Great depths and tiny miniatures…

Looking down the well, Oloron Sainte Marie, February 2021

A week of highs and lows, with much connection between the two. Finding a 12 metre well under a lid in the courtyard was a high. Beautifully constructed and looking as if a child-sized builder had only just finished it, we need to figure out how we can use it, and restore the pump system- we need to find a well expert. Not one for the Pages Jaunes, I don’t imagine.

A few days later, a more sombre mood descended as possible news of the almost-total flattening of our old garden in Tostat reached us. For a few moments, the shock was almost visceral, even though, rationally speaking, the new owners are the new owners. Looking back over the photographs of the garden in Tostat last year, the image that spoke to me was this one of a March moon at sunset. Kind of said it all.

Sunset, Tostat, March 2020

But, here in Oloron, small things are doing their best to celebrate now and the future, whilst honouring the past. Thinking in advance last Autumn, I had bought a couple of handfuls of a new Crocus, ‘Orange Monarch’– apparently the first successful breeding of an orange crocus. Thinking that orange is good, bright and cheerful, I have been really looking forward to these popping up. The first signs were good, with a striking burnt brown colouring to the underside of the petals- leading to a slight feeling of being underwhelmed, as the promised orange leaned too far left to yellow for my liking. Mind you, the photographs do look more orange, dammit. Good try, but not orange enough!

Crocus Orange Monarch, Oloron Sainte Marie, February 2021
Crocus Orange Monarch, looking not orange enough for me, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2021

I grew Erodium pelargoniflorum from seed in the Autumn of 2019, so these plants that I brought with me are in their second year now. Fresh green foliage and tough but delicate flowers are a lovely sight against bare ground. This Erodium might keep it’s foliage all year round in a cooler climate- but for me, they die down and disappear in summer, reliably coming back in the late Autumn.

Erodium pelargoniflorum, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2021

Another tiny bulb treat that I gave myself at the end of 2020 was a couple of handfuls of this very sweet dwarf Narcissus, Narcissus bulbocodium Cantabricus, which at only a few centimetres high, opens it’s flowers, eerily reminiscent of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ from pale yellow to bright white. Totally adorable, and utterly tiny. A quick look at references tells me that there is considerable confusion and disagreement on nomenclature for this plant, so here is my French stockist for reference.

Narcissus bulbocodium Cantabricus, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2021
And again….

Two years ago nearly, back in Tostat, we held our annual event for Tostatenfleur, and as a result, I came home with 6 baby Scilla peruviana– a wonderful bulb (nothing to do with Peru actually, which I had successfully killed in ignorance 12 years earlier. So here we are again, and of my 6 babies, 2 are the proud owners of an embryonic flower spike. I can’t wait…

Scilla peruviana, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2021

Sticking with bulbs and small things, these beautiful candy-pink dwarf tulips are simply lovely. Tulipa fosteriana ‘Garden of Clusius’ is named for the famous botanist, Carolus Clusius, who founded the Hortus Botanicus at Leiden University in the Netherlands. I visited the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden in 2016, in March, so almost exactly five years ago. A beautiful place, with many historic details to discover, I was tempted by the tulip largely because of that connection, and it doesn’t disappoint. I think I like the early stages of the flowering, when the tulip looks like a 1950s lipstick being opened for the first time. Gorgeous.

Tulipa fosteriana ‘Garden of Clusius’, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2021
Tulipa fosteriana ‘Garden of Clusius’, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2021
Beehives beneath the inscription ‘God feeds all creatures’, Clusius Garden, Hortus Botanicus, Leiden, March 2016
View of the Clusius Garden, Leiden, March 2016

And I am getting to know so many rocks as we tackle the Barn Garden. Many of these friends are twice or three times the size of those pictured below. Think of us as we dig and make this a new garden for us.

Rocks I know too well, with pink shoe for scale, Oloron Sainte Marie, March 2021