a french garden


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My hazelnut trees are flowering!

Two flowers corylus avellana

Bright red against the blue sky!

Single flower

They are not like the flowers on apple or pear trees, in fact, the petals remind me more of sea anemones.

Front flower

I must admit, this is the first time I have seen the flowers of my hazelnuts.  Last year I saw the photographs of these intriguing flowers on one of my favourite blogs, New Hampshire Garden Solutions.  He sees everything!  I was determined I was not going to miss seeing mine this year.

Size comparison

I think you will forgive me for missing them when you see the size comparison with the male catkins.

corylus avellan flower and catkin

Once you have seen one they become obvious to spot but given that they are in flower now when it is cold and damp in the garden, I think that these unusual flowers will pass unadmired in many a garden.

corylus avellana flower

 

Seeing my hazelnut flowers for the first time lifted my spirits during a cool, dull, damp week while I nursed my cold.

 


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Mason bee hotels or houses

We have been having our share of cold weather this week. Our weather is still very tempered by our position and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean so I am talking about temperatures dipping below zero centigrade at nightime and rising to a high of 7 or 8 degrees during the day.  From comments I am receiving on the blog, I get the feeling that a lot of gardeners are nevertheless eager to get their seeds sorted and start with the spring planning.  If you are restricted in your gardening activities at the moment, it might be the time to think about building or looking for a bee hotel.

My first bee hotel had been a gift that had languished under the lilac tree until in March 2013 I had seen the male Osmia checking out the holes in search of newly hatched females. (Short Mason Bee Update).

I found watching the bees as they nested fascinating and decided to add more bee hotels to the garden. (New Mason Bee Nests)

I decided to examine the best places to mount the bee hotels and monitor the best designs and sizes of holes.

Osmia leiana

What I discovered is that it doesn’t matter!

Megachile at bee hotel

Once you have provided the holes, the visitors will begin to arrive.

Solitary wasp

You are likely to see more than just bees.  I get solitary wasps.  These are not aggressive creatures so no worry about being attacked and stung, unless you are a caterpillar!  These solitary wasps are the gardeners’ friend and will stock their nests with caterpillars and other goodies for their carnivorous larvae.

Osmia ...

If you give them a varied selection of holes and hollow stems, they will do the rest.   Here is an Osmia bee (I think caerulescens ) cleaning out the holes drilled in a cut log.  This is in June.  Some bees will come to my garden in March or April, others will come in the summertime and others may return for a second time in the same year.

Megachile emerging

I must admit to have been pretty excited the first time I saw a bee emerging from “my” bee house in May 2014. This is the very bamboo cane that had been so carefully sealed with a rose petal by a Megachile the previous September.

Heriades t.

It is also exciting is to watch which bees decide to take up residence.  This little bee (Heriades truncorum, I think) is less than a centimetre long and as well as nesting in the bamboo canes was also quite happy to use the much finer old, cut stems of my Leycesteria formosa (Himalayan nutmeg.)

So the most important action is to put something up.  Whether it be approaching a work of art or some hollow stems stuffed into an empty plastic bottle: there are lots of ideas out there on the web.  I think they like the sunny spots but all my bee hotels have been used, even the ones in shady places.  If you hope to photograph the nests you should think about having good natural light available as you will need to be using a fast shutter speed.

For the curious, like me, there is also a solitary bee nest that can be opened so that you can see exactly what has been happening over the summertime.  I found it on http://www.wildlifeworld.co.uk/p/solitary-bee-hive?pp=24

I did not buy it until the end of the summer but I could not resist putting it up, although I thought it was much too late to attract any interest.

Anthea

But then on the 29th. of September last year Anthea arrived.  Yes, it has got that bad!  I’ve started giving them names – Anthea, the Anthidium manicatum.

Anthidium chooses wrong hole

We had lots fun watching her bringing her bales of cotton to make her nest.  She harvests her cotton wool by clipping off the soft hairs that cover the grey/green leaves of plants like sage, stachys, artemisia and verbascums.  But sometimes she gets it wrong and flies into the wrong hole and makes a hasty turnaround like she has done here, to return to the correct one.

Anthidium cocoons

In the middle of December I decided to take my boxes down and I had a look at the inside of the new box.  The cocoons were beautiful with no sign of mites.  I will take another look before the bees come back to see if they have survived the winter intact.

I also decided to buy some nesting tubes and paper liners from the same site, Wildlife World.  The tubes are well cut and will save time as I have been promised another new bee hotel for this year 🙂

Lizard in bee hotel

One problem I have had is that our lizards love to sun themselves on top of the bamboo stems of the bee hotels.  However, to make themselves really comfortable, they kick out the tubes.  This year the tubes must be firmly wedged with pieces of wood so that not even the strongest lizard can displace them.


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Slowly, slowly

Camelia

January is over and perhaps the worst of the winter is finished.  So many plants in the garden seem poised, waiting for the signal to flourish.

Daffodil

The daffodils have shown their colour but have remained tight closed.  Some snowdrops have appeared and the crocus are just starting to open.  So different from last January when the apricot tree was flowering on the 10 January 2014.

Skimmia

The Skimmia wisely keeps its buds tight closed.

Hellebore

The Hellebores are only starting to produce flowers but I am much happier to this slower awakening.  February can bring cold weather and frost.

End of garden

The two cotoneasters that were bright with red berries at the beginning of January, have been stripped bare by the birds.

Rudbeckia seedhead

Likewise, the seed heads of the Echinacea are all but bare of seeds.

Hard standing

Despite the heavy rain we have been having which leaves the ground sodden and encourages the weeds to grow, there has been work to do in the garden.  Work to clear the end part of the garden and remove some weedy trees continued.  We have inherited a fair selection of stones and flatter ones have been chosen to produce a handy hard standing area and some odd shaped ones will provide my husband’s next challenge of building a dry stone wall.  This will be for decorative purposes (cough, cough).  What else do you do with a lot of attractive limestone boulders?  (Hint, we already have two rockeries.)

Pussy willow

Nevertheless, the willow has decided it is time to start opening its buds.  If it does not open too quickly it should be O.K. for the bees.

 

 

bee on winter honeysuckle

Last week the bees on the winter honeysuckle were gathering pollen.

Bee and pollen

She was getting covered in pollen, obviously enjoying herself after being kept cooped up in a hive because of the rain.

v. tinus and bee

The Viburnum tinus was receiving attention, too.  Its pollen is much paler, almost white.  It’s not as popular with the bees when there are more flowers around but needs must in January.

Blue Tits

The fat balls are disappearing at an incredible rate and there is an increased chattering of birds in the garden.  The colours of male chaffinches are looking brighter.  The male turtle dove courts the female in the morning as she pecks the seed on the patio but she is not interested and he finally turns his interest to the seeds.

It’s all a bit too early in the garden at the moment.