Back from a week in the UK it was straight out into the garden to see how the vegetable garden had survived in our absence. The tomatoes were the losers this year. The leaves had gone a crinkled brown but there were plenty of good red tomatoes for me to gather them all up and make enough tomato purée for our needs plus a few green tomatoes that I’ve put aside for chutney.
The Borlotti beans grow very well here and the first pods are all ready to be picked.
Unfortunately, my coriander shot up and flowered whilst I was away but I’ve had a good crop from it and I still was able to cut down, chop and freeze the good leaves.
The same day I had sown my Sutton coriander seed, on the right of the picture, I had sown some coriander seed that had been given to me by a friend who had assured me it was excellent. The difference was marked between the two varieties and although my friend’s variety had some very pretty flowers it had very little leaf. I am wondering now if she grew it for the seed.
The apples and pears have not been plentiful this year but last year was a bumper year and I am just finishing last year’s apple compote now!
The medlar tree on the other hand is full of fruit but it will not be ripe for a while yet. It flowers later so was probably not so affected by our hot/cold spring.
The pumpkins were put down to the bottom of the garden this year and seem to be thriving there and do not get in the way.
Once again some plants flourish like the “Rouge vif d’Etampes”, on the left, whereas the Giraumon Turban on the right is my sole success from this sowing. I had really only wanted some Turban pumpkins for decoration but one single pumpkin will have to be supplemented with some supermarket bought gourds this year. I find the gourds a bit messy to grow myself, I must try to find a spot for them for next year but where they cannot strangle anything precious.
We brought some butternut squash seeds home from an excellent butternut squash we had eaten at Christmas in the UK last year and much to my surprise, the plants have prospered over here. There’s not to reason why, there’s but to plant and try!
Last autumn I rescued my saffron bulbs from a border patch that was becoming increasingly shady. I gave them their own private area, well apart from the tuft of chive seeds that I had hoped would have flowered by now (for the bees). Now I wait and watch. I was told by a saffron producer in the area that this year, with so much rain, any saffron bulbs left in the soil would rot. 😦
Of course, one of the first things I checked in the garden was my bee hotels. Before I left for the UK I had put up some emergency housing in the form of a bundle of dried stems tied with string and attached to the Wisteria so that it touched the bee hotel. In my last post I had described the pilfering behaviour of the Heriades bees and I thought it could be caused by an accommodation crisis. During the week I was away two of the stems had been filled and there is interest in the remaining empty ones.
This is where I got my tubes from. It is Himalayan honeysuckle, Leycesteria formosa, also known as Pheasant Berry and Himalayan Nutmeg. I pruned it severely last winter although it should be pruned in the spring. I, thus, provided myself with some excellent hollow tubes for bee hotels that are much easier to cut than bamboo and provide a good variation in diameter which is to the taste of the discerning mix of visitors that I cater for. The plus side of these tubes is that they are easy renewable, if you have the shrub, and so can be opened easily to obtain the cocoons for those who like to clean their hotels. The downside is that they are more fragile and possibly allow parasitic wasps to lay their eggs through the tube although I have not seen this type of parasite around my hotels.
I just wanted a close-up of the flowers and berries as I do not think the previous photograph does justice to this shrub. I was photo bombed by that carder bee. Honest! The bumble bees do love the flowers and it is such an easy shrub to grow. Mine is grown from a cutting from my sister’s garden and I believe it even seeds easily.
Talking of bumble bees…they are getting some extra treats from my Delphineums this autumn. Usually I have one or two re-flowering in the autumn but this year the spring display was so low that I thought the plants were perhaps on the way out and now there are more flowers than there were in the spring. Completely the opposite!
The sedums have loved all the late summer sun and providing lots of colour and attracting lots of honey bees with their nectar. I am still somewhat surprised that I have not seen more butterflies or other bees taking advantage of the sedums.
The honey bees are taking advantage of the wild mint that is flowering in the patch of grass we have left uncut at the bottom of the garden. This is the first time I have seen the wild mint in the garden flower but as you walk through the garden in the summer the mint leaves are bruised and release a lovely minty perfume that follows you. In fact, after a week away I realised that it was the smell of the garden that I missed as much as all the plants and flowers.