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By Tara Lissner, Swiss Gardening School

I often get the feeling that all we gardeners do is talk, or more importantly complain, about the weather, whether it be too warm, too wet, too cold or too dry. It is of course an essential part of our ability to garden, no one likes the thought of mowing the lawn in the rain. My recent discussions with others have been all about the “saints de glace“. In case you were not aware, in local agricultural folklore nothing tender should be planted out unprotected until after the days of the “saints de glace” have passed. These ice saints, SaintMamertus, Saint Pancras and Saint Servatius, celebrate their feast days on 11, 12 and 13 May each year. Until these days have passed there is still the possibility of night frost. I think this year they are dragging their heels as we’ve had some very chilly nights recently. With my garden hovering around +7c as a high one day last week, I’m very glad to be behind with my tomato planting. Do keep an eye on the overnight temperatures and if it looks like it might be very cold and your garden is very exposed, throw some garden fleece over those tender shoots.

May is when we can appreciate the exuberance of spring before the heat of summer arrives, a wonderful time. I’ve been enjoying my perennial border, delighting in the appearance of plants I’d forgotten about and marvelling in the insect activity from early morning to late in the day. Bumble bees and honey bees buzzing away – a wonderful sound. Encouraging pollinators into the garden is something we should all be concerned about. By continuing to plant nectar and pollen-rich flowers we can help improve their numbers. The RHS has an extensive list on its website; divided into seasons each sub-list is alphabetical with a key to help identify the plant (i.e., T = tree, C= climber, A= annual etc.). They also have a top ten list for the more impatient gardener. Something to remember is that the more open the flower the easier it is for the insect to reach the pollen or nectar, so when faced with a choice between a simple flower or a multi-petalled flower where the centre is almost invisible, choose the simple one.

I am about to embark on the creation of a wildflower meadow. A steep section of garden that is difficult and time consuming to mow may become a haven for insects instead. It will not be an immaculate wildflower meadow, the likes of which are popping up in town plantings all over La Côte, but more of a really wild patch packed with flowers and long grass. So far the blue cornflowers and red poppies have yet to show their faces, I’ll let you know how well I manage. https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/conservation-biodiversity/wildlife/encourage-wildlife-to-your-garden/plants-for-pollinators

The boxwood caterpillar which made it’s first appearance in Switzerland in 2007 is back this year and is thriving. Take a close look at the interior of all the box plants in your garden for small white web-like cocoons, filled with tiny green eggs and small caterpillars. It is best to act as soon as you see even the slightest infestation as these beasts are voracious and will cause significant damage to your shrubs. You should hand pick and remove all caterpillars, destroy them and then spray all the box plants in your garden. One of the best products to use against this “Pyrale des Buis” is called Delfin and is made by Andermatt Biogarten in Grossdietwil, near Luzern. Their website has a wonderful gallery of close up photographs of these pests, perfect in aiding with identification and you can mail-order their products directly from the website: http://www.biogarten.ch/fr/soins-des-plantes-bio/protection-des-plantes#

Keeping on top of the weeding is always a challenge especially with a vegetable garden. In dry weather use a hoe and in damp conditions try to hand-pull. If you can manage it spend five minutes every few days casting your eye over the plants, this will enable you to quickly identify those unwelcome weeds in their early stages of growth, it will be time well spent. As always, little and often is the way to go.

What's on

Vaumarcus, 29-31 May
Take a drive to the Lake of Neuchatel about 100kms from Geneva and enjoy this lakeside plant market. Now in its 20th year this event brings local plant growers and experts together for three days.

Jardin de Cinq Sens, Yvoire
Now open every day from 10:00-17:30 until Sunday 11 October this delightful walled garden has a super offer on its entrance fee. Buy a season pass for Euro 16 instead of an adult single entry of Euro 12. With a summer filled with guests that may be a wise investment. See the website for full details.

Brunch Familial & Dimanches "Découverte Nature", Arboretum, Aubonne
The Arboretum continues to encourage families to visit by offering fun "plant" themed brunches throughout the season, reservations are essential. They also offer two-hour guided tours every Sunday until 12 July most often at 14:00 (check website to be sure) Chf 10 for adults, children under 13 are free. Look under Actualités for their full list of events.

Les Jardins du Château de Vullierens, open until 14 June
This private garden has opened to the public every year since 1955. The collection of irises is esteemed to be the greatest in Europe and this year the garden has been planted with an overwhelming 50,000 irises of 400 different varieties. Quite the experience.
(no dogs)

Schilliger Garden Centre, Gland, until 31 May
Open every day until the end of May including Monday 25th

Café Ephémère, R. Jaggi, Trélex, until 7 June
If your weekend plant hunting takes you in the direction of Trélex do drop into the lovely nursery and florist R. Jaggi. They will be open every Sunday until 7 June, as well as during the many holidays during this period. The experience is improved by the addition of their Sunday pop-up café, a treat all around.


Our final four courses before the summer holidays are filling up, registration on-line, don't be disappointed.

The Edible Garden - Vegetables, Monday evening 1 June, 18:30-22:00, Founex
All about vegetable gardening no matter how much space you have. Learn how to plan your vegetable garden, discover the best plants to grow for this area and where to find the greatest selection of seeds and plug plants. We'll even show you how to integrate vegetables into your flower beds.

Perfect Pots & Clever Containers, Thursday morning 4 June, 09:00-13:00, Founex
Join our visiting expert Thomas Lehwark of Green Selection who will teach us how to get the best from your pots and containers to create and maintain a show stopping exuberance of continued flowering, great colour and interest right through the summer.

Summer colour with perennials, Wednesday morning 10 June, 09:00-13:00, chez R. Jaggi, Trélex
We hope to inspire you to create a wonderful summer border packed with colour, texture and season long interest. Students will create individual perennial borders in a gravel outdoor space. We will pay particular attention to plant, colour and texture combinations along with seasonal interest especially in relation to the addition of bulbs to the borders.

Perfect Pots & Clever Containers, Monday evening 15 June, 18:30-22:00, Founex
A repeat of our morning class for gardeners who have busy mornings. Learn how to get the best from your pots and containers to create and maintain a show stopping exuberance of continued flowering, great colour and interest right through the summer.

Author's bio


An enthusiastic, self-taught gardener, Tara Lissner is passionate about gardening and eager to share her zeal and knowledge with other gardening fans.

In 2012, she joined forces with Hester Macdonald, a British-trained landscape designer, to launch the Swiss Gardening School.

(Photo by Jean-Luc Pasquier)

Swiss Gardening School