• Maureen Little

View from The Wine Shed - April 2020

Well, the view from The Wine Shed is non-existent this month. Covid-19 has seen to that. Are we discouraged? Are we downhearted? Certainly not! It’s a wonderful time to reminisce a little about special occasions and events.

I was scrolling through some photos only yesterday and came across this one of me and my lovely boss, Nuala, for whom I work part-time as a Wine Educator. Nuala owns The Wine Shed (www.thewine-shed.com) from where I (usually) have my view, and The Wine Shed School of Wine where I teach courses and lead wine tastings. This was taken at a special Champagne event a couple of summers ago, where we got to try some outstanding wines from a particular Champagne House, Janisson et Fils. We were given a lot of background information, particularly about the terroir of their House: the way that the climate, weather, soil, aspect – and many more features – come together in the wine.

This got me thinking about the old adage, ‘right plant for the right place’. Never was this more pertinent than with grapes grown for wine. Plant Cabernet Sauvignon in cooler climes in damp, cold soil and you’re heading for failure, but let them put down roots in free-draining soil in a nice warm, sunny region and they’re as happy as the birds in Spring.

The same is true for garden plants; for example, replace Cabernet Sauvignon with lavender and you get my drift. The key with getting the right plant for the right place in the garden is to look at the origin of the plant: where did it come from? What’s its native habitat? What conditions would it naturally grow in?

Let’s take our lavender as an example. You might be tempted to think that it’s native to England; after all, one of the most widely planted species in Britain, Lavandula angustifolia, is called English Lavender. But don’t be fooled, all species of lavender are native to areas such as the Middle East, southern and central Europe, north Africa and south-west Asia where they thrive on sunny slopes with neutral to slightly alkaline (although Lavandula stoechas subsp. stoechas can cope with slightly acid), free-draining soil. I’m not sure we could all replicate a sunny slope, but the rest is pretty straightforward.

At the other extreme, we have plants like Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) which is native throughout cool, temperate areas in Asia and Europe. It needs moist, fertile, humus-rich moist soil in full or partial shade – plant it in lavender-like conditions and it will surely fail.

So before you’re tempted to buy a plant because you like the look of it, think about where you’ll plant it – it may be money well-spent or the worst purchase of the year!

As you can see from my final picture, I am currently without wine, (soon to be remedied!) so instead here’s a shot of the label from one of the Janisson Champagne tastings. I can still taste the pink grapefruit and pear flavours with just a hint of white blossom. When Covid-19 has been defeated I’m buying a bottle of this to celebrate.

Why not treat yourself to a bottle? It’s available online from www.thewine-shed.com

Would like to win a copy of my book The Little Book of Popular Perennials? Just sign up to the mailing list – the form is in the footer – and your name will be entered into the draw to be held on Easter Sunday, so hurry!