a french garden


40 Comments

The end of September

Front garden

It’s the end of September and the garden is looking good after a week of really heavy rain in the first part of the month.  It was the rain that puts a smile on gardeners faces and it fell mostly at night time with the daytime temperatures staying pleasantly warm.

Cosmos and mega

Kourosh’s half price Maya the bee seeds are still attracting the bees.

Red Cosmos

In general the Cosmos are doing a lot to provide lots of colour at this time of year.

3 disappointments-001

I lost my Heptacodium jasminoides last year and was quite shocked that it could have left me as I had bought it in 2007.  However, last autumn I replaced it with the same species but called the alternative name Heptacodium micanioides.  It has flowered in its first year with me so I should be happy but it does not seem to be quite the magnet that the other one was for the bees.

Heptacodium

It’s flowers are still as beautiful and perfumed – it just has a bit of growing up to do.

On the right of the Heptacodium is one of my Sedums.  I have several of these in the garden and they are excellent, colourful, easy plants to grow – only the bees are totally uninterested in them.  Would someone please recommend a large Sedum that will attract the bees?

My next disappointment is on the left of the Sedum – a red Gaura (Siskiyou Pink).  It just does not have the pull for the bees as my white ones.

Bee in red Gaura

Just comparative, the bees will still come and relieve the flowers of their pollen.

Flower of an hour

Enough complaining!  I am still enchanted with my Flower of an Hour (Hibiscus trionum).

Reverse Flower of an hour

It looks good whether you view it from the front or from the back!

Yankee Doodle Dandy

I don’t go too much for very fancy flowers and I think my sister notices this on her visits.  Her tastes are more flamboyant and she tries to spice up the garden by tempting me with a new seed or plant.  This Dahlia is from a packet of seeds she shared with me called “Yanky Doodle Dandy”.  Actually some of them are not bad and they leave the centre open for the pollinators so I cannot complain.

Fallgold raspberries

The rain brought on a new flush of raspberries.  I find these yellow Fallgold sweeter than the pink ones.

Red raspberries

But for decoration or desserts the pink ones do look better on a plate.

Raspberry flowers

The bees don’t seem to have a preference.  They must produce tasty nectar as the flowers are visited every morning.

Ruche

Kourosh has moved two of the hives further back in an attempt to take them more out of the sun.  It is only a partial success as they are facing the morning sun.  As you can see, the net is still being well used to trap the hornets.  There is still no let up from their constant attack.

Ivy bee

The scent of ivy flowers is ever present when we walk around here but we do not notice a lot of ivy pollen going into the hives.  There is a lot of wild mustard flowers (Sinapis arvensis) around and some of the pollen matches that.  The Ivy bee (Colletes hedera) gathers almost solely the ivy pollen.  I saw this female at the same nest site as I had seen last year (https://beesinafrenchgarden.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/la-bourgade-revisited/).  It is just as extensive as it was but not as busy.  The whole area had been soaked by a week of heavy rain just at the time that the males would normally leaving the nests.

The heavy rain that brought relief to the garden and brought out the flowers in abundance was perhaps not so well timed for the Ivy bees.


22 Comments

Les Jardins de Colette

After the honey harvest, Amelia and I gave ourselves a few days of holiday and went to the Corrèze region of France.  We discovered that the area around Brive-la-Gaillarde was both beautiful and had so many pretty towns and attractions that we promised ourselves to return in future.

One of the calmest and most wonderful visits we made was to the Gardens of Colette.  Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, simply known as Colette, was a famous French writer, who was born in 1873 and died in 1954.  She is the second woman that has been admitted among the ten members of the literary l’académie Goncourt.  

The garden at Varetz was created in 2007 to celebrate Colette’s life and work.  It is near the Chateau de Castel Novel which at one time belonged to Henri de Jouvenel, the second husband of Colette.  Colette wrote several of her books in that Chateau.  The garden covers over 5 hectares of land and represents six different regions of France where she lived and which influenced her writing.

flower bed at the Gardens of Colette

Colette maintained her independent thoughts on how she led her life.  In her writings. she expressed her free thinking:   ” Une femme qui se croit intelligente réclame les mêmes droits que l’homme. Une femme intelligente y renonce. ” – “The woman who thinks she is intelligent demands equal rights with men. A woman who is intelligent does not.”  

