Grumpy Gardener – Rain, Snow and Catalogues

The Grumpy Gardener – February

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
In his regular column for French News Online, professional gardener Mike Alexander, tells how one seed catalogue seller shot himself in the foot with a deceptive “free offer”.

Following a prolonged period of rain and snow, gardening is beginning to appear a poor career choice. 

Seed catalogue time – nicotiana alata (Credit:


There was a time when relief from the deprivations of the weather came in the form of seed catalogues that start to pour in at this time of year.

Quite how they find me I am not sure but the selling of seed is not what it used to be. Where we once received polite little brochures listing a few dozen plants, today we are bombarded by a marketing machine that is at least as aggressive as any other mail order attack to which the innocent citizenery are subject these days.

Recently the purveyors of seed and plants have taken to including promotional offers to supplement the thousands of plants they are trying to lure us into buying.

A few years ago, when I admit, I was a little more innocent, I fell into their trap and accepted an offer of a full set of stainless steel gardening tools to accompany my seed order. The offer had sounded incredibly good and so you can imagine I was somewhat disappointed when my order arrived, accompanied by a set of miniature garden tools each of which about the size of a pencil and as useless!

Obviously the supplier had decided that I was either incredibly stupid or that I was a pixie. Granted, in the first instance he might have a point, but on the second, surely everyone knows that pixies just don’t garden.

In these days of political correctness I hesitate to cast aspersions on minority groups but it is an established fact that pixies spend their days either dancing around toadstools or trying on various types of soft pointy shoes. A little hurt that this supplier may have assumed a certain lack of intelligence on my part, I have boycotted him ever since and so his cunning marketing ploy turned into a classic case of him shooting himself in the foot.

For the season ahead I am trying a new approach in two of my gardens. It is now possible to buy packets of mixed annual seed coloured to a theme. I plan to spread these beneath an existing skeleton of shrubs in the hope that I can get an almost wild flower type effect. Like so many ideas in gardening, it is not totally novel and has been used by many French mairies on their traffic roundabouts in the last couple of years. I will supplement the scheme here and there with Verbena bonariensis which is always reliable and which self seeds so generously that all I have to do is collect the scattered seedlings and plant them where they are needed.

Scatter it about for great effect  – Nicotiana domino (Credit:

To keep the seed merchants at least slightly happy I am also ordering in Nicotiana Domio White and a deep red of the Nicotiana Sensation Series. Both these plants performed well for me last year and take easily from seed. Importantly they can take dry conditions should we be hit with another dry summer as we were last year.



Previously – click an image below
To read February's gardening tips article - click this image
Is a world without bees possible? Read about this crisis that will affect us all - click here
Prune for Results
A World Without Bees?
What you should have done in January!
Prune your roses - click here
Fruit Tree Pruning
Wars of the Roses
Grumpy Gardener April - It's War Out There. Click to view
Click to read this article
Prune When Finished
Herald of Spring…
click to read Grumpy's july  tips
You’ve got to be quick!
Un-thirsty Lavender
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Grasp the Nettle
Star Jasmine – Madrid
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Jihad – on Bunnies Ears
Autumn Arrives
Designer chic or neccessity? - click here for full story
To read this article - click here
Designer Chic?
Gravity – not to be ignored!
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Grumpy contemplates the winter garden
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Grumpy contemplates the winter garden
If Winter Comes….
Hottest chilli in the world
Dogs and Daffodils... full story - click this image
The iris and Madame la Guillotine... full story - click this image
Dog Days…
Fleur de Lys
Hedge You Bets - how do YOU like your hedges... full story - click this image
To read a previous article
– click an image –
Hedge Your Bets

Grumpy Gardener

Our Grumpy Gardener has been gardening professionally in France for more years than he cares to remember and before that in Africa and the UK. Today he happily shares his expertise with French News Online readers. Your gardening questions are welcome and while they may not be individually answered, they may form the basis of future monthly columns.

Writer: Mike Alexander

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