The homeowner's page - 3
Garden centres;


Below are links to the four different sections into which I have now divided this part of the site.







Rental & tax


garden centres

Cinema & books







travel deals





estate agents



talking points











Any absentee property-owner will be horrified by how fast Nature advances to reclaim what was left as an immaculate plot, and can turn it into a jungle in just a few weeks.
One of the great discoveries we have made for keeping weeds down is tree bark, available in bags from supermarkets and garden shops, or in bulk from some garden centres (if you take a trailer, they can measure its dimensions and then fill it and charge you per cubic metre). Spread thickly over an area you have weeded thoroughly, it will work miracles and make it far less difficult to regain control. Also you can see when you are approaching your precious plants more easily, and so run less risk of pulling them out when weeding! If you have a choice, go for slightly smaller bits of bark - the large pieces tend to blow off the beds in high winds.

If you're passionate about the Vendée, look out for some new roses launched in winter 2000-2001. Ville des Sables, Cap Horn and Vendée-Globe 2000, which are respectively golden-orange, flame-red and bright yellow.

You are not allowed to have bonfires between 1 March and 30 September (presumably for fear of setting somebody's precious crops alight), so gather combustible material ready for a nice autumn blaze...

Property owners are supposed to keep thistles in check, cutting them down before they flower (spring and early summer) so that those millions of fluffy bits of thistledown don't waft over boundaries and take root in neighbours' gardens and fields.

In 1804 Napoleon ordered the creation of a "Code Civil" to spell out the laws affecting property owners - right down to where householders can plant trees and bushes.
Don't quote me on these, but broadly speaking: The land up to 50cm beyond your house wall is deemed to be yours. You can't put a window in that overlooks your neighbour's property. A fence can be positioned on your boundary line, but a hedge must be planted a minimum of 1 metre your side of the boundary. And trees that will grow more than 2 metres high must be planted a minimum of 2 metres from the boundary (though this doesn't seem to mean you have to chop down all the lovely old trees already growing in your hedgerow).



Garden centres


, Route de Nantes, La Roche-sur-Yon is always a favourite. We bought excellent small hedging plants (eleagnus ebingii) at very reasonable prices three years ago and they are now a huge, bushy evergreen hedge, with tiny, but incredibly fragrant flowers in September.

There's a real vogue for olive trees at the moment (2002), plants which - having lost a small but expensive one a few years ago - we had always considered too fragile to withstand Vendée winters.
Pépinières Boutin et Fils, outside the
village of St-Avaugourd-des-Landes, is a huge place, with vast glasshouses containing near-tropical trees, and acres of growing plants and shrubs, plus container-grown items - including many unusual varieties. Take a trailer if you've got one, because you're bound to want to buy hundreds of things for the garden! Belle-Fontaine, 85540 Saint-Avougourd-des-Landes (tel: 02 51 98 94 44; fax 02 51 98 93 46).
Vilmorin is an exceedingly good store too. Branches (excuse the pun) in various places, including Olonne-sur-Mer - where we bought some lusciously burgeoning geranium plants in June 2000 for a mere 6F90 each.




Tree surgeon


We had some excellent work on thinning out the branches of some huge old trees and taking down a pretty big oak tree, carried out in winter 99/00 and again in 04/05 by tree specialist Stéphane Guédon, from the La Mothe-Achard area (tel: 02 51 94 79 79/ mobile 06 82 03 02 43). He came first to do an estimate, and returned on schedule to do the job with a colleague, and with all the appropriate safety gear.




Garden design


As my husband, John, worked for many years on the BBC's "Gardener's World" programme, you might imagine he was pretty enthusiastic about matters horticultural. About seven years ago an ex-colleague, Gareth Hughes - now a garden designer - took our Vendée plot in hand and created what has turned into a wonderland (when we are on top of the weeds that is!). Here's a picture of it on a good day in May 2002.

Stéphane Guédon (see Tree Surgeon, above) now works with Anthony Cantin, who undertakes garden-design projects. You can contact him at Guédon Paysage – French mobile 06 74 21 59 66.







Local councils have gone mad on recycling. Pretty little wooden cabins have been set up all over the place - including supermarket car parks - to receive:
- glass bottles (but not ones that have contained oil) and jam jars - but no light bulbs;
- plastic bottles (again, not oil ones), though without the tops on; they don't want yoghurt pots etc, nor plastic bags. (Strangely, cardboard goes into this container too, as do tins, drinks canisters and tinfoil containers.)
- newspapers, magazines and paper generally.
Our own village council has issued us all with wheelie-bins; we pay a whopping annual sum of 500F for having it emptied each week. At 120 litres, it doesn't take a lot to fill it, so recycling and compost-making are essential. We could have asked for a larger bin, but the annual charge would have gone up in line with its size.




Weather forecasts


You can find the outlook for a couple of days for Nantes, La Roche-sur-Yon and Les Sables-d'Olonne on these Voilà pages.






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