a french garden


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Perfume and colour

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Such a lot has changed in the garden this week.  Looking from the outside of the front garden, the Wisteria is still in flower and the Iris and Arum lilies are pushing up to meet it.  Unfortunately, so is the wild grass.  The weed seeds get blown against the wall and find a comfortable place between the iris corms to put down roots.  I’ll pull them out one day after it rains when the ground is nice and soft.Map butterfly Araschnia levana

The lilac trees have started to flower adding their powerful perfume to the garden.  The lilacs attract various butterflies and bees.  This week it was a Map butterfly (Araschnia levana), they have two broods and this is the spring brood with more colourful wings.

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This little glistening Halictid bee is not so highly coloured but has a metallic sheen and frequents the lilac too.

Coronille

Another perfumed surprise was my “Coronille” which originated as some cuttings from a friend.  I was not aware of how perfumed they were.  This year they have become very respectable little bushes making an excellent hedging plant as they are evergreen.

Coronilla

The only problem is that no-one seems to know their proper name.  It looks like the plant the RHS call Coronilla valentina subspecies Glauca “Citrina”.  It is certainly my type of plant – easy to grow, perfumed, not too fussy and bees love it!

quince tree

At the bottom of the garden both quince trees are still in flower.  This one is the prettiest shape.

quince tree

The other quince was called a German quince and is a longer shape tree.  Strangely, the little round tree has round quinces and the German quince has longer shaped fruit.  However, both fruits taste the same.

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I planted red stemmed willows  to try and make a screen where the large pine tree was removed.  These have been cut back earlier and are all starting to shoot.  It will be interesting to see what sort of screen I will have this summer.  In the meantime..

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I have lovely tulips to look at.

thyme

I am also very pleased with this thyme (another plant from a friend) which is full of flowers and is covering the ground but not impeding the Salvia to push through.

chamomile

The chamomile is also working well as ground cover but slower than the thyme even though I re-rooted parts of it in the autumn.  I think I will use the thyme as ground cover elsewhere in the garden.

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I’ve seen more bees in the garden last week, so hopefully populations are building up again and I have heard of a swarm in the area.  This is the normal time for the first swarms in this region.

chafer

Of course, the bees were not the first pollinators.  This chafer may pollinise my quince tree as it flies from tree to tree munching on the pollen or it may just be very hungry and finish off the entire flower.  I have checked – it has left plenty of flowers that should give me some fruit.

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I bought this Centauria plant in a nursery in France to attract bees.  So far it has been covered in ants!  I wondered if they intended to farm aphids but there is no sign of aphids – yet.

poppy and Anthophora

There is one plant that the bees make a bee-line for – the poppies.

red poppy and Anthophora

My light coloured Anthophora plumipes female is gathering pollen throughout the garden.  My first poppies provide bright splashes of colour in the garden but these poppies appear in random places, self sown from last years seed.  The seeds I have sown this year are up but are not flowering yet.IMG_9243

Another of my spring favourites is the Cerinthe.  The pale green foliage is so fresh.  It is beside some sedum in the picture above.  I really must cut the flower stems on this sedum as they are starting to bud but the dried flower stems still look attractive even at this time of year.

cerinthe and bombus praetorum

The little spring bumble bees (Bombus praetorum) have arrived and buzz pollinate the Cerinthe.  The sound of the bumble bees in the Cerinthe is part of the springtime in the garden.

Light Anthophora plumipes female

I don’t suppose many people let their brussel sprouts flower for the bees.

bee in brussel sprout flower

I also wonder if these little bees (compare its size with the flower stamens) get mistaken for flies.  I hope nobody tries to spray them with insecticide.


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Blossom time

Back garden

Most of the trees have opened their leaves.  The lime trees and walnut are trailing behind.

New mulberry bud

After my discovery of my hazelnut flowers, I have decided to catch my mulberry flowers.  The bud is about to open!

Mulberry bud bursting

What a disappointment!  It’s not what I would call a flower but it is all the mulberry can offer.  No wonder I have missed them up until now.

Unripe fruit

These insignificant flowers turn slowly into edible red berries.  Please don’t ask me what variety this is as I have grown it from seed and kept it as a bonsai for more than twenty years now.  There are many varieties of mulberry and many varieties provide delicious berries.

