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Quote of the day: ‘There will be rubble in gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the next few years. But like with my own garden, the aim will be to bring joy to anyone who sees it.’ - John Little

Big day today. The alarm is set and off we go bright and early for the follow up X-ray to take with me to the surgeon on Monday.

It was one of those blustery nights when the wind gathered pace as the night drew on. Although the roof over the house is watertight, as yet, inside only has one layer of insulation, so it is incredibly noisy. The temporary windows didn’t blow in, as sometimes happens, but it were makin’ a fearful racket, my lovelies.

Consequentially, not much sleep was had. When the blinkin’ alarm went off I felt as if I had only just properly bedded down for the night.

Up and at ‘em, showered and out before breakfast.

The dogs were not amused.

I’m not counting my hens teeth yet as carrying out spinal surgery isn’t my speciality, but despite the odd metal emblem that appeared on the X-ray, I’m keeping my fingers tentatively crossed for positive news at the surgeon’s follow up. The errant ornate emblem that is photobombing the X-ray turns out to be a decorative metal disc on my knickers. Of course I had to choose the most unsuitable pair. That’s in addition to wrestling with taking off my boots and everything that was impossibly tight up top, pre getting onto the enormous X-ray machine. Patiently waiting behind her enormous machine, the radiographer lined me and it up, took a few snaps and then we did the whole thing in reverse. It’s just not quite warm enough early in the day to ditch my boots or sous-pulle (under-jumper - long sleeved T shirt thing).

Hot and sweaty, I truss myself back into excessive clothing and back brace, venturing out to the crowded waiting room for the results. Only a slight panic when for some reason I expect to see yesterday’s knickers making their way out of my trouser leg. No need to panic, it is just the leather on my boot zip that is tucked under itself, causing an acceptable, less embarrassing, knickerless ruck.

Finally the results arrive and it’s back towards home and to collect fresh bread for breakfast en route.

I’ve recently cancelled next years subscription to the RHS. I really cannot make use of it fully and resent paying for something that sits there doing nothing from one year to the next.

The dogs and I saunter up the drive to the post box, finding two pieces of post. One was the local newsletter which gives us notice of the châsse (local hunt) meals.

Two are planned, one at the end of April and the other in early June. Historically, we used to go to them, but there have not been any since Covid struck, so if we do go, it will be the first for a very long time.

Politically, the idea of traipsing round the countryside shooting wild animals fills me with horror - I certainly couldn’t do that, despite having been brought up with it as the norm.

It gives me enormous pleasure to see the deer running wild and free through the fields. It chills me to the bone when I hear the hunting dogs and shots.

Simon and I long for the end of the shooting season in late February when the gun and dogs stop patrolling, particularly on Sundays.

The châsse though, have another way of thinking and doubtless it involves land management and keeping numbers restricted.

Hypocritically, despite the fact I couldn’t kill wild animals, I eat meat and enjoy it. Without a shadow of a doubt, every châsse meal is a meat fest and usually involves six or seven courses, all washed down with copious amounts of locally made red or rosé wine.

Pity those sewers the following morning.

There’s usually a raffle too, where anything and everything with a rural slant will be offered as prizes. Often it’s another lump of deer or wild boar, locally grown and dried prunes, or bottles of assorted spirits and wine.

It is an event that needs experiencing at least once when one is immersed in La France Profonde (rural France), culminating in much over eating and drinking, usually ending up with a fierce hangover the following day.

Socially, I like going to the local French events and it’s good to see neighbours we would not otherwise see to have a chat to, dusting off the French language for a few hours.

The second item in the postbox was my monthly RHS magazine. Mostly, this goes unread from one month to the next, sometimes even unopened before it is tossed into the recycling.

As it may well be the last one I receive, I opened it only to find it really was an exciting issue after all.

Lovely friends John and Fi Little are featured on the front cover and have a big multi page spread inside.

John has championed wildflower and ecology gardening for over thirty years. His garden, Hilldrop, near Basildon in Essex is testament to what can be achieved without any of that fancy hybridisation and fiddling malarkey that happens with so many plants. He plants some stuff, and allows what wants to grow to do so, on substrates, crushed concrete, ceramics, in sand, you name it, just not in or with the copious amounts of well prepared loam or compost that is traditional. What comes up stays and thrives with little human interference, save learning and advancing the project. This in turn adds immeasurable value for local wildlife and insects as well as the flora.

He’s an inspirational pioneer in his field. A complete expert, and I’m so happy that he is getting the recognition he deserves and has campaigned about for years. Green roofs and John go hand in hand, having done so for way, way longer than has recently been considered fashionable.

John would be the first to admit he bangs on about his passion. I’m glad he has done exactly that for so long and now, at last, it is being considered as a viable option.

I know he will go down in horticultural history as one of the braver gardeners to tackle and utilise the crap that everyone else seems to want to bury and be rid of.

He and Fi are also fine people who know how to enjoy a party.

Check out Hilldrop, his beautiful garden at

As I wander back down from the postbox, I take Arnie off the lead today. He walks close to my legs and is not messing around when we spy the first Scarce Swallowtail butterfly of the year. My fennel is already up and growing fast, ready for the swallowtail caterpillars to chomp away on as soon as they hatch out.

Another landmark door opening to welcome in Spring and Summer.

Despite the blustery wind, it’s warm in the sunshine. The days are getting longer. All the good weather is to come.

Now you’re talking.



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I’m Jill, a RHS gold medal winning English professional gardener, garden designer and landscaper living in South West France since 2012. This is a personal account of my gardening life, some of the jolly and occasionally not so jolly japes that ensued while working, that probably caused my subsequent back problems.

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