I loved the simple rose that is named after her.

Rose Colette

Rose Colette

IMG_2227

She was certainly a beautiful woman and also had a great sense of humour. She said that she regretted nothing that she had done in her life.  One could not help but smile when she wrote:  “When she raises her eyelids, it’s as if she were taking off all her clothes.”

Colette

Colette

She lived life to the fullest and she wrote: “Faites des bêtises, mais faites-les avec enthousiasme.” – “Do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm!”

What I liked most about the garden was its simplicity; its oneness with nature, with arrangements that were sympathetic with the kind of life that Colette had lived.  We walked through the Tunnel végétal to reach the Jardin Provençal, remembering when she lived in Saint Tropez (1926-1938).

Tunnel végétal

Tunnel végétal

Amelia was in her elements, taking pictures of her favourite flowers and bees.  September can be such a beautiful month in Corrèze.

IMG_0117-001

The garden of Corrèze reflected the period that she lived in Castel Novel at Varetz (1911 – 1923) , just behind the present garden.  The flowers and the rock really captured the beauty of that countryside.

Jardin 4 - Corrèze

Jardin 4 – Corrèze

There is a little seat in the vegetable garden which really took my fancy.  Of course Colette did not see this garden, but I would like to imagine her sitting there some time before her death at the age of 81, and writing the piece in her novel, The Vagabond.  “So now, whenever I despair, I no longer expect my end, but some bit of luck, some commonplace little miracle which, like a glittering link, will mend again the necklace of my days.”

le potager

le potager


27 Comments

Yellow and purple

Verbena & sunflower

I have just realised how many of the flowers in the garden at the moment are either yellow or purple.  It was not intentional.  These perennial sunflowers were only used as a temporary filler to separate me from the next garden where I am creating a new border where trees have been removed.

Bumble on yellow sunflower

I have enjoyed them so much and they have survived so well in this extra hot year that they have won their place to stay.

The Verbena bonariensis work well with them and I am finding more self-seeded babies that I will mix with them for next year.

Amistad and sunflower

The sunflowers provide the perfect backdrop for my Salvia amistad which are a new addition to my salvias this year.

Salvia Amistad & uliginosa

The Salvia amistad is planted beside the Salvia uliginosa, also in its first year.  I saw it last year in a post by the Anxious Gardener but as it is pale blue it is not really allowed in this post.

Salvia Amistad

I could not imagine the Salvia Amistad being such a favourite with the bees but it must contain a lot of nectar as the bees completely disappear down the flower to remain there for some time before emerging looking very self-satisfied.

Salvia Amistad and bee

The bumbles prefer the shorter flowers of the uliginosa but I have seen them find another way to reach the nectaries by pushing aside the sepals like this bee above is doing.  Trying to walk down the throat of the flower is not an option for the fat bumble bees.

Cosmos and bumble

My Cosmos sulphureus was also an after thought this year and I put the seeds down late into any space that had a patch of soil vacant.

Cosmos Sulphureus

Their bright patches are a magnet for all sorts of bees and some are already setting seed which I will leave for the birds to feast on.  I will also be keeping enough seed for next year too as these ideal fillers and brighteners.

Geranium Megachile

My blue (they look purple to me) geraniums are starting to emerge from where the hot sun has been keeping them at bay.  These are the true geraniums and provide pollen for the bees, not like the stiff pelargoniums that are frequently grown as potted plants over here but have no attraction for bees or pollinators.

Korean Beauty

I have a Clematis “Korean Beauty” growing at the moment.  My sister, who loves clematis, gave me the seeds which I have dutifully germinated.  I find clematis infuriating as I try to guide them to a more upright orderly pattern but they usually end up forming tangled balls of untidy growth.  Then when I try and sort them out I end up snipping the wrong stem and finish with a flowering spray of clematis in one hand and a stunted looking plant left in the ground.

Bumble with Korean Beauty (1)

However, Korean Beauty has won her place in the garden because the bees love her and I like watching their antics as they search for the nectar.  The bumble bee above could hardly wait for the flower to open so that it could get first in line for the nectar.

Phacelia

My first sowing of Phacelia in the vegetable patch has finished.  It has stood guard over the saffron and kept the area virtually weed free.  Now I am waiting for the saffron shoots to appear.

