areas become the most well tended weed free areas for a while! In the hotter drier areas the weed growth slows down of it’s own accord thankfully.
Now is also the time to take stock of the planting and make decisions about what will be divided in August. Our moat border can be quite overwhelming right now so I am always thinking of removing and reducing plants rather than adding to the show. Less is more!
No not me!
I am talking about the Martagon Lily. Flowering now, it can grow to 4 feet tall and have as many as 50 Turk’s cap flowers on each stem. They are various hues of white pink and mauve, some have spotted petals some without and they have a gentle sweet scent. They even enjoy growing in shady conditions aswell as full sun. I have picked 2 stems to photograph and press but they certainly look great naturalised in the grass under the trees.