a french garden


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Summer arrives

We had almost no Winter this year; and the Spring has been most unusual.  Across the mainland Europe, warm days were interrupted with days of heavy rain and wind.

A week ago Amelia and I were driving near the city of Cognac and it was truly sad to see large tracks of vineyards completely flattened by hail-storm of late May.  They will have very little grape to harvest this year as well as next year, as next year’s crop should appear on this year’s growth.

In this little corner of the Charente-Maritime of France we have been gratefully sheltered from the worst of the inclement weather.

Since 20th June the temperature has suddenly shot up to over 30 degrees C (about 90 degrees F).  The garden has changed, as some of the Spring flowers have faded and others such as monarda and hydrangeas have  taken over.

Hydrangeas

The bees have been extra busy, but for a while I had some difficulty retrieving my bee suit and the bee equipment.  They are all stored in the cellar just outside the utility room.  There is a little beam there less than two metres high and a little redstart had decided to nest there using an old robin’s nest.

redstart nesting

Another sneaky look whilst she was away and what do I discover?  The little lady has been really busy.

redstart eggs

Five tiny eggs packed in gently in the old nest which she had repaired.

Two or three days after that I had another quick look to see what is happening.

redstart chicks

They were all there.  All five of them.

It became a little easier after that to enter and leave the cellar to retrieve my bee suit.  But at each occasion, the chicks thought that their mummy has returned and will feed them soon.

redstart chicks

Meanwhile in the olive tree in the front garden a little sparrow was waiting for his mother.

baby sparrow

Oh, well.  If mummy is slow in returning, perhaps the little fluff ball can have a go at the seeds himself.

baby sparrow

But what is this little bird in the water tough?  He is having what my little grand-daughter calls her ‘splishy-splashy’.

baby sparrow having a bath

Even the blue tits is wondering who he is.

birds at the water dish

Despite the heat, I must go and cut the grass in the back garden.  But I don’t really have the heart cutting the wild flowers.

The garden and the hives in June

Kourosh

 

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A wet June in the garden

Sedum border

This year the garden has had more rain than I have ever experienced here.  I noticed the yellow sedum had dropped its seeds and new plants were growing in the hollow of the next door stone.  By this time of the year moss would usually have turned to a crispy brown but it has inspired me to put some more sedum into a little pot because if it can survive on a stone it will survive in a little pot without much care from me.

Tilia platyphyllos

Everywhere is green and the trees are doing well with the extra rain.  The Linden or Lime tree (Tilia platyphyllos) is in flower and I will be taking its flowers to dry for making tea.

Linden

Of course, I won’t take all the flowers.  The bees have to have their share.  I once tasted monofloral lime honey.  It tasted like eating the wonderful perfume of the flowers, marvellous.  I usually take my tea without sugar but when I infuse the Lime tree flowers I always take it sweetened with honey.

New Dawn

The roses seem happy with the extra rain.  New Dawn is the best it has ever been, especially as some trees were removed from the neighbouring garden two years ago and she now has more light.  Still she always did well in the comparable shade and her shiny leaves keep healthier than a lot of roses.

Bobby James far-001

Bobby James has adapted well to a position under a tree.

Bobby James

The bees appreciate Bobby James too.  The pollen is taken by all the bees.

veilchenblau

Veichenblau is almost finished flowering but is another rose that attracts the bees in quantity.  However, both these roses usually only have the one abundant flowering.

Bundle

The poppies seem to have difficulty opening with the lack of the usual sunshine.  The bees became impatient with this opening poppy and five of them forced their way inside!  The pollen must taste very good or have other properties to make them want to compete in such a bundle for the pollen.

Hover fly

I have become more appreciative of the hover flies since I have learnt that, in addition to being good pollinators, their larvae are voracious consumers of aphids.  In a publication backed by the French Ministry of Agriculture it states that female syrphid or hover flies can lay between 500 and 1000 eggs and that each larva can consume between 250 to 400 aphids over its life.

Verbascum

I am rather pleased that this Verbascum chose a convenient spot to put down roots.  I usually have one or two in the garden as the seeds get blown in from outside.  I don’t know what species it is but I think the wild carder bees will love the down on the leaves.

