a french garden


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Enough gardening, let’s go for lunch!

On Saturday it was too good to stay in so we decided to go to Pons for lunch.

Pons Donjon

We had lunch on the restaurant balcony overlooking the old Donjon and then walked down to the river to see if we could spot any Kingfishers.

1-Ducks la Seugne

Unfortunately, no Kingfishers were sighted but the ducks were parading with their numerous offspring so I was not disappointed.  As common as ducks might be I never tire of their antics nor of seeing flotillas of duckings.

1-Bridge la Seugne

The riverside walk has changed over the years and they have added some wooden bridges so that you can cross over the meandering Seugne.

1-Young male Calopteryx splendens(4)

It was a warm sunny day and quantities these dragonflies were flying around.  As far as I can tell they are male Calopteryx Splendens.

1-Calopteryx splendens (2)

Green ones were flying around too but these were less numerous and I supposed them to be another kind of dragonfly.  In fact, they appear to be female Calopteryx splendens.  The insect world does its best to confuse us.  At least when you take photographs of the dragonflies it gives you time to examine their rears.

1-Boy bits

Here is the male dragonfly displaying his boy bits or claspers.

1-Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)

The Speckled Wood butterfly  (Pararge aegeria) was everywhere too, it is the most common butterfly we see in the woods around here.

1-For Picasa

There were lots of little white butterflies, probably different sorts of Pieris.  I always associate them with cabbages but of course their are lots of other plants in the Brassicaceae family.

1-Cardamine pratensis

Lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis) is in the Brassicaceae and there was lots of it around.  I don’t usually see such dark ones near us.

1-Cardamine pratensis (2)

Although in the minority there were lighter forms as well.  It is called La cressonnette or cresson in French and apparently is edible although I have never tried it yet.

1-Bee pollen 1

This time it was my husband who spotted the cute bee.

1-Bee pollen

She was so covered in pollen that she had difficulty taking off.  Either that or the nectar she had been sampling had started fermenting in situ.  I cannot identify her as she was so covered in pollen but I would guess a little Halictes bee.  After a brief respite on my husband’s hand she took off into the air.

1-Bridge 2

Back over another bridge and we had finished our circuit around the river.

 

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Slow down April!

This year with the mild winter I was supposed to be ahead with any preparation and quite prepared for spring.  We forged ahead  clearing a lot of trees and branches from the left side of the back garden to let in more light.  But the weather continued mild and no cold snap arrived to halt the blossoming of the trees or limit the growth of the grass.

View of front

Arriving back from my trip to the UK I noticed the moles had invaded the front garden.  We accept them in the back as inevitable but this was a first in the front.

Mole deterant

This is not aesthetically pleasing but I find it works, if you can suffer looking at it yourself.  The wind whistles through the empty plastic bottle which clatters and sends vibrations that hopefully irritate the moles enough to send them looking for quieter quarters.  At least there have been no more lumps since I set it up.

Left hand side

In the back garden the Ash-Leaved Maple is flowering (at the left foreground).  This is a rescue tree.  We saved it from a friend’s small garden.  She had brought it home from a plant exchange thinking it was a tree peony (?), when she discovered her mistake she convinced us to rehouse it.

Fronds of Ash leaved Maple

The silky fronds of the male flowers blow in the wind in the spring and you cannot resist touching them as you pass.

Amelanchier

The Amelanchier is having its moment of glory now but the flowers never attract much insect life.

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom

The cherries and plum trees are nearly finished blooming.

Mirabelle flower

The Mirabelle plum flower is as delicate as the little, sweet plums.

Victoria plum blossom

Victoria plum blossom

Spring is passing so quickly this year.

1-IMG_0440.first worker

I saw my first worker bumblebee on the fourth of April, so somewhere a queen has got busy and produced her first batch of workers.  The workers look so small after the big queens.  Some bumbles just push there way inside the Wisteria flowers but others get impatient and pierce the end of the flowers to get at the nectar.

Honey bee on Wisteria

The holes that the bumblebees and Carpenters make are re-used by other bees and I have noticed more honey bees on the Wisteria lately, now that they can get easy access.

Hellebore plantation

My overall plan for the garden is to strategically place plants and bushes that inhibit weed growth so that the maintenance is easier (I can dream :)).  These are Hellebore seedlings I planted up early last summer and kept well-watered in pots over the summer and then planted them out in the autumn.  They are in a rough part of the garden and look as if they will be up to the task.

Hellebore overgrowth

Hellebores certainly like the garden and in only two years are starting to take over a patch in the front garden.  I think perhaps you can have too much of a good thing and some will have to be moved from here.

Hellebores

The bees are not in agreement and I must admit that the Hellebores have an exceptionally long flowering period.

