a french garden

Plants behaving badly

53 Comments

Misty chairs

There is no doubt about it.  Summer is coming to an end.

Misty arch

Still, September has been an amazing month and even after the occasional early morning mist the sun burnt through later on to give us sunshine.

Misty gardens

I have to thank my husband for venturing into the back garden in his pyjamas to capture these images!   I was too happy contemplating the mist from inside over my second mug of tea.

Vanilla Ice

Vanilla Ice

In fact, I’ve been doing quite a bit of contemplating about the garden.  I’ve been happy with my sunflowers Vanilla Ice and the darker ones which are the offspring of my last year’s Earth Walker.

Earthwalker cross

I can’t get enough of sunflowers.  I like the early single head ones and these multi-headed ones really brighten up the garden in the late summer.

Salvia coahuilensis

My new Salvia coahuilensis is going to be success against the Cosmos sulphureus once it has got established.

IMG_4641

My Salvia guaranitica has flowered again.  I have to thank “Arthur in the garden” for the ID as I thought it was a Nepeta last year!

IMG_4748.Salvia guaranitica

It grows so tall.  I never knew Salvia could grow so tall.  I would not have a chance of getting any close up photographs of bees on them unless I had a very tall ladder!

IMG_4635

I have another beautiful tall Salvia grown for me from a cutting by my friend Linda.  This is not so tall and has very fragile stems and several stems bearing flowers have been snapped off – I presume by birds landing on them.  At least the broken stems seem to catch well as cuttings.  I’ve seen no bees on these flowers and I wondered if the flowers were too long for the bees to reach inside them, but I have now seen a hummingbird hawk moth happily flitting from flower to flower.  It stayed at each flowerlet for a long time drinking the nectar – long enough to get a really good photo – but I did not have my camera.

I have some really lovely tall plants now but I feel I am not showing the tall plants off to their advantage.

Cosmos

Of course, the plants themselves don’t play fair.  These Cosmos have burgeoned to more than a metre and a half tall.  I grew the seeds from a packet and then transplanted some here and others grown from the same packet I planted elsewhere but those were much shorter.

Aster blue. Sweet Lavender

I tenderly cared for my Aster “Sweet Lavender” which flowered for the first time last year.  I bought it a fancy plant support in the early summer but  that turned out to be ridiculously too short.  It is tied up unceremoniously to the fence and looks very sad as if I am trying to garrote it.

Tomatoes in well

Plants don’t do what I expect of them.  This year the tomatoes in the vegetable garden put up a poor show but we let a little tomato plant that had seeded itself down the well continue to grow, to see what happened.  Actually, it has managed very well (sorry about the pun).

Close toms

I don’t understand how an uncared for plant can grow on a stony well wall and then provide us with tasty tomatoes long after the ones in the vegetable garden have gone.

I must try and sort out my taller plants, I would be grateful for any ideas or suggestions.

A plant I have been very impressed with this year is the Common Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica).

Megachile 2

It is a wild flower but in late summer it is a magnet for all sorts of insects.

Anthidium

I have collected lots of the seeds and I want to introduce it to the wilder parts of the back garden.

Fritillary perhaps

I think this might be a Fritillary butterfly.  The Common Fleabane does attract lots of different insects, it is just I tend to photograph the bees.  I am a little nervous of introducing a wild flower into the garden in case it gets out of hand but it is as attractive as many cultivated flowers.

My only worry is that it too may behave badly once it is inside the garden.

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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.

53 thoughts on “Plants behaving badly

  1. Very nice. And I like the fog/mist shots.

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  2. Some perennials like asters can stand being cut back part way through the season to keep them shorter and bushier but I’m not sure if it would work on annuals like cosmos. You might want to try dwarf varieties. Cosmos bipinnatus “Dwarf Wonder Mix” is one.

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    • I did not know you could get dwarf varieties of Cosmos but I see I can get this variety mail order. This is a great idea for my borders next year, I’ll get my Cosmos, the bees and the birds will be happy and my other plants won’t be covered over. I think that Aster might well benefit from some trimming early in the year and I might split it too. Thanks, Amelia

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  3. Your aster, lounging over the wall, is lovely. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Very nice pics! If you like salvias, you can find useful information in a http://www.salvias.com.ar from an Argentinian Professor.

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  5. Very nice pics!
    http://www.salvias.com.ar You can find useful information about salvias

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  6. I have a bed which I’m going to fill with cosmos next year – en masse they look fantastic, I think. I’ve seen them grown within a simple wooden frame (four posts and a length of wood nailed to each at about 18″ high). Going to try that as I’ve had them collapse on me before. Dave

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  7. Your aster is lovely and looks grateful for the support! I invested in a couple of very sturdy and rather tall plant supports a couple of years ago and one of them supports my tall aster really well – looks a bit odd before the aster gets very tall, but is best put in early as the ground gets so hard in summer. If they have room to droop over other plants I think that’s part of their charm too.