Verbascum-001

The honey bees seem to collect nectar from the pretty yellow flowers but the lower leaves are usually eaten.  Until today I suspected slugs and snails.

Perhaps Mullein moth

I would never have noticed this fat caterpillar if I had not been watching the bees.  I am not sure what it is but as it is on a Mullein and looks very similar to a Mullein moth caterpillar…

Birdsfoot trefoil

Outside the garden the wild flowers are benefiting from the extra rain.  I have never seen as much birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) on the verges as there is this year.   I should use the past tense as all the verges on the little roads around us have all been cut.  France – terre de pollinisateurs mmn…

 

 


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Garden and owl update

Back garden

This is the first year I feel the garden is beginning to take shape.  The willows are now sheltering a seating area in the back garden.

TableThe plants are taking on a more mature look.

Lupin

I’ve actually managed to grow lupins.  Well, four plants from a packet of seed.  But only two of them have flowered so far, but it is an improvement over zero.

Front garden

The front garden managed to fill itself up with a lot of self seeded flowers but they disguised the weeds wonderfully.

Nigella and bee

I must confess the Nigella did get a bit out of hand but I had not realised how much the honey bees liked the pollen so they were allowed to run free.

Poppy (2)

Likewise the poppies are always welcome.  They can change their colours and this one brings back memories of the holiday when we originally brought the seed head home with us.

Kaki

Best of all at the moment is the noise of the bumble bees in the Kaki or Persimmon tree which is in flower.

Cotoneaster

There is a good competition volume wise from the cotoneasters.   Luckily we have several different sorts so the flowering period and buzzing is extended.  The honey bees like these flowers too but this year the garden seems to have even more bumble bees than usual.

IMG_4574

The Phacelia is a magnet for the pollinators and full of bumble bees.

Sedum (1)

I had planted a bright yellow sedum in a small stone container in the front garden as I felt it would be able to stand getting dried out.  I am pleased that the yellow flowers are attracting the bees, especially a small halictus bee.Compost border

I had sown some seeds in the front garden border but when we came back from a visit to the U.K. I found that they had been completely smothered by tomatoes and lettuce from our compost.  We ate the lettuce but I had to weed out all the tomatoes which looked healthier than the ones I had planted much earlier from seed.  I did let the lettuce go to seed last year to see if any bees liked the seed heads (they did not.)  However, I thought the composting process would generate enough natural heat to kill any seeds.  Is there any way to avoid this?  I have always had the odd tomato pop up but nothing like this before.

Atelier

Kourosh decided he had not seen the owls for a while.  He has fixed up an owl box in the workshop (see New home for an old trunk) subsequently the owl brought back its mate Is It Spring yet?).  So today he set up his ladder and took a photograph of inside the box.

Owl box

It looks as if they have been busy but we feel a bit cheated.  We felt that if they were ever to have chicks we might see them.

Owl eggs (1)

All we can see is some egg shells stuffed in the corner.  Have they done it?  Have they raised any chicks?

 


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Wildlife Wednesday – A Perfect Storm

Are your garden plants treated with neonics? Julie is highlighting the lack of clarity in labelling of treated plants destined for our gardens.
Will gardeners be able to lobby for more transparency? Even in France?

Gardening Jules

Inspired by Tammy’s Casa Mariposa blog, I have been trying for some time to compile a list of UK Garden Centres and Nurseries which sell plants without neonics – systemic insecticide use. I am failing. The RHS were unable to help – despite selling a licensed logo “Perfect for Pollinators” This isn’t regulated – plants can be treated with neonicintoid insecticides and still carry the label.

Astrantia Roma Astrantia Roma and Bumblebees

Neonics, used to kill off insects by commercial growers deemed to be aesthetically harmful to a plant, stay within the plant – that same systemic insecticide is able to kill the very pollinators it’s labelled to attract. Which is beyond stupid. Laced with hidden toxic chemicals enticing us to buy the perfect plant we are creating a pollinator death trap. Dave Goulson reports “Neonics in soil can persist for years. They can also last for several years once inside perennial…

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