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Linked Articles
Gardening Tips - 2017 - 01 January/February Print

January, as we know, can be cold; February too, so jobs in the garden are reduced to clearing and cleaning. Also keeping an eye open for frosts – if you are in a frost pocket tender plants should be covered with fleece and pots brought under cover.

Mid-February however brings us to pruning time for nearly every plant. Long ago I asked my gardener to prune certain bushes and he said, “Do you want them pruned the French way or the English way?” and I replied, “There is only one way and that is the correct way!”

Pruning is one of the best things you can do to help a tree or a shrub remain healthy. However, bad pruning is one of the worst things you can do to them. Spend time selecting the best tools for the job and handle them (secateurs especially) before buying to make sure that they are comfortable to use. Never attempt to attack a tree or shrub without the right tool; to try to hack through a thick branch with secateurs is madness; it ruins your tools and damages the tree. This is where a proper pair of loppers or a slender pruning saw is necessary.

How and when to prune –  remember the main reasons we prune: to remove weak branches; to remove dead or diseased wood and remove crossing over branches; to shape a tree or a bush, and revitalise and encourage the maximum flowers or fruit. Now that most trees and shrubs are without their leaves it is much easier to find the dead of diseased wood and to remove all those crossing over branches. All shoots and branches should grow outwards, not inwards, thus allowing maximum air and light reach the centre.

We normally prune evergreen shrubs to control their shape or size, which is usually an individual choice but can be done either in early autumn or early spring. Normally pruning deciduous shrubs depends on when they flower and I give a list below of the most usual ones. Climbers need to be pruned for size and tidiness rather than shape and also to encourage the maximum flowering. Most shrubs need not be pruned for their first three years, and then work on the system of taking out one branch in three when the wood looks old. As a general rule, most shrubs should be pruned directly after flowering and this applies to potentillas, Jasminum nudiflorum, forsythias, chimonanthus praecox, berberis,  coronillas, caryopteris and perovskia.

Wisteria becomes wild and unruly if not kept in check. In summer reduce whippy green shoots that have grown in spring back to about five or six leaves; this encourages flowers. In January and/or February cut all these growths back again to two or three buds. If the plant is old look for worn-out growths which should be cut right back to allow newer, healthier shoots to establish themselves.

Trachelospermum needs little pruning but congested, weak or badly placed shoots can be taken out to improve the shape of the bush. If the shrub is old a more drastic measures should be taken in cutting all the shoots back by two-thirds. Gloves essential: the sap is a real irritant.

Campsis grandflora – now is the time for a hard prune, back to two or three buds on the main stem. Also remove weak growth or crossing over branches. This plant enjoys a good, hard prune every year to encourage an abundance of flowers.

All hybrid tea roses can be pruned during the second half of February   As I have said before cut them right down to two to three outward growing buds and remove any  inward growing branches, the idea being to let in light and air. Ramblers, if well established, will only need to be tidied up by cutting some of the old wood branches down to the ground to give a chance for young shoots, and shorten side shoots back one third to a half to encourage new branches. Ditto for climbing roses; only cut out old, woody branches to make way for young, vigorous shoots. On no account cut the leader unless you need to curtail the growth of your climber. Once the leader is gone it is very difficult to establish newer growth.

Buddelias – here you have to be careful because there are those that flower in early spring and those that flower in summer. The general rule is to prune hard to about half the size of the bush as soon as flowering has finished. If you consistently dead-head summer flowering buddleias they will reward you with more flowers for a long time.

The approved rule for all silver-leaved plants is to cut them back in the spring but I, contrary to received wisdom, cut them back in the autumn – don’t do it if you are nervous – and this only applies to the South of France, not England where frosts can arrive as early as October. This list includes teucriums, balottas, helichrysums and centureas.

Abelias – grandiflora, Schumannii etc. need not be pruned until they are 3 years old (this also applies to many other flowering shrubs such as Deutzias) and this should be done in later winter/early spring.   Remember abelias flower on new wood so do not prune if spring growth has already begun. Normally take out one in three of the thickest interior stems at ground level and continue to reduce the bush to about one third of its size.

Lavatera – tree mallow should be pruned in February every single year otherwise it becomes leggy and loses some of its flowers. Prune right down to the new leaf growth and you should have flowers from June onwards. The best varieties are Barnsley and Rosea.

Hydrangea macrophylla “mophead”: ­unless you dislike the look of the deadheads, do not remove them until the following spring and then cut back to the first healthy pair of buds. Not much pruning is required, so only take out old wood if necessary down to the ground to encourage new growth. If bushes are very old or neglected cut off all the stems – you will lose the flower heads in the coming summer but you will rejuvenate the plant for the following years.