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  8. “Of mists and mellow fruitlessness”…
    our tomatoes got hit by “early” blight and were able to grow on through…
    albeit with a reduced crop.
    Good job we overdid the tomatoes this year and ended up with 70 plants!!
    Your littlewell tomato looks to have remained healthy by being sheltered from the breeze that drifted the blight in to the rest of your garden.
    Or it might be a blight resistant fella…
    if it tastes nice, keep the seed…
    scoop out some of the jelly and seeds….
    let that all ferment for a few days…
    looks ghastly…
    rinse the gloop through a sieve to collect the seeds…
    dry them on kitchen towel [well spread out]…
    put them in an envelope for next year.

    For the tipsy plants, you need a selection of Y-stakes…
    now only sold by Harrod Horticulture…
    look up Y-stakes or their name…
    scorchingly expensive at first sight…
    but ours are now twelve years old and still look almost new…
    so divide the price by twelve!!
    It then looks very cheap….
    we’ve a few odd length ones…
    but that is because I’ve “shortened” them with the Allen Scythe…
    or the cutter bar on the Stihl…
    both very unforgiving…
    I just flatten the cut end and file it back to a point.
    As you go back to the UK regularly….
    you could get them sent to your destination…
    and bring them back on your return…
    avoiding surcharged postal rates to Europe!!

    By the by, the butterfly looks, to me, like a female Sooty Copper [Heodes tityrus]…
    never seen one before, so had to look it up….
    Susan will probably tell us otherwise!!

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    • I’ve looked up the stakes. After the first sharp intake of breath at their complexity (I’m not a Lego person) I think they seem a good system and as you say worth the investment. I have to investigate further and watch the video but it seems an ideal system for asters.
      I should grow the seeds from that well tomato, it is so hardy. I have a poor record growing tomatoes from seed, managing to scorch them or drop the trays from my covered staging. I will have to wait and see if I feel optimistic about my skills this spring. Amelia

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      • Amelia, Y-stakes aren’t really complex…
        you just push the desired length into the ground and bend the wires to support the plant….
        or push two in… connect them with wire…
        which doesn’t have to be their special ones…
        and build a “fence” to support a row…
        only bending the ones at either end round to stop too much sideways movement.
        We’ve had our first ever breakage this year…
        I was over vigorous with one of the old tall ones and one of the wires broke…
        where it joined the rod.
        So we now have an iStake!!
        And that is proving very useful, too!!
        I might even make some….

        The U-shaped supports that H H also sell are a doddle to make from the 6mm diameter “rebar” that the bricos sell in 4 metre lengths [at 2€s the piece!]…
        also, because they are rusty, they vanish in the foliage almost instantly!!
        The green painted ones are an artificial green and tend to look like a bit of fence!!

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  9. The butterfly is definitely a Fritillary — one of the ‘netted’ group (known as damiers or mélitées in French). Without being able to see the underside I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to which species.

    I agree with Tim, Y stakes are a good idea, and Harrod Horticulture is a great source of useful stuff for the garden. I have some plant supports that are steel rods that have been bent into a semi-circle then down for legs. These are great, but I bought them from the manufacturer at an RHS London show.

    If you like tall sages I recommend you get some Russian Sage (known as sauge d’Afghanie in France). It grows up to 2m, the bees absolutely go crazy for it and it is delightfully herbal smelling (when Villandry is cutting theirs down at the end of the season it is like walking into a bottle of herb de provence in the garden).

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    • I still think it’s a female Sooty Copper!!

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      • It is not a good photograph but it looks very similar. I could not find a Fritillary with the solid colour on the lower wings, that is what got me stuck.

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        • Sooty Coppers have discrete black spots, not this broken wavy line effect. This is one of the many many aberrant female Fritillaries – they are not uncommon, especially some years. My first thought when I saw the photo was Heath Fritillary Mellicta athalia — just do a search for images and you will see at least one that is similar. In my experience Heath Fritillaries never ever look like the picture in your book, they are so variable.

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        • And I did image search, too, for Sooty Copper…
          and found some that looked just like yours…
          one also showed the underwing on the same plant and so it was correctly identified in that instance.
          But, as Susan says, the pictures in books never look like the one you’ve just photographed…
          they are usually from a museum tray of dead specimens… where the most common form gets drawn!!
          Susan has much greater experience in the field than I have…
          so I tend to go by her ident!
          Don’t I Susan? Ma’am!!
          It was the solid colour, the twinned spots and the little, almost a tail, bump at the bottom of the hindwing that made me think Sooty Copper…
          and David Carter in his book shows a specimen [museum, but photographed] where the dots blend to form a line…
          so we need a shot of the underwing…..

