a french garden


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Lilies

Lilies

The lilies are doing well this year in the garden.  I am seduced by the cheap packs of bulbs I see in the UK after Christmas.  I haven’t really a plan of where they should go.

Pink lily

Its easier to find a place for them in the winter when you have forgotten what other perennials you have planted and it looks as if the place is empty.  I don’t regret squeezing them in as their perfume is mingling with the second flowering of the Wisteria and filling the garden with perfume.  I never see much interesting life on them: the odd spider or fly – certainly no bees!

Dull moth

I was so surprised to see this dull moth sitting on one of the lilies sipping nectar!

not closeThen I saw the orange flash.  I had never seen a hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) at rest on a flower.

This moth had worked out that it could expend much less energy at rest on the lily and still reach the nectar.

Better hover

He still couldn’t resist the odd hover from time to time.

mmm. so good

The moth spent a few minutes on the lily and seemed to be enjoying it as a nectar source.  I had always thought that the lilies either had poor nectar or they were not recognised as nectar sources because they are “exotic”.

What are other gardeners experiences with lilies?  Do you get interesting critters on your lilies (maybe bees :))?

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Do bees have different characters?

On July 10, Sue posted Bird Brains maintaining that birds do have different characters – which I definitely agree with.

Taking things a step further I now wonder if bees have different characters too.  I have just met a bee with attitude.

Anthidium on camera

I must admit that it is really “bee time” over here and I am having plenty of models to take photographs and identify (hopefully).

Anthidium bee on camera lens

Usually they pay little attention to me and I have to follow their movements as they visit the flowers but this one seemed curious of the camera.

Anthidium bee and camera lens

Luckily I had my trusty assistant on hand to photograph my friendly bee.

Anthidium on camera lens

She was certainly not camera shy but had not quite got the idea of posing in an alluring position on a colourful flower.

Anthidium on back of neck

Tired of posing she seemed up for a game of hide-and-seek.  I think she has the advantage over me for this game.

Anthidium

I thought it was time for my trusty assistant to borrow my camera which was equipped with my Macro lens to see if we could get a close up.

Bee kissIsn’t she sweet!  I would call that a bee kiss and we haven’t even exchanged names.

I think she is Anthidium manicatum but I am not too sure about her species name.


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The garden in July

White Wisteria

The garden in July is different this year.  The Wisteria is flowering for the second time.

Blue Wisteria

The blue was the first one out in May but the white one pipped it to the post this time.  Usually they have a second bloom much later so I wonder if they will bloom three times this year.  Perhaps it was all that rain in the winter and spring.

Bee in pumpkin

The garden can play tricks with you.  I went out to check the pumpkin flowers this morning, as last year they had a beautiful perfume.  I got quite excited as I thought I could see a yellow bee – but no, just a very well pollinated pumpkin and a pollen covered bee.  Unfortunately, the pumpkins have no perfume this year but they are a different variety.  Pity as the perfume was really heady last year.

Lillies

The garden in July is very perfumed.  It is not just the obvious flowers like the lilies.

Buddleia

We have a good number of Buddleia and some even hang over from the next door garden.

Lavender

The lavender is just opening now, not only to our delight but to the insects in search of nectar.  All of the perfumes intermingle, even the wild mint in the grass.

Anthophora

The garden in July is full of distractions.  I am seeing so many new bees I can’t keep up with them.  I was pleased when I noticed these ones today as they were moving so quickly in the lavender, just like the Anthophora plumipes moved in the Cerinthe at the end of April.  I could see males with similar but white faces instead of yellow.

Anthophora

A quick close-up on the dining room table and he is definitely a male Anthophora but I have not had time to find out what species – if indeed I will be able to.

Echinacea

The garden in July has drama.  Do you see the blurry white form behind the bumble?

Crab spider

The Echinacea are a magnet for all sorts of insects but this morning a crab spider was sitting waiting for them with open arms.  the bumble seemed unaware and although I feel I shouldn’t interfere with nature I knocked the spider of his perch.

