a french garden

November in the Garden

25 Comments

After three weeks with the family in the U.K. I returned to survey the garden.

Hydrangea

Some plants have definitely decided it is autumn.

Cosmos

Others are hanging in and pretending its still summer.

Liquidambar

My Liquidamabar is still growing and looking healthy even though I moved it last year.  I bought it before I realised it did not like chalky soil and I keep thinking it will die soon.  I love the trees and shrubs with red autumn leaves but it seems as if they all need acid soil, if there are any exceptions I would be pleased to hear about them.

Fuschia Riccartonnii

I prefer my plants to be happy and not struggling against soil and climate conditions.   The fuschia Riccartonnii still has flowers and does very well in this area becoming a reliable perennial in the garden.

Tagetes patula

The French Marigolds stood sentinel over the plants in the vegetable garden, withstood the sun beating on them in the front garden and were still here to welcome me home, pushing their way through the weeds.  Not a bad performance from flowers that produce plenty of seed each year that I can sow directly into the soil where I want them in the spring.  Not forgetting the little posies to decorate the table.

Clematis tangutica “Helios”

I’m not a mad fan of clematis but I do like my Helios, I grew it from seed and I enjoy its yellow flowers in summer and the fluffy seed heads in the autumn.

Physalis alkekengi – Chinese Lantern Plant

I do try and brighten up the garden but it is a difficult job when everything is damp and dull.

Why are the black grapes so late this year?

The plants seem to clash with grapes on one side and brussel sprouts on the other.

Brussels are ready to go

Cotoneaster

I have lots of clumps of cotoneaster in the garden, once again a very easy tolerant shrub and the red berries are very much appreciated by the blackbirds and thrushes.

Bombus lucorum, white tailed bumble bee

I was so pleased that my Arbutus unedo is just starting to flower.  The flowers provide valuable nectar and they will be hopefully followed by small red fruits similar in shape to strawberries which give the tree its common name of the Strawberry Tree.

Drone fly

The delicate, white bell-shaped flowers appear to produce lots of nectar as the bees feed for a long time on each flower.

Drone fly et al.

This plant is a native of the Mediterranean region but  I have seen expansive tracts of it in the Lake Lacanau area and it grows in the woods around us.  I have also seen attractive specimens in the UK so it must be able to adapt to a variety of climates and conditions.

Glossy green leaves

I chose it so that I could see it from my bedroom window in the winter time as it is evergreen.  This is the first year it has flowered so I will look forward to seeing the fruits for the first time.  In due course the bark becomes an attractive feature and can be quite red, but my tree is still too young.

Not a bee

Although I like to think that the Strawberry Tree provides valuable nectar for the bees and bumble bees it has a much more generous nature than I have and shares its nectar with a variety of “pollenating insects” and doesn’t have a “bees only” sign.

Winter honeysuckle

At the far end of the back garden the Winter Honeysuckle has also just started to flower.  Another tough plant that I love.  I’ve put it in a dry spot on the edge of the garden to provide screening.

Lonicera fragrantissima

For the tough love it gets from me it provides me with small white perfumed blossom and pink-tinged buds.  An annual prune keeps it in shape and last spring I took some cuttings that were layering at its base and they are now waiting to be planted (when I get round to it).  I would like some more bushes in the garden as they provide the bees with nectar throughout the winter, last year it was still flowering at the end of March.

Remember this bush for the cold days ahead!

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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.

25 thoughts on “November in the Garden

  1. Your first two ‘honey bees’ are drone flies Eristalis sp and the ‘not a bee’ looks like a Yellow-legged Asian Hornet Vespa velutina.

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    • Thanks again, Susan, for keeping me on the straight and narrow. I saw what I was expecting to see and not what I did see, but they have tricked me before!
      I looked again at what I had thought was some kind of wasp and you are quite correct it is Vespa velutina, I even have a better photograph of its yellow legs. I was completely put off by its size as it was only the size of a wasp. The ones I had seen in the spring were much bigger.

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      • It’s very easy to be fooled by Eristalis, they are remarkable honey bee mimics. And V. velutina isn’t anywhere near as big as a lot of the things you see written about it would suggest. They are smaller than the European Hornet.

        Btw, this is the time of year (from August onwards) that you should be killing every Asian hornet you see, and of course, destroying nests as they become visible with the leaf fall (must be done at dusk so the hornets are at home, and the nest burnt afterwards). According to the MNHN guys who study them, killing the queens in spring makes you feel good, but is more or less a waste of time. Most of them will die of starvation anyway and never get a chance to found a colony. What is more effective is to take the pressure off the beehives in late summer by trapping close by. Use a modified trap so your by-catch isn’t more honey bees than hornets, and use old fermented comb as the bait.

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        • That is interesting about not trapping the queens in the spring. I have never seen a nest although I have seen lots of pictures of them. The nests would have to be destroyed before leaf fall here as the trees still have their leaves on them and it is too late to destroy them now as they will not be reused again next year. The nests would have to be spotted in the spring but I am not sure how that could be done. Have you seen many nests in your area?

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  2. Amelia,
    Fitter’s “An Atlas of the Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe” shows the Strawberry Tree as native to the South Western tip of Ireland… helped presumably by the warmth of the Gulf Stream.

