a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Keeping focused…

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I do try and keep focused on the garden.  The problem is that as soon as I put a foot outside the door I find other things staring me in the face.

Take this bee, he has decided to take up residence in our cellier wall, which adjoins our back door.  If you see a face like that looking out at you, it is impossible to ignore it.  So it’s off for the camera to record it for posterity.  I am not really sure if posterity will care about this bee (Anthophora plumipes, hairy-footed  flower bee)  but I find him very appealing and I’m going to keep my eye on him.

Once I have been distracted I find it very simple to carry on down my distracted path and check out the garden.  The blackcurrants are in flower and I am very excited about spotting a new bee.  This one has a gorgeous auburn hair-doo, a sort of all over Mohican.  He is definitely as fluffy as a bumble bee but has no stripes so I think he might be a fluffy bee.  I thought this would lead to a prolonged identification search on the Internet but I posted it on Flickr in the Bees,bees,bees! group and it was identified as Anthophora plumipes male by eucera – thank you again.

The rain has stopped and I think the bees and bumbles must be famished after the recent heavy rains and high wind, not typical weather here at this time of year.

This leads me to the Wisteria which is providing nectar for a large range of bees and bumbles.

What I notice is that the early bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) are robbing the nectar from the Wisteria.  The Wisteria provides nectar for pollinating insects.  That is the insects are theoretically attracted into the flower for the nectar.  They then brush against the pollen laden pistils and carry the pollen attached to their bristly, hairy body, to another flower.  However, if your tongue is a bit on the short side, the length of the Wisteria flower may pose a problem.  So these bumble bees have solved the problem by piercing the flowers at just the right place to take a short cut to the nectar.

The flowers are left with a hole which may be used later by other insects and bees eager to reach the nectar as rapidly as possible.

They are very welcome to made holes in the Wisteria flowers.  The damage is not too obvious and if there are a few less pollinated flowers there will be less seed pods for me to have to prune later in the season.  I prefer my Wisteria full of life.

Not all the bumbles go for the nectar in exactly this way, this red-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius) looks as if he has gone the more conventional route of approaching from inside the flower but in fact he has just pierced a hole under the upper lip of the Wisteria flower.

The Carpenter bees follow the same practice.

Never the less, collecting nectar can be a tickly problem.

Dandelions on the other hand are very accessible to all the bees and insects providing both nectar and pollen.

Seeing all the bees foraging on the dandelions has made me rethink my gardner’s attitude to this common , invasive weed.  I now look at the dandelions from a totally different prospective.

Now I appreciate their bright yellow flower that stands out so well against the green in the springtime.

I even admire the seed head with its beautiful symmetry and think of the food it provides for the seed eating birds.  The bees and the bumbles have really softened my heart towards the weeds in my garden, sorry not the weeds, the wild flowers in my garden.

Attitudes can change with more understanding.  When you find a newly hatched and groggy Bombus pascuorum you feel you  have to give it a hand to get started on some Bugle.

I’m not sure if it needed a helping hand but it was fun anyway!

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

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