Spider with butterfly

Only hours later I noticed the spider was back and had caught a Peacock butterfly.  My husband was there and he could not watch the butterfly in the spider’s grasp and had little hesitation in tampering with nature.  Sorry spider lovers but the fate of the spider was not a happy one.

Dragonfly

Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum

The garden in July is never lonely.  Something is always flying past you or smiling at you.

Baby toad

Natterjack toad Bufo calamita.

This baby toad quickly hopped under the shade of the strawberries.  I am seeing more baby frogs and toads in the garden this year.

Brimestone

These brimstone butterflies (Gonepteryx rhamni I think) were all over the Echinacea and nearby lavender.  (Perhaps it was just as well the spider was disposed off.)

Red poppy

The garden in July is lots of bees.  They are in the poppies.

Blue geranium

They are in the geraniums.

Tree bumble bee

And they love my flowering leeks!  Today was the first time I had seen a tree bumble bee (Bombus hypnorum) in the garden even though they are a European species.  I saw my first tree bumble bee in Surrey a few weeks ago.  They only arrived in the UK in 2001 but are now very common in parts of Surrey.

July in the garden for me is certainly the bees.  Even this morning, sitting having coffee, some pollen laden bees disappeared into the soil in front of the bench I was sitting on.  Some more solitary bees to investigate!

Borlotti beans

The garden in July is also full of hope.  I hope the borlotti beans keep on growing.

Sweet pea teepee

I hope I might be able to grow sweet peas this year.  I’ve never succeeded yet.  They are on a teepee in the potager receiving intesive care.  I’ve said I’ll never try again and this really is my last attempt but I do love their perfume and I have specially chosen the seeds of highly perfumed sweet peas.


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Gym fête

My biggest social event of the year is the Gym fête celebrated as a mechoui.  Our gym club meets in the old school in the village and there are three classes a week for an hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.  We are about 25 – 30 members but the fête attracts more like 120 people.  The preparations for the fête are all done by the members and friends.

Salles de Fêtes

The village has a Salles des Fêtes.   These public buildings are common throughout France and can be hired for weddings, parties and can be used for public meetings.  Ours suits the gym club fête perfectly.

The provisions arrive

The arrangements for the fête start to be brought together the afternoon beforehand.

Setting up tables

The tables and chairs belong to the hall but they have to be set up and paper table clothes laid to add a festive touch.

Table decorations

There are even fresh flower arrangements for the table made by a member with flowers from her garden.

Boxes of lettuce

On Saturday afternoon the action in the kitchen  intensifies and the salads for the entrée are prepared.

Pots of beans

Quantities are generous, there were three large pots of beans.

Kitchen

There are plenty of helpers as there are a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers to slice and melons to cut.

Cherries

Like the cherries a lot of the produce comes from the helpers gardens.

lamb

It is eight o’clock in the evening and the lamb has been roasting for 2-3 hours.

Aperatif

The dinner starts with the aperitif – a delicious selection of home-made savoury cakes and other tit bits.  The drink of the moment for the apero is rosé wine and pineapple juice.

Entree table

The entrée is a selection of salads and flans.

Jean-Pierre

The party is animated by the redoubtable Jean-Pierre who has the crowd singing and waving their napkins in the air!

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French fêtes are family affairs and all ages are present.

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In between dancing there is time to pop into the kitchen to keep the surfaces clear and keep on top of the washing up.

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It is nearly eleven o’clock and the lamb is about done.

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The local butcher lends his expertise to carving the lamb.  The lamb is served with beans as the main course.

The lamb is followed by a cheese course and lettuce salad.

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The desserts table must have two pictures to give sufficient credit to the marvellous array of home made desserts.

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I haven’t commented on the drinks but these were served with the appropriate courses but being tea-total I am not well up on those.  We are in the cognac country so I know that is served towards the end of the meal.

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The dancing continued until well after two o’clock in the morning with a very mixed bag including the paso doble, old walzes, the Maddison and some more up to date tunes.

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All good things come to an end and the band of helpers is back the next morning to pack away the table and chairs and clean up the hall and kitchen.

The leftovers are not wasted and we retire for lunch to for a second feast in one of the members house.