Whether it’s the Cers, the Sirocco or the Mistral in all its various guises, these French names make wind sound sexy. You can hear it whispering through the branches of olive trees as you say it.
But there’s nothing sexy about the wind that blows through Bournac. The Autan missed out on the sibilance of its southerly sisters and blows mercilessly from the south-east across our forest garden. It flattens everything that’s not tied down as it barges down the valley. When it loses its puff and takes a breather, another wind takes its place, this time blowing from the north-west, up the valley. This one is so strong that all the trees are bent over like old men hunched against the cold. Our cherry trees were only planted three years ago and already they’re exhibiting a definite lean.
When I asked Monsieur Pioche what the north-westerly was called, he shrugged and said, “C’est un vent du nord.” Not strictly true and not even slightly helpful.
So we have un petit problème. How are we going to protect our forest garden from the ravages of the Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield of the wind world?
You will recall from Chapter 9 – Not such a grand design that I have already done a rough sketch of the garden layout. Fortunately, although our winds blow in opposite directions, they are on the same trajectory so that means we can prevent wind tunnels developing by laying out the paths at right-angles to the prevailing wind.
But we will still have wind unless we create a shelterbelt at each end of the garden. This is a row of trees/shrubs that will reduce the impact of the wind and help to create a mini-climate within the garden. And because this is a forest garden, we need to find plants that will also produce food.
After reading a variety of books on edible hedges, I decided on sea buckthorn and rosa rugosa. I remembered Hugh Fearnley-Doodah making a rather tasty champagne cocktail out of the sea buckthorn berries which contain high levels of anti-oxidants to counteract the effects of the alcohol. The rosa rugosa, a variety of wild rose introduced from the far east, much beloved by bees, has massive hips in the autumn (rather like me except that mine are permanent).
I bought 6 bare-root plants of each online and was somewhat surprised when they arrived in a package that looked like it contained an umbrella. Once I unpacked them and spread out the roots, they looked ok, if a little twiggy and dead. But this is how bare-root plants are supposed to look apparently. You get them in winter when they are dormant and don’t mind being wrapped in bubble wrap and shoved in the post.
So off I went with my pick and shovel to make 12 holes. Naturally, the Autan decided to blow its hardest and brought along some rain just to make my digging experience all the more pleasant. I had managed to dig three holes when Johnny arrived on the scene wielding yet another tool he had bought on the sly because he knew I wouldn’t allow him to get if I’d known about it.
It looked like a giant corkscrew and is known as an auger. As you screw it into the ground, the earth is spiralled up out of the top of the whole…or it would be if you had lovely loamy light soil. But you will recall that we have stones, cemented together with a bit of clay and Johnny’s smile soon because a grimace as he twisted his new toy around and around.
Never one to be defeated, he created the remaining 9 holes in fairly short order, except that they were all twice the depth I needed and I had to go around after him filling them in…
Eventually, our shrubs were all tucked up in bed and we were able to retire to our lovely warm kitchen for a wine or three, safe in the knowledge that our forest garden would soon be basking in the lea of a rosy bower…
P.S. When we visited last week a month after planting, one of the sea buckthorns and two of the rosas were really dead. The others have got tiny shoots and are growing at 45 degrees to the ground, already subjugated by the winds.
P.P.S. According to Wikipedia, “Rugosa rose is naturalized in many parts of Europe, and it is considered an invasive species in some habitats. It can out-compete native flora, thereby threatening biological diversity. It is also considered a noxious weed in the USA.” Bugger!