And now for details of two pruning gurus: if you need a fully trained tree surgeon to tackle large trees, especially ones threatening buildings, pools, glass roofs, etc. or to treat palm trees against the dreaded moth – paysandisia archon -  and beetle – rhynchophorus ferrugineus - infestations Cyril Valherie is your man, see lamouissone.com for further details. In my garden for some years I have been delighted with Stephen Scrace at The Cutting Edge, (062207224) Stephen@trees.fr. In particular I have some runaway roses clambering up tall pine trees which are impossible for me to tackle, but Stephen has done excellent work keeping them and other trees in check, and they look all the better for his deft attentions.

Joanna Millar - garden enthusiast


Monaco Sights - The Bug House - November 2016 Print

The Bug House
Have you ever noticed the small house as you enter the Casino Garden from Bvd Des Moulins ; it was installed by the environmental team at Monte Carlo SBM. It is intended to provide a home for insects and animal species which can control harmful organisms.  These organisms are used around the gardens of Monaco to keep the plants bug and disease free in a natural and environmental way. 
There is also an insect house for pollination in  the Saint Martin Garden on the Rock.


Gardening Tips - 2016 - November/December Print


November and December 2016

Although October is the best month for planting most bulbs, there is still time in early November, so look at a few websites or go back to local nursery gardens. In particular Bulb’Argence, a firm in the Var, has a rare and interesting selection so it is worth studying their website. 

One of the most successful and popular bulbs of the Alliaceae family is Tulbaghia violacea, a fast growing clump-forming bulbous perennial known as the society garlic (or pink agapanthus) because the long narrow leaves and large umbels of pale lilac flowers, in late summer and early autumn, all smell of garlic – well, after all it is the same family! It grows in almost any position, and looks particularly well in large clumps or used as an edging plant. Its requirements are few: full sun and plenty of good compost on a well drained soil. It is also totally drought resistant although a gentle watering now and then is always helpful. Propagate from seed sown in spring, or by division of the clumps when they get too large. A truly useful plant. 

Narcissi grow easily in light soil or heavy clay mixed with fine grit. Plant the bulbs, pointed side up, 10-15 cms deep and 7-10 cms between each bulb at any time between August and November. Narcissi do much better than daffodils in our climate, unless you have plenty of cool, damp soil. Some of the most alluring include the old fashioned Pheasant’s Eye with its wonderful scent; Avalanche, and Geranium, which is like Pheasant’s Eye, but with a much deeper orange centre; Martinette, a gorgeous bright yellow and orange centre; and Actaea, which is also similar to Pheasant’s Eye but has the advantage of flowering earlier. In spring, as soon as the leaves appear, they should be given a good dose of potash to encourage growth. As is true of all spring flowering bulbs. 

Next on my list of really stunning bulbs are other Alliums which come striding dramatically through the undergrowth of other plants, with their round heads of dazzling mauves, pinks and purples, giving colour and distinction to mixed beds. Normally they have a long flowering season and are helpfully long lived. Some of the best include Globemaster, Early Emperor, Hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ and Christophii. Place in a really well drained soil; they are not fussy about what sort of soil but cannot stand soggy or waterlogged positions. This is important as they will not survive unless in full sun and a dry position. Plant approximately 10-15 cms deep and the same apart, with the pointy end upwards, adding a good handful or two of grit to the bottom of the hole. Like many bulbs, do not remove the leaves after flowering but let them die down naturally. Normally, in favourable conditions, Alliums last for many years. 

Amaryllis Belladonna – the Jersey Lily. This lovely lily from South Africa flowers on long, naked stems in August and September, without its leaves – hence one of its names –Naked Lady – bearing 2-12 twelve rosy pink, highly scented trumpet flowers. Place the large bulbs just below the surface of the soil, pointy side up, at a space of 15 cms. Like alliums, they hate damp or water logged soil so find a dry sunny place always adding grit to the planting hole if the soil is too heavy. They resent disturbance so choose a spot where you mean them to stay and be warned that they do not always flower their first year. Look forward to their flowering early next autumn. 

Now for an unusual bulb but perfect as a pot plant for a terrace or terrace garden, the Hymenocallis Litoralis – the Beach Spider Lily – and as its name implies it needs a slightly sandy but rich soil which must not dry out. It produces long strap-like leaves, similar to Agapanthus, and highly scented white flowers with a wide cup and narrow “tepal” segments (petals and flowers). They are natives of the southern parts of the USA, and therefore are better grown in pots where they can be kept moist and fed, every two weeks, with a liquid fertiliser (tomato feed, as ever). Otherwise they are tough and undemanding, have a long flowering season, but should be in full or filtered sun. As the sun goes down they will fill your patio or terrace with a heady scent. 