New Phacelia

The experiment worked so well that I have sown another patch on the vegetable garden where some lettuce and greens have finished.  It is fun to watch the bees with purple pollen.

Malva sylvestris

I have been thinking about native flowers and although I try and pull out as much of the Mallow sylvestris that I can, I wonder if I am being too harsh.  It can be very invasive but perhaps I should find a legal corner for it.

Common Fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica

I did sow some common Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) last year because of its attraction for pollinators but time will tell if I will regret doing this.

Tradescantia (2)

My tradescantia has just started to flower for the second time this year with its purple petals and yellow tipped stamens.  And I must not forget to mention the little purple flowers of the nepeta pushing into the picture from the side.  The nepeta is a real workhorse of a flower for a hot dry garden and has, of course, purple flowers.

 


30 Comments

What colour is honey?

There are those beekeepers who maintain that the bee keeping year ends at this time of the year; others believe that the year really starts after the honey harvest as one prepares the hives for the coming year, looking forward to the Spring collection.

Whatever the merit of the discussion, I feel that the work and the pleasure never ends.  Michel advised us to go ahead and collect our honey a few days before my granddaughter’s visit to France so that the bees calm down after we have stolen their reserve of honey.  Being our first harvest, I followed the advice of using an escape board on the two hives with supers. I placed them on the hives on a sunny evening and the bees were quite content to let me do it without using the smoker that I had prepared. The following morning at 7 am, Amelia and I temporarily closed all four hives by way of precaution, and opened Cornucopia which had two supers.  There were indeed very few bees left on the frames and we easily brushed them off and placed the frames of each super in a separate box closing the lid after each transfer.

Opening up Violette was even easier as she had only one super.  None of the bees seemed disturbed by us taking their honey and once again the smoker lay unused at the side.  In fact, it was only the few stray bees left in the supers and the early birds returning to the hive that were very concerned that their hive was closed.  Once we opened the hive doors all returned to normal.

la Violette

la Violette

Violette is Amelia’s special favourite hive; once she saw the queen, she was smitten!  I admit that her bees appear to be the most gentle of all our hives.

Queen Violet

Queen Violette

We took the three boxes with our frames to Michel’s house where he has a special room with all the equipment necessary.  There is little merit in going through every step for the extraction, as everybody who has already done so knows how rewarding and pleasurable an experience it is.

Honey Harvest Blog

Michel was particularly keen that we keep the honey from each of of our hives separate, including the un-centrifuged honey obtained from the cappings.  We kept the separated honey for a week in 10Kg containers before bottling them.  Being a complete novice I was pleasantly surprised to see that from three supers, we ended with four different colours of honey, the fourth being the un-centrifuged honey from cappings.

IMG_0054

The hard work was almost over.  Our next task, after letting the bees clean their frames, was to start treating them against varroa.  Based on the advice of our regional bee health service, we have started three course of “Apilife Var”, which is an essential oil from thyme and other plants.  It is most effective in temperatures of 20-25 degrees C, which was about the temperature when we started the treatment.  Unfortunately for a few days the temperature rose to around 34C in the shade.  At that temperature the fumes generated could affect the larvae and in addition the bees don’t appreciate the smell.  So we had quite a lot of bees sitting outside the hive, and that left them easy prey to the Asiatic hornets which constantly come and pick the bees one by one.  It is heart breaking to watch this.  Amelia and I stand guard several times a day catching the hornets with a child’s fishing net.  We can win the battle of the moment, but we are not winning the war.  At the end the bees appear to have resigned themselves to some casualty.

The flowering season is not over yet.  The garden is still full of flowers and the bees are quite busy.  The ivy has also just started to flower in the forests around our house.

Honey bees on the ivy flower

Honey bees on the ivy flower

I am glad to see that in the interval between the removal of the supers and two weeks that have passed, the bees have added a considerable amount of additional honey stock for their winter reserve.  The only annoying thing is that the hornets are also visiting the same ivy flowers.

Asiatic hornet on ivy flower

Asiatic hornet on ivy flower

I try hard to accept the battles of the bee life and Amelia and I try to protect our “girls” against the predators as well as the unusually hot days the best way we can.

Ruches et parasols