The heat goes on


It has been a difficult summer in the garden.  The best laid plans have been scuppered by the heat and lack of rain.  I had sown Cosmos suphureus seeds by the vegetable garden to have lots to plant for a bright August garden.  However, the heat and lack of any rain did not allow me to move anything.


It’s not all doom and gloom, I did manage to coax some Rudbeckia and Cosmos to flower in the front garden and the bees still enjoyed the flowers even if they were in the wrong place.


There are hardly any Hollyhock flowers left so the bees are obliged to visit the Hibiscus syriacus.  They are not as popular as the Hollyhocks and I wonder if it is because their pollen is a lot stickier?  This male bumble had to spend a long time grooming after his drink of nectar.


I have been given another Hibiscus which our friend Michel had grown from one in his garden.  This one has a much lighter open growth and has more than one stem.  In addition, the honey bees like it.  It has five petals and a shorter pistil proportionally to the H. syriacus.


Gardners love to share their treasures and when my cousin and his wife, Annie, visited us from Seattle in the summer of 2014, Annie brought seeds of Red Robin tomatoes that she had saved from year to year for twenty years.  I was delighted when this spring I got a large crop of seedlings.  I planted them throughout the garden and then watched as they failed to thrive and disappeared (homesickness?).  The only clump that survived was under the olive tree, I do not think they could take the full sun this summer.  Now I have tasted these tiny tomatoes I have decided to collect my own seed and I think I will be able to choose better places for them next year.


Then there are the gifts of unknown species.  This was given to me by my sister as “You know that tree with the red leaves” – (you will note the plant does not have red leaves.)  It has taken me a year but I have deduced that it could be Cotinus.


At the same time she had potted up a cutting of – “You know that plant with the blue flowers that the bees like”.  It was quite a small cutting and the bees like quite a lot of blue flowers.  Never the less, it was a good cutting and it survived tucked away forgotten under larger neighbours until its blue flowers poked through a few days ago and I saw the first Caryopteris I’ve ever had.


I’ve even forgiven her for giving me pots of her Japanese anemones when I was starting the garden.  I found them so invasive that I have spent the last years systematically, but unsuccessfully, rooting them out.  Today I noticed a bumble bee on one that had cunningly concealed itself under my large fuchsia.  Perhaps if the bees like them I could permit a few to survive.


I freely admit I am totally biased when it comes to plants that provide for wild life, especially bees.  At this time of year in France many of the streets in town centres are lined with Lagerstroemia indica, usually the pink flowered trees.  They are popular garden trees as well, but I had found them gaudy.  I was very surprised to see how beautiful the bark was in winter.  I craved the beautiful bark in winter but the pink flowers were still too gaudy for me until Michel pointed out how the flowers attracted the bees.


It changed my perspective on the tree and it did not seem quite so gawdy but instead appeared an ideal tree to brighten the garden in summer and add interest with its bark in winter.  Is this opinion shift common in gardeners?  Do we mellow to certain plants over time?


So last week we were delighted to receive a present of  a pink Lagerstroemia indica which was planted with great care in the front garden.  Now I have to wait to see how long it will take for the formation of the fascinating bark.

33 thoughts on “The heat goes on

  1. I have never seen a Cotinus with anything other than lush purple leaves. O.o

    And I never really liked Dogwoods until I saw the amazing colour shift. It’s a bit ‘meh’ during the summer but oh so spectacular in the winter!


    1. Cotinus only turns red/purple in autumn, in spring it is green. This young one (if that is what it is) has never been anything but green but I think my sister was trying to jolt my memory of Cotinus at its most striking stage in autumn. I agree about Dogwoods which are very boring until the winter. Savill Garden near London, U.K. has a magnificent show of “Mid winter fire” in their winter garden. They look great when planted on a really large scale like that. Amelia

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      1. I have a Cotinus in my garden that stays a deep purple all year round. This one…

        It’s the only Cotinus I have ever seen.
        There was a house in Manchester where I used to live that had a parade of them in the garden and in the winter the light would be on them all day and it looked spectacular… Especially if there was snow on the ground. B-)


          1. Jenni Livingston

            Yes, there are a number of different Cotinus, but they all have a smooth leaf margin. So probably not a Cotinus – there’s a beautiful gold one available in Australia. We also have quite a variety of Lagerstroemia – not just the vivid pink. I went for the white – and it took a number of years to develop its beautiful trunk. I also avoided an annual prune, just taking off the odd branch to enhance the shape. If you dead head the flowers, you should get a second blooming too. We’ve been in the UK and have savoured the beautiful weather – sorry it’s been demanding in France. Garden in Melbourne is full of weeds and overgrown after our cold and wet spring…


            1. Oh dear, we will have to wait for a bit more growth to solve the ID of the “Cotinus”. I noticed the white flowered Lagerstroemia on the Web, it looks very beautiful but it is not common here. I think the pink ones must have come on the market first in France. I also read it was possible to grow Lagerstroemia and keep them short as a sort of hedge. I don’t think I will be lucky enough to get a second blooming here as the flowers don’t open until the very end of the summer. I did dead head mine as I did not want it putting energy into making seeds. I hope your spring warms up soon. Amelia


              1. Jenni Livingston

                Thank you Amelia – and hoping you get more rain to ease into autumn and winter more gently. There are dwarf Lagerstroemia available here but I haven’t tried them – we aren’t very good at hedges here either. The range of Lagerstroemia cultivars includes mauve, dark pink, light pink and white here – and they were developed to deal with the crepe myrtle proneness to mildew. They are being used as street trees too.


