Taking photographs of the garden in August is difficult.
This is one of the Lime trees (Tilia platyphyllos) that I planted for its perfumed blossom (see my last post Perfumed Pumpkin Flower? https://afrenchgarden.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/pumpkin-perfume/) . It is just starting to take form but I find the August sunshine is as harsh in a photograph as it is on the grass. I do not water our “lawns” as they are only mowed grasses and something green will come up even if they do dry up in summer.
However, the light for taking the plants closer up is better. Hollyhocks survive very well here with very little attention.
They are just about finished but I cannot bear to cut them down just yet as the bees, especially the bumble bees, still love to visit them, but they really should go as they are getting very long and straggly.
Another plant that accepts a regime of lots of sun and very little water is the Hibiscus syriacus. It is called Althea over here and Rose of Sharon in the States. There were already a few Hibiscus syriacus plants in the front garden when we bought the house, in fact, they were just about the only flowers that we inherited. They are survivors and require little care. They also self-seed so I immediately picked out any little plants that I found and planted them along the long border that I have with the road to form part of a “shrubby hedge” I was attempting to grow. These plants can be cut and shaped or left to expand and I have seen some that grow so large they are almost small trees.
I never knew what colour the plants I had planted would turn out be, but luckily I’ve had quite a selection of different shades as this must be one of the most popular garden plants in the area and the bees ensure there will be plenty of cross-pollination.
The bees have transferred their allegiance from the hollyhocks to the hibiscus when it comes to pollen showers.
Sometimes it gets all too much for them and they sit down somewhere and give themselves a thorough grooming to remove the pollen load. I love to watch them as they really do seem frustrated when the pollen gets too thick.
Another plant that attracts the bees is Acanthus mollis or Bear’s Breeches, I was given this attractive architectural plant by friends who were splitting theirs. I was delighted, as I had very little plants at the time and as it threw up little side plants, I cleverly (?) found places for them in other parts of the garden. Now I have to try and purge my garden of this invasive plant that thrives with little water and lots of sun. In my borders it is a monster as even a tiny bit of root left behind throws out bright happy green leaves that laugh at me, but I will eradicate it! I have left just the one plant in a dry spot that nothing else would want as it does look good, and the bees appreciate it too.
At least I can control the Red Valerian, Centranthus rubber, which is happy in a very dry hot spot along the front of the atelier wall. It is a native plant of the Mediterranean and has the additional benefit of being attractive to Hummingbird Hawk Moths, Macroglossum stellatarum.
These are day flying moths and are a favourite visitor to the garden. They also visit the Buddleias but it is easier to photograph them on the low growing valerian, but they really move fast and hover while sipping the nectar.
Plants frequently do not turn out how you think they should and it is always worth giving a favourite plant a chance. Hydrangeas remind me of gardens when I was a child in Scotland but I was not sure if they would survive in my chalky soil. I bought a tiny plant and put it in a corner so that it is sheltered from the direct afternoon sun, I did not have much to lose. In just a couple of years I have my pink mop head hydrangea that looks at home in the corner of the wall.
It was too cheap to have a variety name and anyway I find in France that the labelling leaves a lot to be desired. Giddy with success I have tried a couple of lacecap Hydrangeas which are progressing but not with the same vigour.
You never can tell how plants will do and you certainly can’t tell with butterflies either. Sometimes you chase them, camera at the ready and they flutter but never sit long enough to take a photo. Another time they come and sit on a shoulder when you are having lunch.
Then happily pose for you on some nearby flowers!