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    • I have got Russian Sage in the garden which I like a lot for its colour and form. However, I do not find that it specially attracts the bees nor do I find it perfumed. I grew all my Russian Sages from cuttings I took my self and they are clones. It brings me back to thinking that plants from ostensibly the same species may have different properties as far as nectar and odour are concerned. I must invest and get some decent stakes. Amelia

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      • Actually Tim could be right about the butterfly (and he’s a much better general naturalist than I am :-). The flight time troubled me a bit so I went looking again. There are several examples of female Sooty Coppers from Italy that look like your pic. The difference is the heavy veins.

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        • Thanks for the compliment, Susan…
          possibly it is because I don’t….
          and never have been able to…
          carry ident info in my head…
          so never go with the flow, as ’twere, but always have to get out the books…
          or, now, look at the correct app…
          and, as I don’t do well on keys either…
          I end up looking through the pix…
          but I was also looking at the size….
          this is a small butterfly, scarcely the size of the Fleabane flower…
          which is only 2cm across max.

          Amelia, please accept my apologies for carrying on this discussion on your blog….
          Susan and I are not in competition, but we are involved in recording the flora and fauna of the region and it is important, for the data set, that identifications are made correctly…
          also, anyone can do this….
          it is a national thing, now, both here in France and in the UK…
          and it is important….
          too few observers in an area against a healthy set in another…
          can really skew the results….
          rural areas suffer really badly…
          often as a result of lack of transport…
          pre-Beeching in the UK, you could get anywhere by train…
          and cycling was much safer then, too.
          Now, observers tend to be much closer to the centres of population…
          and so the greater collections of results come from there…
          and observation hotspots, viz. nature reserves, walkable woods and easily accessed lakes!

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          • In the states they have “Citizen Science” (I like that name) and some in the UK but very few in France. I think that there is the possibility to gather information from many benevolent sources that would be extreely useful. Amelia

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  10. We have also been having the morning mists, that is until we had the first heavy rain for weeks and a drop in temperature.

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  11. Due to computer problems I have not visited for ages! Love those misty shots, and yes I also love sunflowers they are always such happy plants. It has certainly cooled off this week! Have a good one Diane

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    • I leave the sunflowers up for the birds and we could not resist picking up the left over heads after the fields of sunflower were harvested near us. They will keep the birds happy. Amelia

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  12. I love the misty morning shots Amelia, its reminiscent of peaceful childhood days. The common Fleabane looks beautiful, it certainly seems worth the risk of spreading in your wilder areas. I have very tall rusted supports which are left out all year round and look good in the winter that may help with your Aster, I like yours tall though and cutting back early although will make in manageable, may not be as wild and wonderful.

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  13. I shouldn’t worry too much about letting native plants into the garden; a weed is only a plant in the wrong place and most can be removed easily at an early stage if they do grow in the wrong places. I need to sort out staking my cuttings bed next year, garden plants rarely need staking as they don’t over grow in drought conditions. I’ll post about a method I intend trying sometime soon, Some plants react well to the Chelsea chop which makes for more flower stems but shorter,

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    • I’m glad you have not heard that it is a rampant pest and I will never remove it. I am somewhat sensitive as I planted Vinca major before we even lived permanently here and I have been pulling it out for years now. It is not even a weed. I think it should be all right if I am aware and keep an eye on it. The aster might well get a chop next year. Amelia

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  14. Beautiful photos. If we had a longer season I’d be tempted to direct-sow tomatoes to see if they do better. It’s ironic your well tomato did so well (there it is again) since I think of them liking warm soil and that location ought to be cooler.

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  15. I agree with what you say about sunflowers – in my case it is Jerusalem artichokes brightening up the garden.

    The photos of the misty garden are beautiful!

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    • I grew Jerusalem artichokes years and years ago but I ate them all and never saw them flower. It is only your comment that made me look them up and find that they are Helianthus. Do you eat some of the roots too? Amelia

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      • Are you perhaps thinking of globe artichokes? Jerusalem artichokes are from the same family as sunflowers and you eat the tubers in late winter after planting them the previous spring. In any case, yes, it is in effect the roots that I will eat – the stalks and leaves aren’t eaten.

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  16. The garden is looking lovely. Tomatoes are such fickle plants aren’t they?

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  17. Apart from the mists and some mellow fruitfulness, that all looks thriving and well-behaved to me… Our cosmos on the other hand have gone delinquent and are completely out of control. Still covered in bees, thought, so they have had a stay of execution..,

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    • Cosmos add such a lot of colour but I am going to see if I can get my hands on the Cosmos Dwarf Wonder Mix seeds, that NHGS recommended, for next year. I reckon if I can get some that are shorter than I am I have a better chance of getting the upper hand. Amelia

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  18. Contemplating mists and the purples and oranges of autumn – a perfect time to be naughty. Beautiful post, long may your garden be mischievous! 🙂

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