  2. We gardeners certainly do change our opinion about plants, but I would say they have to earn it! Take our kumquat tree: I had no idea what to do with the fruit, and my husband couldn’t forgive it for not being a satsuma, so we nearly uprooted it. Then I discovered the pleasure of making our own marmalade, and that transformed our view – and saved the tree. As it crops very well, it’s now shot up the rankings and is probably our no. 2 fruit tree after the lemon!
    We have also had a very hot summer, with loads of bugs, and we lost a fig sapling. It’s hard to see plants suffer – do hope your garden gets some rain soon.


  3. We’ve been just as hot and dry here and even the tough roadside “weeds” are wilting.
    As I’ve always said: beware of friends bearing plants. They always mean well and do it out of kindness but sometimes they really don’t know what they’re giving you.
    On the other hand my yard is full of plants that were given to me over the years, but I always quarantined them for awhile first, just to make sure.

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  4. Maybe this year’s garden is not as you planned but the bees still seem happy. I tend to put up with anything in the garden if it attracts the bees. Once upon a time I pulled out everything that didn’t go with my garden vision!


    1. I never knew that. At the beginning when I had so little they were such thugs and started to take over less vigorous plants. It looks as if I am going to have to find a place for them. I do like the way they look – it’s just their behaviour. 🙂 Amelia


  5. I love that new tree! I think I learn to love what I can grow, and if it doesn’t thrive in my garden I go off it. I do go for plants that attract wildlife, like my Centranthus for the hummingbird hawk moths… at first I was horrified at how fast the Centranthus spread, but when I saw how it attracted the moths and some butterflies I let it spread across the entire rockery! It has been hot here too, but not dry. Hope you get some rain once this next wave of heat passes.


    1. I never attempt to grow anything I would have to mollycoddle, I do not think I could handle the stress of wondering if it would die! I think the plants that grow well in your garden reinforce your attraction to them. I think the Lagerstroemia could be a bit tender for your climate. Amelia

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  6. I had to smile at your comment about the Anemones, I wish I could grow them successfully here! I think they are one of the most elegant flowers there are. I hope you will be kinder to them now that you know the bees like them.


    1. I will be! Although in my defence my sister had potted up some pretty scruffy purple ones in the first batch instead of the white ones I had meant. I do like them but they were getting the upper hand but now I am forewarned. Amelia

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        1. It is not what you would expect. I would have thought we would be ahead of you. Perhaps it is the dryness that is keeping the ivy back here, I must check my old diaries for dates. I hope the Ivy bees don’t come out for there is nothing for them.


    1. Perhaps the Lagerstroemia are all over France! I think you have been getting rain. I have stopped watching the Meteo (too painful). It seemed that the North and East have been getting a fair amount of rain but maybe I’m just jealous. Amelia


    1. My first batch of anemones from my sister were a rough looking purple variety so they must have throw backs with different colours. The Lagerstroemia has a white variety that I would like. Seemingly it is very easy to train and can be even kept low and bushy. Perhaps this autumn…Amelia


  7. Hello Amelia,
    Maybe someone should start a website for garden bloggers to house/garden swap occasionally – that way perhaps people like us could swap with a French gardener and enjoy some of their heat and sunshine, and ….they could enjoy some mists, grey days and RAIN?? Somehow, I think the swaps would tend to be just one way… Interesting though that the conditions with you are so hot – I wonder if bumbles struggle a little under such conditions given their very hairy bodies? And are your honeybees having a good year, or is it again a bit too hot for them – and for nectar production?
    Some of our plant choices too are definitely now influenced by insect appeal as well as aesthetics, which would never have been the case years ago. And I’m convinced we’re in the very infancy of raising awareness of how different cultivars of the same plant can vary hugely in their appeal to certain insects,
    best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mists, grey days and rain sounds lovely to me at the moment :). A good bit of gloom seems very appealing. I did see a bit on the news about beekeepers in the south of France having no honey in the hives because of the drought. My beekeeping magazine will perhaps inform me more but it does not publish in August (very French) and the September issue has not arrived yet. We have had a good for us honey harvest, Kourosh will write about it soon. I think they have chucked out all the drones and they will be able to fill up on the Ivy soon. I think the bumble bee colonies are reducing now as there are plenty of males around. The bumbles do look very fluffy but I suppose it works both ways and insulates from the fierce sun too. Amelia

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