Ash seedlings

One of my excellent ideas that misfired this year was my use of the needles under the ex-pine tree for mulch.  I have been very successful using wood chip mulch to reduce weeds in the borders.  Under the pine tree was dark and years of seeds must have accumulated – unable to germinate in the dark.  In fact it is a brilliant weed seed reserve, especially for Ash seeds, as pictured above.  These really must be removed as soon as possible because they will pop out at this stage but develop into tree sapling in next to no time.

Moved cherry tree

Looking on the positive side, the cherry tree we so roughly moved (How not to plant a cherry tree) has actually flowered!  It’s shape leaves a lot to be desired but I’m sure it will look a lot better next year.

Moved Camelia

I moved a large  Camellia that was planted at the base of a limestone wall in the front garden two years ago.  It had always looked sickly so it was kill or cure.  The roots and branches had to be severely cut to get it out and once again it needs some time for regrowth but I think it was worth it.

Camelia flowers

The flowers have been beautiful this year.

Des Res

I haven’t forgotten my bees and my husband has provided them with another residence.

Osmia cornuta

The Osmia cornuta have decided to use the drilled holes this year and six of the available twelve have already been filled.  They were supposed to use the bamboo as they did last year and leave the drilled holes for the later bees like the leaf cutters.

Last years mixed leaves

I let our last year’s mixed salad leaves sprout.  They attract lots of interesting bees.

Anthophora

Not the least lots of which is  Anthophora plumipes.

Anthophora plumipes female

I watched an Anthophora plumipes female go in and out checking all the likely holes in our house wall.  They seem just as fussy as the queen bumble bees.  In the end she flew off without selecting one but I hope she will come back later.

Male Anthophora plumipes

Male Anthophora plumipes

There is lots of Cerinthe flowers to attract the bees in the front garden.

Worker Bombus pratorum

I hope the early spring will be good for the bumble bees too.  This early bumblebee ( Bombus pratorum) worker has plenty of pollen to take back to her nest.

Although we are only at the beginning of April it feels like summer in the garden.

 

 

 


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A good year, so far

Back from the UK, I was curious to find out how all the rain that has fallen this year has affected the woods around the house.  Before I left some of the paths were still very muddy but the soil dries up quickly here.

Wild anemones

The wild anemones carpeted the ground under the trees still not fully in leaf.  They are more plentiful than last year and present in places I had never noticed them before.  They are mainly white and single but I enjoy finding the variants of other colours and the double variant.

Wild anemones

They are early this year and I would expect to find them at the end of April (See http://wp.me/p2cvii-6F ).

Path edge

The violets and lesser celandine stood out on the edge of the paths.

Dog violet

These are not the perfumed violets that I find in some places but they are just as beautiful.

Violet and butterfly

The yellow butterfly (maybe a Brimstone) seemed happy to accept the nectar, perfume or not.

Meloe violaceus

Always on the outlook for bees, I notice other things and I frequently come across the Violet Oil Beetle (Meloe violaceus ).  It is not a friend of solitary bees as its larvae find their way onto flowers and hitch a lift on the solitary bees that they encounter so that they can enter their nests.  The larvae then proceed to consume eggs, nectar and pollen.

Meloe violaceus matiing

I had never seen the beetle mating before and I was surprised that the female could scuttle through the leaves just as quickly while dragging the male behind her.  He did his best to stay upright but he often lost balance as it cannot be easy walking backwards with six legs that usually go frontwards.

I also noticed a lot of little flies on the female’s back and I have found out that they could be attracted to fluids that she exudes or they extract from her haemolymph.  This is an oily substance called cantharadin which can blister human skin.  This substance is produced by other beetles like the more well known Spanish fly (Lytta vesicatoria).

Pulmonaria

The Pulmonaria is abundant this year, usually with its mix of blue and pink flowerlets.  I read some interesting comments on colour change and pollination of flowers (more particularly on fruit trees) in Coloured clues; Mossy Mulch; and Easter Eggs at The Garden Impressionists.

Bee fly

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of bee flies on the spring flowers.  These flies are also parasites of solitary bees laying their eggs on flowers or near the nests of the solitary bees.

Asphodel

It’s not all bad news for the bees as the Asphodel are starting to flower and it has been a mild winter with lots of rain which has suited them well.

Lady's smock, Cardamine pratensis

The Lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis) seems early and is more abundant.

Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea

The Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea is everywhere and is attracting the attention of an Andrena bee here, probably Andrena Willkella.Fern frond

Everything is fresh and pushing through like the fern fronds unfurling.

Bumbles

This is a time of activity and as I walk I hear the bumble bees, not just in the flowers but searching.  They are searching for just the right place to build their nest.  I often follow them as they explore and vanish into holes but they always return to continue their search, never seeming to find just the right place.