a french garden

Not your usual garden flowers

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pulicaria dysenterica

Pulicaria dysenterica, or Fleabane, is not your usual garden flower and I can just imagine you thinking – “That figures!”  I thought hard about bringing it into the garden as I was worried that it might be difficult to control as it seems to pop up on the roadside here in the summer time without any problem.  Actually it has grown taller and more shrub like in the garden and is quite attractive in the wilder part.  Time will tell if I have difficulty in controlling it.

Green eyed bee

This is the reason I have it in the garden.  I love this green-eyed bee, which in turn loves the Fleabane.  However, this is my first picture of it this year but having the Fleabane in the garden may have saved me from heatstroke if I had been searching for it, as usual, outside.  July has been very hot and sunny.

Megachilae

There are lots of other bees that come along, like this little Megachilae which I can recognise from a distance as it bobs its tail up and down on the flower to pick up the pollen on the hairs under her abdomen.  I think this is a very efficient method to gather pollen but this is the only time I’ve seen it used.

Halictes

The different Halictes come in droves but my green-eyed bee remains elusive.

Common blue butterfly

As I wait I get restless and snap at the butterflies that visit.  It is a very useful plant if you are keen to have a focal point to watch a lot of the pollinators around your garden.  As for herbal uses, it would seem to have been effective as a treatment against dysentery and the dried plants were among those used for strewing on the floors to deter fleas.  Perhaps not as useful nowadays, when we are not looking for a cure for cholera or something to control the fleas from a garden plant.

Lettuce flowers

This year again I have decided to let some lettuce flower.  Last year I let lettuce flower to see what bees were attracted to it and again this year I found only some tiny bees bothered to visit the flowers, although it is hardly surprising as they are competing with the lavender and origano flowers.  This year I have let the lettuce flower because I want to collect the seeds.

Lettuce flower closed

The lettuce flowers only last for one morning and then close in the afternoon.

Lettuce seeds

The seed heads are like little dandelion clocks and I pinch the seed heads off each day.  I decided to collect the seeds of our red and green leaf lettuce as lovely plants appeared in the front garden in the spring, obviously arriving with the garden compost.  However, we have had difficulty in getting the bought seeds to germinate so I am going to try DIY lettuce seeds.

Mullein garden

I have had several Mullein plants (Verbascum thapsis) self seed in the garden this year and I have found that they fit in very well and I like their tall candelabra shape.  This picture was taken in July.

Mullein garden august

Now in August, most of the flowers are finished but I have decided to let it go to seed.  It is a biannual and is very easy to remove by cutting it at the base.  It has a tap root and its roots do not wander through the garden.  Its seeds do like some open ground and it prefers an open spot with plenty of sun.  I can think of a few suitable spots if I can harvest the seeds.

It is also regarded as a medicinal plant and the flowers can be added to tisanes.  The young leaves can also be used if taken before the flowering but in any case the tisanes should be well strained to remove and tiny leaf hairs which could cause irritation.

Mullein honey bee

The reason I want to have a steady supply of the Mullein is to be able to watch all the different kind of bees that come each morning to gather the bright orange pollen.

As I take note of the flowers that attract the bees I notice how many of these flowers have been regarded as medicinal herbs in the past.

 

 

 

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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.

23 thoughts on “Not your usual garden flowers

  1. Lovely photos, Amelia,, and well done to you on trying to grow your own lettuce – do let us know how it works out. I tried once letting the lettuce flower, but the flowers just went soggy and rotted in our climate – no such problems for you with all that glorious French heat and sunshine.
    Best wishes
    Julian

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  2. I’ve never seen that fleabane; ours is quite different but still attracts a lot of bees. Our
    mullein and lettuce plants also look very different than yours.
    Thankfully I’ve seen a lot of bees here this year.

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  3. Hi Amelia , your little leaf cutter is a Heriades truncorum a resin bee which loves fleabane, it has the scopa on the underside of its abdomen like megachile sp .. 🙂

    Stephen

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    • Thank you for that Stephen. I have them nesting in my bee hotels but I could not be sure that it was the same ones. Are you familiar with this “bobbing” action which I found very distinctive? Amelia

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      • yes i have seen it ..

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        • What are the features you see, Stephen, that tell you that this is a Heriades? I am trying to learn to distinguish the different solitary bees but every time I think I have cracked it something new comes up, which of course is part of the fun!

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          • well its not a megachile , then the shape , head shape and the markings on the abdomen , and lastly the scopa and plant its feeding on , obviously in france there are more type of bee so it could be something else .. and like alot of bees unless you take a specimen then you cant be 100% sure
            🙂

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  4. Yes, indeed! Not the usual plant in an ornamental garden. I think it’s difficult to control it, I prefer other plants to attract pollinator, instead I have several lavender and I’m surprised sometimes with the quantity of flowers that attract pollinators I would not think they will !
    I have some lettuces in bloom but the flowers are blue. Maybe it depends on the variety.

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    • Blue lettuce flowers! Your lettuce is a different variety but it must look very pretty. I like lavender in the garden but the flowers are very short lived compared to our Nepeta which the bees love too. I pick our lavender and use it in the cupboards to perfume them so you cannot have everything. Amelia

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      • I have a lot of lavender so I can leave a lot for the bees and harvest some for the cupboards !
        Yes, blue flower of lettuces are very pretty, I love blue flowers.

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        • All the books say you should harvest lavender while in flower but I’ve never had the heart to cut it down. I’ve used the finished flower heads and they still have perfume. Do you find that the fresh flower heads give you more perfume?

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  5. I love fleabane and would be quite happy to have it in the garden. I have never heard of green eyed bees though.
    Do you get Mullein Moth in France?

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    • We have Mullein moths and I have seen the caterpillars on the Mullein but not any chrysalis, perhaps they mature somewhere else. The bee is a Tetralonia, we get a lot of them in the Malva plants but not this one. I have got photographs of it but not really good ones, it is very skittish. I do not think it is a U.K. species. Amelia

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  6. The bees obviously know what is good for you. You may already know this but lettuce seed germination is very poor in high temperatures.

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  7. I have mullein, but I haven’t seen the bees on it. We are forever walking around, noting where the bees are, or aren’t. We planted 1000s of square feet of wildflowers, which are visited regularly by the native pollinators–but so far, our own bees haven’t been there at all.

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    • We also like to check out where the bees go but it is impossible. It depends on the availability of nectar sources and it sounds as if yours have got a big selection. We are in a mainly vine growing area so unless there is something big happening outside, like the chestnuts are in flower, we see our bees in the garden eg. on the Gaura, Oregano etc. Amelia

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  8. Those bees will love your garden. Lovely photos.

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  9. In our garden I sometimes (forgetfully) let the lettuce self-seed. Any seedlings that are not in the right place are then moved into more orderly rows! This past winter we enjoyed a self-sown bed of lambs lettuce (mache), frissee and lettuce, oh and rocket. Yes, I am very forgetful at times!

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