    Your Liquid Amber is one of my favourite trees for colour… the Arbuteus is a neutral to acid soil plant and looks to be doing well… your Liq. Amber is still growing despite being moved… and the strange Summer this year… perhaps your soil isn’t as alkaline as you think?

    As for growing acid and alkaline plants in the wrong soils, I had an uncle living on the North Downs in Surrey who was a horticulturalist, and was always ‘playing around’ with his plants… either side of the front door were one blue and one red hydrangea… the blue [acid] one was fed with rusty metal and the vinegar swillings from cleaning the teapot and kettle.

    At the top of the front garden he had azaleas growing with chalk loving plants… his trick was that each azalea was in its own ‘pot’… a length of concrete drainage pipe buried in the soil with just the rim above ground, filled with acidic soil… these were disguised by the leafmould mulch on the bed they were in… it worked! And he pointed out to me that they were on the edge of being really unhealthy… so flowered more prolifically!! [As another benifit, the concrete ‘pots’ restricted the root growth and therefore the size of the plant… meaning less maintenance… and I’m all for less maintenance!!]

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  3. My Arbetus is flowering well and for the first time – I just hope it isn’t just on the edge of dying 🙂

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  4. I have an arbutus tree too! And it is by my bedroom window. It being generally colder and wetter here, the flowers have already finished and the little ‘strawberries’ are proving as popular as ever with squirrels, and birds, including the ring-necked parakeets. The tree is forty years old and starting to die back – they are not especially long-lived, I gather. It has taken on the gnarled appearance of an ancient olive tree and is a favourite place for my daughter to climb and sit. I will keep it going until it gives up altogether. It is sprouting from the roots anyway so there are plenty of saplings to take its place one day.

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  5. I have never seen a Strawberry Tree before – it’s very attractive, and great for the bees at this time of year too. AND evergreen! I must find out how hardy it is. Look forward to seeing the berries! 😀

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  6. My grandmother has had a huge hydrangea at the corner of her house for as long as I can remember. That first photo really takes me back. We used to pick the blossoms every time we visited and kept them even after they were dried out because they’re still so pretty. I love all of your plants. Absolutely gorgeous.

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    • It’s funny hydrangeas remind me of my childhood, too. There were not so many varieties of plants available then. I suppose a lot were cuttings and seeds passed through family and friends, but I remember so many gardens with a hydrangea in their front lawn.

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  7. How lovely to come home to such a richness of colour in your garden. My hydrangeas will be flowering soon. I hope I have managed to encourage them to return to their blue colour this season. My heucheras are starting to flower. The Bees and bumblebees adore the heucheras. By the way, will you be making liqueur or brandy from the fruit of your strawberry tree? 🙂

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    • I have only a two heucheras but I have never noticed the bees interested in their flowers. I will keep a better look out next year. I’m not sure if the strawberry tree will have fruit as it is the first year it has flowered. I do not intend to use the fruit as I have done most of my jam and compote making for this year, and – I’m tea total!

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  8. I hope you had a good trip to see your daughter, Amelia; I have an Arbutus and it has more flowers than ever before (although it does always flower well). The fruits take the whole year to ripen so the tree has fruits and flowers at the same time. In Sardegna the honey made from the Arbus is famous; it is described as bitter, I would describe it as tasting of slightly burnt caramel and is the very best honey to eat with cheese! Christina

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    • How interesting! I’do not think the fruits stay on all year here. The ones I have seen growing wild did not have their fruits on in the summer time. I like the idea of the burnt caramel flavoured honey.

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  9. Amelia… you asked for suggestions for lime-loving, red-leaved, Autumnal shrubs… have you thought about Guelder Rose [Viburnum opulus].
    I’ve planted two here for the birds and their Autumn colour.
    I was looking out of our bedroom window just now on this dismal, grey, misty morning and noticed how bright the red leaves were and thought of your question.

    They give something all round too… those flat heads of white flowers and the almost lime green leaves in the Spring… the translucent red berries in late Summer and then these red leaves.

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    • I’ve got a young one in my border along side of the road. They seem to do very well here. I rushed out to check it this afternoon but it is half still green and the colouring leaves are not very flashy yet. I expect it will get better with maturity. I do have my two apricot trees that turn beautiful yellow and red shades but I find the fruit trees do not hold their beautiful autumn colour for long, especially if it is windy.

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  10. Lovely post Amelia – I really felt like I was in your garden! It must have been nice to come home to a milder climate and all these flowers!

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    • The temperature is not too different from the UK but we are getting lots of sunshine at the moment. I am glad of the sunshine as I have a lot to catch up with in the garden, stuff to shift and bulbs to plant.

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  11. That’s a heck of a garden . . . probably a lot of work.

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    • It is a lot of work and I am moving plants around at the moment to make it more like a garden. We bought the house eleven years ago but have only lived here permanently for six years. It did not really have a proper garden so we are still trying to create one, learning as we go.

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  12. Wonderful bevy of images and a sight for sore eyes right now. Never seen arbutus before. You are very blessed to have such a lovely specimen.

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    • It is nice to get back to the garden,even if it means a lot of work. Luckily autumn is going on and on here, I’ve had lots of sunshine to finish off moving the plants that were getting overcrowded. The rest can get tidied even if its cold.

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