July's flowers: Fuchsias, agapanthus and succulents (yes succulents)

Remember those giant fuchsias I had a while back? Well they've grown, and flowered.  And while the flowers could be described as giant, the plants are still not quite in the giant category. They have grown tremendously since even the end of May, but I think that (assuming they survive the winter) next year they'll be brilliant.

The buds of the flowers gave a hint of the fullness of the flowers within, looking fit to burst at any moment.

My giant fuchsias getting ready to flower

And when they did, pretty ballerinas with frilly skirts were on display. I don't think there's been more than a couple of flowers on each plant at a time, but given there's so much flower that's not surprising is it?

giant fuchsias in flower - pretty ballerinas

They last pretty well too, and still have a certain elegance even as they fade.

Even as they fade the giant fuchsias look pretty

Elsewhere in the garden the hardy fuchsia bush was up for the chop. It looks dramatic - and quite a bit was cut off - but it was the lower branches which were starting to swamp the grass. Seeing it in the trug waiting to go to the compost bin looking so pretty almost made me regret it, but then looking back at the bush that looks way better too.

Trimming the hardy fuchsia bush

July was also the month that deadheading also came into its own with gazanias, sweet peas, giant fuchsias and roses all combining to make this striking photo - helped by the pretty pink trug.



By the conservatory our agapanthus buds were finally opening, there was a while to go before the flowers started to open but watching these is fascinating. 

Agapanthus starting to flower

And when they open, they're breathtakingly stunning.

agapanthus with the flowers starting to open

Outside my greenhouse something quite remarkable has taken place in my succulent trug. Some of my succulents have started flowering, and they're the most delicate flowers. 


I've never seen succulents flower, especially any of my own. And if I'm honest I'm surprised they have because I do very little to help them. Most of these were pretty neglected last winter, as I forgot I'd left them in the hanging basket on the cherry tree. But I do wonder if that contributed to this year's flowers, as after all they are alpines, who knows?

and there were plenty of succulent flowers too - the first time I've seen them flower

There's been plenty more flowers in the garden during July but these three are my favourite plants, so it's good to see them all flowering at the same time.  What's your favourite plant?

A fine farm for florists and regal roses

Today I'm taking you to another part of the Chateau de Chenonceau estate, and a part you might not have heard of before, the farm. Yes I wasn't expecting to find one here either, and it was a lovely discovery. Especially as it was so pretty. And so French. We approached past the duck pond who, as you'd expect living so close to such a grand chateau also had some rather plush duck accommodation.

The 16th century farm buildings at chateau de chenonceau
Could this farm at Chateau de Chenonceau look any more French

The farm is a group of 16th century buildings and includes Catherine de' Medici's stables. One of the buildings houses a floral workshop where two florists work all year round creating the stunning flower arrangements which I've already shared. And it provides easy access to the vegetable and flower gardens nearby. But before we go there, just look at this honeysuckle I spotted. It's huge, and was lovely and fragrant when we visited, but growing in a way - like a cordon - that I'd not seen before.

honeysuckle at chateau de chenonceau grown as a cordon and in a way i've not seen before

Moving through one of the farm's arches, I got my first glimpse of the productive part of the garden. And I wasn't surprised at how orderly it was. I loved the grass between the crops - which is a similar approach I have in my allotment, it's just that in my allotment the grass is almost knee high!

My first glimpse of the orderly flower and vegetable garden at chateau de chenonceau

The cordoned fruit trees were in fruit too. And I promise when I took the picture below I was still on the right side of the path.

looking down on the miniature fruit trees bordering the vegetable and flower beds at chateau de chenonceau

There's twelve square plots each of them edged with apple trees and Queen Elizabeth rosebushes, hence the regal roses reference in the title. And lots of alliteration throughout this post. The whole space covers more than a hectare and like many of the potagers we visited is pretty as well as functional. 

Throughout the garden there was added interest, with wicker ornaments and metal wells. The sunflowers were growing tall and strong. And straight. Take a look at how thick their stems are. 

An archway with flowers growing over it at chateau de chenonceau
strong sunflowers growing straight, tall and in a line in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau
the garden at chateau de chenonceau was interspersed with some intriguing items like this well head

And we were there when the peonies were out. They are still a June favourite of mine and were part of my wedding bouquet too. I always wonder at how they stay upright with their heavy blooms, and it seems they don't always. I think if I were a peony I'd be like this too.

the peonies in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau struggled to stay upright

Actually if I was a peony I'd be more like these fuschia ones!

it seems the cerise peonies at chateau de chenonceau were heavier than the lighter coloured counterparts

What struck me about the roses - apart from the sheer volume of bushes in flower - was the supports they were growing up and against. Most were growing against quite humble wire fencing. But how it transformed it.

the regal roses growing in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau
And white lilies also grown in abundance in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau

In other parts of the garden there were bushes of lilies growing like I've never seen before. But if you've a house the size of Chenonceau to keep in fresh flower arrangements then it makes sense. These also look like they've got their own irrigation system too.

The heritage greenhouses are also hosts to roses, these ones were the palest of peach which complemented the stonework so well.

climbing roses on a wall at chateau de chenonceau making a pretty entrance to the working greenhouses


Close to the greenhouses I spotted an extra pot similar to those around the wall in Diane de Poitiers gardenalthough here it was planted with some spare santolini, rather than geraniums. Well, I assume it was spare. I guess using as much as they do in the formal gardens, it's always worth having some spare. 

some spare santolini at chateau de chenonceau no doubt for emergency use in the formal gardens

And it's a plant that is going on my plant list. I've been stalking it for a while so next year, is the year. Remind me if I forget!

Before I go, a puzzle. In the squash bed there were several of these wicker baskets on a stick (that's my name for them) and I've no idea what they're for. We've considered all sorts, but each of our suggestions seem just a little too odd, but maybe our ideas aren't quite as far fetched as we think. 

and a puzzle too, what are these wicker baskets amongst the squash plants in the vegetable garden at chateau de chenonceau for

If you know why the ten gardeners, who keep the gardens at Chenonceau so well kept, have "planted" these wicker baskets, please leave me a comment and let me know. And if you don't know for sure what they're for, I'd love to hear some of your wacky suggestions too.

Soon we'll be back on the bikes and back on the Loire a Velo cycle path heading towards Tours, which was the last stop - and biggest town - on our trip. I've mixed feelings about Tours. I love a big town, but had been enjoying the smaller countryfied towns and villages. I was pleased to get to Tours as I was keen to visit Villandry, but equally being in Tours and visiting Villandry meant our trip would soon be over, and that was less pleasing. But all that's for another day, until then let me know about those wicker baskets on sticks!

A diversion through the Flower Garden

Last week I told you about my new commute through Greenwich Park and how I was clocking up those steps. Well that's still happening but a week and a half in, curiosity got the better of me and I was keen to see what was on the other side of the fence in the Flower Garden. So yesterday on the way home I took a little diversion to see what was behind the banana leaves where I usually turn right.

And as I expected there was a riot of colour with dahlias and coleus.

yellow dahlia
A riot of coleus

I had to smile at all the colours and even more so when a cheeky squirrel popped his head up out of the begonias, almost indignant at being disturbed. And of course once he spotted my iPhone he didn't pop up any more...

So I moved onto these gorgeous yellow flowers, I've a feeling they could be rudbeckias, but I might be wrong. 


And then there were the echinaceas. So many colours too, and it's easy to see why they're often called cone flowers isn't it?

more echinacea
and yet more echinacea
they look like hydrangea

So curiosity satiated, now I know what's on the other side of the fence.  Normal service can once more be resumed. Well until I get itchy feet to see another part of the park!