Last year I wrote about “classic” tulips but now I would like to mention their wild counterparts or “botanical” tulips.  Many of these, and their hybrids, are in good bulb suppliers and have the advantage of multiplying and living a long time. They are suitable to our climate as they originally came from the Eastern Mediterranean, Asia Minor and beyond. The best-known is probably Kaufmanniana, sometimes called the water-lily tulip. The wild form is creamy with reddish markings and there are several hybrids such as Corona also with reddish markings, Ancilla and Show winner, a really beautiful coral pink. Next is Gregii, unmistakable as their leaves have red stripes and their vermillion flowers are bigger than others in the wild.  Some of the hybrids, such as Compostella, are yellow and orange, Cape Cod yellow and red, Chopin cream and red, and Oratorio pink.

Fosteriana, or Emperor tulips, have become popular as they resemble standard tulips; the wild form is bright red but nowadays most of the selections are hybrids such as Red Emperor, Pink Emperor, Easter Moon, and Purissima which is pure white, grows 35-40 cms and naturalises easily. 

Next come the species tulips such as Batolini, growing only 10 cms high in several colours from red to yellow and orange. Dasystemon Tarda is prolific, multiplying rapidly with yellow star shaped flowers and roughly the same height at 10-15 cms. Turkestanica has white flowers with a yellow base that are slightly taller, reaching 20-25 cms.

Finally Tulip Clusiana, the Lady tulip originating from Afghanistan and beyond, is one of the prettiest of the species tulips. It is thought that about 250 different species exist in the wild with Clusiana one of the best as it colonises and multiplies quickly if left undisturbed in a corner. Now is not too late to plant this particular tulip. All these species tulips like cool wet winters and baking hot summers so should all be suitable in our climate.  Most are completely carefree and thrive in any reasonable fertile soil provided it is well drained and in full sun. 

Leaving aside bulbs, don’t forget that autumn is the best time to divide or resettle plants that have outgrown their space, or even to ruthlessly discard those that have offended you and their neighbours. As the FT’s great gardening guru Robin Lane Fox reminds us, after pulling out the unwanteds, one can quickly cheer up flagging spaces with strategically placed late flowering plants in pots. Hidden in autumnal foliage no one will ever guess they are not permanent fixtures. 












Gardening Tips - 2016 - September/October Print

There are moments when we run out of ideas for our gardens, particularly after the long, hot summer we have just endured. One of the pleasantest ways of sharpening our imaginations is to look at other people’s gardens, and we are particularly blessed by having some famous ones right on our doorstep.

First there is the celebrated garden at La Mortola just over the border in Italy. Le Giardino Hanbury, founded by Thomas Hanbury in 1867. He and his brother Daniel, a renowned chemist, bought about 42 hectares, including the beautiful Palazzo Orengo, in order to experiment with medicinal plants and soon they were receiving specimens, not only medicinal ones, from all over the world.
On this magnificent steeply sloping site overlooking the sea there are great collections of cacti and agaves, South Africa, Australian and South American plants but always with a firm accent on medicinal species. Much of the planting dates from the time of Sir Thomas, (he was knighted by Edward VII): a rare Casimiroa edulis planted by Daniel in December, 1867, Acacia Hanburyiana, Araucaria Cunninghamii, also sown by Daniel in 1872, and the great 300 foot pergola which supports jasmine, bignonias, Homalocladium platycladium, Thunbergia coccinea and passion flowers. He also created the famous citrus garden where there is an astonishing Shatok grapefruit bearing 3 lb fruit, along with other sub-tropical exotic fruits, such as Hovenia dulcis and Acca sellowiana. There is a profusion of roses – double and single banksias, laevigata mermaid, mutablis and Noella Narbonnand. Newer plantations include shrub roses from Meilland of France and David Austin of England. Half way down the garden runs the via Aurelia, one of the four roads leading from ancient Rome to Avignon along which trudged such famous characters as Pope Innocent IV, Catherine of Siena, Machiavelli, the Emperor Charles V and Napoleon himself on his way to one of his campaigns.
Open most of the year, but closed on Mondays in winter.