Quince tree

I think my favourite blossom tree is the quince tree with its large delicate pink flowers.

Quince and bee

It is a popular flower for all the bees and I was glad to see this Andrena visiting the flowers as I have seen no honey bees near it this year.

Flowers Belle de Boskoop

The apple tree Belle de Boskoop is my second favourite with its deep rose pink buds and the lighter full flowers.

Pear

The pear trees are usually full of bees but once again this year there are few honey bees around and I was glad to see this Andrena visiting it and I have seen my Osmia cornuta in it too.

Victoria plum (1)

The Victoria plum tree is not attracting as many pollinators either.

Cherry

The cherry trees are full of blossom but I have seen no bees in them this year.  The bee keepers in the area have had huge losses over this winter.  The winter was not unduly cold or wet but many of the hives in the spring still had honey but no bees.  I can notice the difference in the garden.  I even feel I am seeing less solitary bees but I do not know if this is just as a result of my concern for the fate of the local honey bees.

Carpenter in wisteria

This is also the time of year for the Wisteria blossom and I cannot leave out the Carpenter bees (Xylocopa violacea).  The perfume of the Wisteria pervades the garden.

Bumble in Wisteria

The perfume gives an extra pleasure to photographing the bees.

Back of bumbleI always see this queen carder bee at this time of year but I have given up trying to identify bumble bees.

Old hotel (1)

One of the bee hotels is situated beside a Wisteria, so it is very pleasant watching the activity.

New hotel

The new bee hotel has been very well accepted.  The seven holes in the penthouse have all been taken, seventeen in all have been filled up to now.  The drilled holes and the bamboo are both being used but none of the bamboo canes lined with paper have been accepted.

Osmia cornuta on hand

The lives of the female Osmia cornuta is one of non-stop action in an effort to lay her eggs in cells well stocked with pollen, so I was surprised when I saw this one sitting on top of the bee hotel and even more surprised when she came onto my hand.

Worn Osmia cornuta

Then I noticed that the hairs on her back were worn away.  they bring in the pollen and turn and twist in the holes packing in the pollen and then sealing the cell with mud.  All the twisting and rubbing had rubbed away the hairs and she looked very tired.  I held her up to the hotel and she disappeared into a hole.  Soon there will be less activity from bees and I will be left with the filled holes to care for until next spring.


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Still waiting…

Front border

The bulbs are up but the sun is obscured by a thick grey blanket.

Front house

It is true that in our optimism our table was put on the patio a couple of weeks ago but it has since been covered with plastic and although temperatures are not low, there is no sunshine to attract you out into the garden.

Apricot flowers

The apricot forces open a few sporadic flowers but there is no real covering of blossom.

plum fruits

At least the big plum tree benefited from some warm sunny days and now is showing the green beginnings of baby plums.

Apple leaf bud

One of the apple trees has just started to open up the leaf buds with the blossom still curled inside.

Fritillaria persica

The dull weather hasn’t prevented the “Jack and the Beanstock ” appearance of the Fritillaria persica.

Fritillaria persica

The bulb produces a spike and the grey green leaves reach upwards in a slight spiralling direction.  An altogether elegant plant that has kept me company as I watch it from indoors waiting for the weather to improve.  This was a trial of an unknown but it looks worthwhile repeating in the garden with some more next year.

Wisteria flowers

We are all waiting.  The Wisteria buds to flower;

Wisteria leaf bud

their leaf buds resting discretely in the background waiting for the word to go.

Amelanchier

The Amelanchier is waiting to add some brightness to the back garden –

Back garden

which is looking empty now that the big plum tree and the willow have stopped flowering.

New bee hotel

At least my husband has come up trumps with his latest bee hotel to add to my collection.  I think it is the best one yet.

Osmia cornuta males

Although even that has become a waiting place for different male bees waiting for their females to hatch.  The newly drilled holes in the wood provide a sheltered spot away from the wind and rain.  (For those interested in the antics of my mason bees check out “Isn’t Nature wonderful ???” on my Bees in a French Garden blog.  These two are Osmia cornuta males.

Bumble in Hellebore

In fact, it is only the bumbles bees that put me to shame.  They are not put off by a bit of dull weather and get on out there to carry on without grumbling about overcast skies.