a french garden

Hot August Days

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Bottom of the garden

Although it is tempting to slide off to the beach when it is hot and sunny, it is also tempting to go for a walk beside the little canal.  The little canal runs parallel to the Seudre which is at the bottom of our garden.  Although both are dry just now after the dry winter and spring, the banks are rich with flowers and grasses that tempt all manner of wildlife.

Peacock butterfly (Inachis io) caterpillar

I had just taken the first steps on the road outside the house when I met a caterpillar (Peacock butterfly, Inachis io, I think).  I helped it to the other side as I like Peacocks, they are very friendly and photogenic and this year they seem to be everywhere.

Highland cow caterpillar

The next caterpillar I met made me laugh.  I cannot identify it, although I would guess at some sort of Fritillary, but I would certainly call it a Highland Cow caterpillar, the same sort of red hairy look.  Maybe I’m just getting homesick.

Hemp-agrimony ( Eupatorium-cannabinum)

The banks of the little canal are well-endowed with Hemp-agrimony ( Eupatorium-cannabinum), the usual form is on the left but I have noticed an odd dark-leaved form here and there.  As frequently occurs with common names, it is a bit misleading as it is neither hemp nor cannabis, but what makes it very special is that it is very popular with butterflies.  Before I hear from anyone in the States, it is not Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium Purpureum) but it is a native european relative with the same quality of attracting butterflies with its nectar

Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria)

…and also day-flying moths.

His orange underside

His orange underside looks like a silken cloak but I felt this bright colouration , although a treat to watch for humans, was surely  lacking in discretion from a creature liable to end up as a tasty morsel for a predator.

Jersey Moth on tree bark

But that was before I saw how well camouflaged he was resting in the shade on the trunk of a tree.

Penny Royal (Mentha-pulegium)

The other plant growing abundantly is Penny Royal (Mentha-pulegium) which seems equally as attractive to butterflies and nectar-feeding insects.  I did not recognise it as a mint at first glance as the flower has two or sometimes three spikes of lilac flowerlets sitting the one above the other.  The leaves are the give away and definitely mint leaves.   The flavour is extremely good.  It has a much superior flavour to the wild creeping mint that grows through the grass at home.  However, the benefit of that mint is that when you walk on the grass in the garden you crush the mint and you walk in a mist of mint perfume.

Provençal Short-tailed Blue, Everes alcetas 

The butterflies are territorial and I knew exactly where I will see  the Provençal Short-tailed Blue, Everes alcetas, they seem to like to keep together and fly around together like scattered blue sequins.  O.K. so they are one of my favourites, but look at their cute little tails!

Speckled Wood butterfly, Parage aegeria

It’s hard to have favourites as the Speckled Wood butterfly is omnipresent and he has to have a vote for being friendly.

The Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

The Gatekeeper gets my vote for being confusing as he is very like the Meadow Brown but has two white on his fore wing eye spots whereas the Meadow Brown has one.  Not easy to notice at a distance.

Burnet Companion moth, Euclidia glyphica

Neither are the googly eyes of this Burnet Companion moth, ( I mean easy to spot from a distance!)

Burnet Companion moth, Euclidia glyphica

This is a serious photograph of the Burnet Companion moth.  They are supposedly found in the company of the Burnet moth and although I have seen the caterpillars on the Ragwort I’ve seen no Burnet moths, yet.

Caterpillars on nettles

The other plant that is growing abundantly is nettles and at this point being devoured voraciously by more Peacock butterfly caterpillars.  Nettles are a favourite food of several different kinds of caterpillars which again accounts for the number of butterflies that can be seen nearby.

Ruddy darter (Sympetrum sanguineum), male

The warm sun has brought out a dragonfly that I think is the male common darter.  I go looking for dragonflies at the pond which seems an eminently sensible place to look for them and they turn up beside woods near a “has been” water source.  At least they had the decency to pause near the path so I could get a photograph of them.

Common Darter ( Sympetrum striolatum), female

This dragonfly was also flying around and looks like the Common Darter female, which seems logical.

Wild Teasel

The Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum,  has just started to flower.  The lavender coloured flowers start to open in the middle of the flower head and then fill out on either side.  I’m glad to see the teasel as the seeds are loved by Goldfinches and although I have seen a few, they are not numerous around here so its good to find a natural food source available for them in the area.

Sloes ripening

Even in the heat of the summer the countryside marks the changing seasons giving glimpses of the autumn to come as the sloes, Prunus spinosa, ripen in the sunshine.

Acorns

The acorns are swelling high in the trees.

Mistletoe in Ash tree

The mistletoe hanging in the Ash tree looks incongruous in the August heat but its berries still need some time to swell and ripen.  The flowers and the fruit in the woods follow their seasonal changes and provide an ever changing background for our walks.

Bumble in bindweed

I could not miss an opportunity for a bumble bee picture.  Bindweed is not something I would welcome amongst the flowers in my garden but looks beautiful rambling through the mass of green plants growing alongside the canal, and now I have discovered that it provides nectar for the bumble bees.  This Carder bumble bee methodically visited  each bloom on this clump of bindweed as I watched to check if it would miss one.  It didn’t.

 

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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.

18 thoughts on “Hot August Days

  1. Beautiful butterflies!
    As for the goldfinches, could they be raiding that field of sunflowers?
    I have a sunny patch of sunflowers which the goldfinches are visiting right now. I expect the goldfinches to come to the coneflowers next, as they go to seed, but those are native plants in North America, so I don’t know if they’ll work for you.

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    • I think you are spot on there. There are always a lot of sunflowers left over after the mechanical harvesting which must provide a feast for the goldfinches. It is strange still that I rarely see them, although a pair did nest in our Wisteria this year but the baby birds disappeared overnight. I could not hazard a guess at what ate them as there is such a lot of wildlife here. It was very sad.
      I have quite a lot of coneflower in the garden which the bees and butterflies love. Now I will let them go to seed, I usually try to cut off the flowers.

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  2. Great post, again. Here it is too hot to wish to go outside let alone for a week – the beach gets our vote,I admit it. Christina

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  3. One of the things I like about your blog is the detailed observation of your environment. And you see so much! Another lovely post.

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  4. Lovely post, Amelia. I’m getting so much more into insects; photographing and identifying them that is. Your blog is a real inspiration. And I love the tiger moth – what a beauty. Dave

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  5. I have never seen a live Teasel pod in bloom. Only the dried ones for flower arranging. Beautiful! You certainly have a lot of lovely things blooming in your gardens. ~ Lynda

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    • The teasel is not in the garden. The countryside around about is beautiful and full of surprises and I always find something interesting while I am walking. Glad you saw something different too.

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  6. The male Common Darter is a male Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum. Take a close look at the two darter’s legs – the Ruddy has entirely black legs, the Common has black and yellow vertical striped legs.

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    • Thanks for the spot and for pointing out where to look for the differences.

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      • I see that Susan has been looking at your photos… she is a mine of knowledge especially insects. And, as she is a near neighbour, I get a lesson every time she comes over!! So, come on Susan… what’s that Highland Cow catterpillar?
        I photographed one the other day too… and cannot find it in a book anywhere… but I think it is a moth catterpillar, though?

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