In Menton the Jardin botanique exotique du Val Ramah, covering 11,000 m2, houses a splendid collection of local and rare interesting exotic plants. The garden was created on several levels by Lord Percy Radcliffe, a former governor of Malta, in 1905. Here you will find Brugmansias, sages and a large selection of exotic fruits, such as kiwis, avocados and bananas. Most of the planting we enjoy today was done since 1957 by Miss Maybud Campell, a fine botanist and one time owner who gave the garden to the State in 1966, and the French Museum of Natural History acquired it that year for research. There are over 700 different specimens of plants and trees in this magical place and it is well worth a visit if only to marvel at the giant water lily, Victoria amazonica. In one area it is quite possible to believe you are in a rain forest.  In others you go back in time among olive trees four centuries old. 
Open most of the year, but closed on Tuesdays.

La Serre de la Madone – this beautifully structured garden was a masterpiece created by Lawrence Johnson of a wealthy American family, a garden designer and plantsman who also created the famous garden of Hidcote in Gloucestershire, where he lived until his heath dictated he should more to a warmer clime. There was already a pretty house on the property which he enlarged but it was he who gathered from all over the world the fine collection of unusual tropical plants that we see today, centred on a charming pool on one of the terraces. Plants include Mahonia Siamennsis, Arbutus unedo, many rose varieties, buddleias, bamboos and numerous cycads and succulents. And many statues. After Johnson’s death in l958 the property passed through several hands who did not appreciate its botanical value and it fell into sad decline, until in 1999 it was purchased by the Conservatoire du Litteral who are slowly restoring it to Johnson’s design.
Open all year except November, Christmas, New Year, and Mondays.

Check all opening times before visiting.

The above gardens are all open to all comers but there are so many private gardens along our coast that are full of choice surprises and clever ideas. One way to gain access is to join a gardening organisation such as Mediterranean Gardening France (www.mediterraneangardeningfrance.org), membership just ten euros annually. This is a non-profit making organisation with all kinds of group visits, lectures and suggestions described on the excellent bilingual website. For example, in September last year MGF managed to gain access to the famously private 14 hectare Les C├Ędres on Cap Ferrat, currently on the market for an alleged billion euros. The website has a good account and photographs of the visit. Let us hope any new owner will cherish this truly worldclass sub-tropical paradise with its historic plantings.

For next month I’m already thinking about spring bulbs in all their glorious variety.


Bethany Lewis in Nepal (BAM News 9/2016) Print

 Bethany Lewis, Student at ISM Volunteers Abroad

Since 1992, Projects Abroad have been sending volunteers abroad. It is one of the largest volunteer abroad program s in the world, sending 10,000 volunteers abroad each year to give back on hundreds of worthwhile service opportunities on five continents. We have nearly 700 trained and resident staff members to ensure that volunteers are safe and effective in providing benefits for local communities. The volunteers are able to start the project whenever its fits into their schedule. They can go for as long or short a time as they want and they are supported in each destination by Community staff and other Volunteers.




A member of the British community here in Monaco and a student at ISM, Bethany Lewis spent two weeks of her Summer break helping as a volunteer in Nepal. We asked her some questions about the experience, her answers are below:

Why did you decide to volunteer in Nepal?

After last year's devastating earthquake I wanted to do something to help those affected by disasters and especially the children of Nepal.

What did you like about the Nepalese people?

They are all so very friendly and love to share. The children in particular were very energetic and happy even though they don't have much materially and it has made me appreciate my life and how fortunate I am.

Are the children well educated? Do they have prospects?

Not every child is lucky enough to have a place at a school. It can be very difficult for the teachers and pupils alike as classes span a wide age range. Prospects are limited as the economy is agriculturally dependent and there is much political instability.

What were your tasks?
Our main tasks were to repair, paint and decorate a school before the children returned. My friend
and I decided to paint one of the classrooms for younger children with the English alphabet and
pictures that corresponded with each letter.
When the children returned, we then taught them in English. It was our choice what and how we
wanted to teach them, depending on their age. For example, with the younger children we played
Pictionary-type games and sang songs and nursery rhymes to keep their attention. The older
children were much more interested in knowing about us and constantly asked us questions about
our lives.
What did you like best about the whole experience?
Experiencing their culture and seeing how such a small effort on my part made such a big
difference to their happiness and hopefully their lives. It was an amazing and humbling
experience. I thoroughly enjoyed being with the people in a real sense and also experiencing
Nepal’s beautiful landscapes.
I will definitely volunteer again with 'Projects Abroad’. Helping the children this Summer has been
maturing and life changing. I will choose to go to another country next time as it will be interesting
to experience different cultures.
Bethany is an IB student and we wish her every success for the year ahead.

An abridged version of this article was originally published in the September 2016 BAM News