Finding a Gardener

Not pretty but tidy!

Not pretty but tidy!


When I first retired to France my dream was to grow my own vegetables – to have a potager. However, it was nowhere near as straightforward as I’d imagined.

There was limited success but it was a continual battle with insects, plant diseases and small animals who ate carrots, beetroot and parsnips before I was able to pull them up. Some little beasties even chewed the roots of most of the fruit trees in the ‘orchard’ and they keeled over. All that’s left from twenty-five trees are two plum trees, a mirabelle and a pear tree that’s leaning over dangerously but which still produces a few  mangy pears.

Cauliflowers were full of caterpillars that remained despite soaking in salt and vinegar water and careful washing but I have to say we did get some good peas, green beans and pumpkins. One year there were some excellent cucumbers but the last few attempts with tomatoes were disastrous. One year there were loads of tomatoes in the greenhouse but they just wouldn’t turn red.

So, I gave up. The orchard became a chicken run and the rest of the garden was neglected and overgrown. There was hardly time to cut the grass.

In the end, it seemed we would have to pay someone to help.

The first chap came and looked and gave us an impressive estimate with a long list of things he would do at a cost of 280 euros. He turned up with his son and an enormous strimmer thingy and devastated the whole garden in less than three hours. The only jobs well done were that they took the rubbish away and his son cleaned the greenhouse thoroughly.

Then, in desperation i asked a neighbour’s son if he could  help out. He said he would but he left jobs half done and didn’t really know anything about gardening.

Then I came across the chap who used to look after the gardens in the village. He had retired but wanted a few jobs to supplement his pension. He arranged to come but after agreeing to take it on he never turned up when he said he would and didn’t even have the courtesy to let me know. His  worst ‘crime’ however, was to spray everywhere with Roundup after I’d told him I didn’t want to use chemicals ESPECIALLY that particular make!

I told him his services were no longer required.

Then I saw some cards in the local shops advertising a qualified gardener living quite close to us. I phoned him and he came to see the garden.

I explained how I needed someone reliable as I hoped the garden would look respectable by this summer when we were expecting several  visitors.

At first he seemed perfect but as more and more people contacted him with work he had less time to spend here. In fairness, he had offered me a cheaper rate to make up for the fact that, as we pay tax in the UK, we wouldn’t be able to claim the rebate which French people can obtain, so I can see how he would prefer to work for more money.

My dreams of a tidy garden in time for my sister’s visit in June faded fast.

Then, a couple of weeks ago my friend Elisabeth said she knew  a young chap who could solve the problem. His name is Johnny and he is a worker if not a gardener.  He has spent six mornings so far – even during the heatwave – and the transformation is amazing. There’s still work to do but he has cleared the ‘near’ half of the garden, weeded the terrace and banks  and taken ALL the rubbish away, carrying it through the house in bags and emptying it into big containers in the back of his car.

No longer weeds but room to plant things.

No longer weeds but room to plant things.

The downside is that he dug up some plants and left a few weeds but he is reliable and hardworking.

He is a little bit ‘strange’ and I can’t always understand what he says but it was highly amusing when Elisabeth told me that he said he couldn’t always understand me because I sometimes spoke to him in English. Oh dear, my French obviously needs to improve. . . . . . . .


A  touch of colour

A touch of colour


Hardly a lawn (especially after the heatwave) but now there's room to move.

Hardly a lawn (especially after the heatwave) but now there’s room to move.

A neat and tidy hedge by the terrace.

A neat and tidy hedge by the terrace.

The top of the bank

The top of the bank

4 Responses to “Finding a Gardener”

  1. lom Says:

    You have a fantastic space there. You should try pee on your tomatoes it works wonders and to get them to turn red, strip the leaves.

  2. Zoe Sprake Says:

    At one time I grew nearly all the vegetables that I wanted to have, but I’ve learned over the years that, with limited time and patience, I’m better with the easy ones and those that don’t tend to get pests and diseases. I’m very lucky now to have a gardener to cut grass and do heavier jobs, leaving me to do the actual growing – though years of having more to do than I can manage has been too much for me and I don’t really enjoy gardening any more.

    • sablonneuse Says:

      I think you have more than enough to keep you occupied so it’s not surprising you are not a keen gardener, Zoe.

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