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The Gardener's Year


village project helps biodiversity

On entering towns and villages in France you will see the sign of the 'Villes et Villages Fleuris' scheme where the public spaces are judged and awarded from one to four flowers according to the quality of their floral display. Beaune, Dijon and Mâcon, Sens, Paray-le-Monial and Quetigny are the six towns which achieved the top award of four gongs this year. Using annuals, these plants have to be replaced each spring. Here, Lucia Latenstein talks about how she has created a much more natural look to beautify her village with the blessing of the municipality, which saves money and helps biodiversity.  A win, win situation.

Across Europe there is a lot of discussion about planting in public spaces from grass verges to decorative plant beds and containers in the villages. How frequently should the verges be cut, should the cuttings be cleared away, how can a much needed habitat for insects be provided and how can the costs be kept under control?

Brosses goes organic

Municipalities (communes) are no longer allowed to use Roundup or any other chemical product in and around the villages in France. This is very good news. And there is more good news from our own commune Brosses. Instead of the usual plant containers with annuals our commune created twenty small borders of three square metres each at every entrance to the seven hamlets which constitute our village. ‘Les Parterres en Kit’ came up with the idea to create the small borders and plant them with a mix of botanical organic flower bulbs and perennials from seed.

More for less

In this way the commune will help bees and other pollinating insects, at a much lower cost. Annuals have to be replaced every year. Bulbs and perennials will be a permanent feature, growing more beautiful as the years go by. The bulbs are botanical and will multiply themselves. The seeds used will be a mix of wild perennials, which will self-seed freely. All this will save our commune a lot of money. It is very important to point out here that you need to plant organic bulbs. ‘Normal’ bulbs are treated with pesticides (neonicotinoïdes) which are lethal for bees (see the September article).

Sunny borders

For the sunny borders we have chosen: Crocus (a mix of purple and white), Anemone blanda ‘Blue Shades’, Muscari armeniacum, Narcissus ‘Golden Dawn’, Tulipa tarda and Allium neapolitanum. The bulbs will start flowering in February (Crocus). The last bulbs will flower in June (Allium).

The mix of seeds contains a long list of wild flowering perennials suitable for a sunny spot and a rich soil. This mix will begin flowering in April/May and will continue flowering until the first frost in autumn.

Shady borders

For the shady borders: also Anemone blanda ‘Blue Shades’, Scilla siberica, Narcissus ‘Jetfire’, Hyancinthoides hispanica (white, pink and blue) and Camassia cearulea ‘Leichtlinii’. Flowering will begin in March with the Anemones and will end in June with the Camassias. Of course a different mix of seeds will be used here: wild flowering perennials suitable for shade.

Realisation, maintenance and costs

The municipality first of all put a thick layer of topsoil (about 20 cm) on the area to be planted, in each case about three square metres.  No digging was required but the roots of weeds have been removed. For each border 180 bulbs were used. Not all bulbs ended up in the border. They were also planted around the border and in the verge on the other side of the road to obtain a more impressive and natural effect. In all we have planted 3600 bulbs (at a cost of €750) and sown 120 grams of seeds (€240). Total cost per square metre: €16,50.

Preparing the twenty borders took about thirty-six hours. Planting and sowing (including transportation from one border to the other) took another twenty hours. Fifty-six hours in all. Every year, at the beginning of March, the perennials must be cut back. The first two years the borders must be controlled for weeds in order to give the perennials the chance to grow.

‘Les Parterres en Kit’ have ‘adopted’ two borders in our village. Which means we are going to weed them every now and then. And I am going to try and find ‘adoptive parents’ for the other borders.

Here's hoping in a couple of year's time, we shall see an award for Brosses in the Villes et Villages Fleuris scheme under a new 'bio' label. If you would like more information about the scheme, contact Lucia.

Lucia Latenstein
Les Parterres en Kit
19, Rue du Ponceau
+33(0) 386 18 19 44
+33(0) 6 4015 4793