a french garden


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A furry visitor

Front door

This is the shutter of our front door which is left in the open position practically all the time.  However, my husband has a tendency to glance behind it when he passes by.

Bat on wall

He did that on the 14 March last year and found a bat clasping onto the wall behind the shutter.

Bat on wall 2

It was a bit of a change from the usual lizards that hide there!  He stayed there for a few days but I have no idea what kind of bat he is.

Open shutter

Today (21.2.2014) there was another bat.  This time on the shutter itself.

Black bat

Black bats are difficult to photograph but at least he stayed still.

Close up Barbastelle bat

Looking closer he has got a cute face.

Barbastelle bat mouth open

Is he trying to tell me something here?

Barbastelle bat close up I noticed that he had a strange indentation on the outside of his ear flap and I wondered if it had been bitten.  When I tried to identify him I saw a picture of a Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) that had the same marking on the ear.  Can anyone help out with an identification?

Bat back viewHe measures 6 centimetres from front to back and has an incredibly furry coat.  He has five toes – just like us!

I don’t think our last year’s bat is the same species so he still stays an unidentified visitor.

I’ve put a watermark on these photographs.  Do you think it is pretentious?

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Sunshine after the gloom

Ranunculus ficaria

Ranunculus ficaria

Spring colours are bright whether it is the wild Celandine that appears all over the garden…Purple crocus

or the crocus…

Purple crocus

which can be positively gaudy.

Crocus and scilla

Crocus and scilla

I have planted the bulbs as near to the house as I can in any space I can find to cheer up the dull days.

Daffodil

But however bright they are, it is a bit beyond the flowers to lift up continuous days of dull, cloudy, rainy weather.  But at last we have had a whole day of sunshine and the garden looks so different.

River at bottom of garden

The level of the river at the bottom of the garden has dropped a little bit and the nearby fields no longer look like lakes.  I’m not quite sure why, as the rain has been falling with boring regularity.

Another Ash tree has been felled to give more light to the vegetable garden.  I can just imagine us having a scorching summer now and the garden turning into a dust bowl!  The sunshine gave us incentive to plant a few early Almondine potatoes and some dwarf peas (Douce Provence) as the temperatures continue to be so mild.

The fallen tree gave me ready access to admire some beautiful lichen close up.  I’d like to dedicate the next few photographs to the New Hampshire Gardener at New Hampshire Garden Solutions.

Lichen

This I think is a lichen with purple apothecia.

foliose lichen

This probably a foliose lichen (I go no further).

Lichen and moss

Lots of lichen and moss living happily together.

Yellow lichenVery yellow lichen.

Brown stuff

Very brown, jelly…stuff.

tremella

This is one I recognise as Tremella mesenterica from NH Gardening Solutions posts.  However, I may be wrong as the branch did not look dead but perhaps it was not feeling well before we cut it down.

Plum tree in flower

Back to the garden – my big plum tree is in full flower.

Plum blossom

Beautiful as the blossom is, I am not happy to see it open so early.

Honey bee on plum tree

When the sun is out the honey bees are there to collect the pollen but because of wind and frequent rain showers the bees are not as numerous as other years when the plum tree has flowered later.  It was in flower a month later in 2012.

Apricot blossom

Some of the apricot blossom has already fallen, but will any fruit follow?

Dark hellebores

The garden has quite a few hellebores now.  They all originated as seedlings from my sister’s garden.

White hellebore

As well as the dark ones I have this white one…

Pink hellebore

and this spotty pink one.  I had lots of seedlings last year which I potted up and cared for in the summer and planted out in the autumn.  I am hoping they will flower next year and I wonder what colours they will be.

Bumble bee and hellebore

I know who I have to thank for the high seedling rate of my hellebores.  The bumble bees are occupied for quite a long time probing just inside the petals where I presume the nectar must accumulate.  In the meantime the bumble bee is receiving a good dusting of pollen from the stamens.  I haven’t seen any of the bumble bees gathering pollen yet so I presume the queens are not starting to nest yet.

Carpenter in helleboreThis carpenter bee looks a bit on the small side.  It has come out of hibernation early.  Carpenter bees overwinter as adults to start up their life cycle at the beginning of summer.  The middle of February is hardly the beginning of summer so perhaps they will go back into a torpid state like bumble bees do if the weather turns cold.  This one did not seem as active as carpenters usually are in the spring and did not object to the hellebore being moved to take the photograph.

Skimmia

I inhaled the perfume from my skimmia for the first time in the sunshine and it brought back memories of the huge bushes in Seaton Park in Aberdeen.  I brought this plant on from a cutting but perhaps because it was too much in the shade or too dry, it has taken about eight years to flower.  If you fancy a perfumed skimmia, I would recommend that you buy a decent sized plant!  The perfume is wonderful and I was wondering if it would attract anything apart from me.

Bumble on skimmia

I did not have to wait long.  The flowerlets are barely open and the bumble bee is already forcing her way in.

The bee activity is stepping up in the garden and I have only identified ten different solitary bees that I have seen in my blog Bees in a French Garden.  I have challenged myself to recognise twenty so I will have to spend more time in my photograph files.

Bombus pratorum and winter honeysuckle

Bombus pratorum and winter honeysuckle

But it is so difficult to stay concentrated when the sun is shining and there are bees in the garden.


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Water, water everywhere…

1-Flooded fields

Not far from the bottom of the garden the river Seudre has inundated the neighbouring fields making them look like lakes when viewed from a distance.

And the rain keeps on falling!

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I thought I’d have a look in the old well to see what was happening there.

Salamandra salamandra

I had never seen the well with so much water before and I was pleased to see the salamander (Salamandra salamandra) in its element.  The well is usually more or less dry (The old well).

Marbled newt

Here I have a problem with my toads and frogs.  I think it is a common frog but I’m not sure.  I do recognise my marbled newt (Tritus marmoratus).  These are our favourites and get featured regularly (The well in winter).

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At any one time you only get a snapshot of what is happening in the well at the moment.

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There are plenty of crevices providing space to hide and keep warm.  Can you see the small frog on the far left of the photograph?

1-IMG_8986They do not seem to mind getting into a mixed species pile up.  The large common toad (Bufo bufo) stays impassive while an agile frog (Rana dalmatina) uses him as a resting place and the newts pass over him.

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I counted seven different creatures in this photograph.

Hyla meridionalis, la rainette méridionale

Hyla meridionalis, la rainette méridionale

But I think everybody’s favourite is our little green tree frog.