a french garden

Some bee trees for the garden

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At this moment the back “lawn” is covered in Catsears with Dasypoda bees making the heads of the dandylion-like flowers droop as they land.  I find these bees so attractive with their fluffy hind legs covered in masses of fine hairs stuffed full of the sulphur yellow pollen.

As much as the Dasypoda attract me to watch them, I have to admit that the honey bees are doing a good job of collecting the pollen as well.  Their hind legs contain large nougats of the bright yellow pollen and I wonder whether they manage to carry more pollen by mixing it into a paste with the nectar or whether the Dasypoda manage to transport more of the pollen on their hairy hind legs.

I am always keen to provide as many sources of pollen and nectar for the bees throughout the year and I realise that trees can provide interest and shade for the garden and also nurture for the bees.  Last year I purchased three trees from a local nursery at Corme Royale and planted them in the autumn.  Planting trees is a long term project and if you want the quickest results then planting bare root trees in the autumn is the way to go.

The trees were bigger than we had expected but all the side branches were cut off severely before being handed over.  Kourosh assured that they were well staked.  This is the Fraxinus ornus or flowering Ash.  It was the last of the three to break into leaf in the spring and I was despairing that nothing would appear from the stick we had planted.  It appears to have survived although we need to water it while it is taking root, however, other Ash trees in the garden do not need water so it will become independent.  Perhaps next spring the bees will have some flowers.

The second tree is a Gleditsia triacanthos “Sunburst” and is the staked tree almost in the centre of the photograph in quite a dry area.  We chose this variety as it is drought resistant and has no thorns.  Some varieties of Gleditsia possess impressive thorns strong enough to burst rubber tyres (seemingly).  This is the only tree that has suffered slightly and the highest leaves look a little wilted.

The third tree is a Koelreuteria paniculata and despite its name has prospered and produced flowers in its first year.

Close up the flowers remind me of tiny narcissi flowers.

I can also verify that the flowers attract the bees.

The surprise is that after the flowers have passed, these seed pods continue to provide a very attractive decoration.

So on the seventh of July, the baby Koelreuteria was filling out with flowers.

Now on the sixteenth of August it is pushing three metres tall (nearly 10 foot) and I can imagine what it would look like once it is grown-up.

I have another tree in flower at the moment.  It too is a baby, coming up to two metres tall.  This tree has also grown very rapidly but I have no idea what it is.

For the past few years, each autumn I have bought some plants and trees, with some friends, from a small business that provides plants and trees reputed to provide a lot of nectar or pollen for the bees.  The owner keeps his own bees and has a charming habit of adding an extra few plants and also a “cadeau” plant with the order.  So far, so good but this year the gift plant did not have a label and has turned into a real surprise.  His catalogue is very small so I was sure I would be able to work it out.  He is not on the internet so I suppose I could write to him and send him a photograph but I was wondering  if anybody recognised the tree.  I have now found out that this is an  Amorpha fruticosa (see comments below).  It was listed in my catalogue as a shrub with pale blue flowers (?).

I have an Acacia growing close bye and the leaves look very similar, but Acacia flowers are white.  False Acacias can have pink flowers but these flowers are very deep purple.  It already flowered in April, despite its small size.  I would love to learn what it is called.

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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.

24 thoughts on “Some bee trees for the garden

  1. I don’t recognize the tree at all but the leaves do look like acacia / mimosa leaves.

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  2. I have no idea Amelia, but as NH Garden Solutions said, they look like Mimosa leaves. It is very pretty. Curiously, I was in a local garden center today and teasing some (sensitive plants) Also a type of mimosa. Mimosa pudica I think. Small world!

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  3. I also thought Acacia from the look of the leaves, so perhaps it is related.

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  4. The trees are growing so beautifully. Do you have an idea of how many you would like on the property?

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    • I think the number of trees I want and the number I can have will not correspond 🙂 We are only understanding the importance of shade in a garden over here. Kourosh wanted fruit trees but often they are not the best trees to provide shade. Eating under a tree when it is hot is often pleasant whereas eating under just a parasol would be impossible. We are now thinking of planting another Koelreuteria in the front garden to give us a shady eating place. Amelia

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  5. Those seed pods are beautiful, you have made some unusual (to me) selection of trees, with the bees in mind. There are such wonderful selections of trees available, I need an arboretum!

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    • I am completely in accord with you on choosing trees. They are even more important here for providing shade and this is something we were a bit late in thinking about. There are so many beautiful trees. Amelia

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  6. Lovely pictures of the dasypoda and their pantaloons!

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  7. Just a little advise; while the trees establish it would be a good idea to remove a circle of grass from around the the trunk. Grass competes for water so much.

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    • Thank you, when we have planted the trees we have tried to do this but we have found it difficult to keep the grass back. The new trees have had a lot of straw placed around them to keep the encroaching weeds at bay but even in less than a year it is difficult to keep it clear. I think the answer will be more regular clearing and continued mulching. Amelia

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  8. Hey, this is my first visit to your blog. It’s a pleasure to see your garden.

    The plant in the last two photos looks very much like an amorpha… The timing is strange though (it would normally flower in late May / June in Z6/7).

    Koelreuteria is great — attractive to bees and very tolerant of drought.

    Have you tried the classic bee tree – evodia? In our garden the oldest specimen has reached 7 years of age, 3 m tall and wide and is still not flowering 😦

    When you’re setting up a mulch circle around young trees, in my experience it’s a good idea to use not just straw but also fresh grass clippings as this will make the mat denser (but still permeable to water) and thus more effective against grass.

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    • Thanks for the comment and ID! It is indeed an Amorpha fruticosa. I was thinking tree as it had grown so rapidly but I think they are classed more as shrubs. I have not seen much action from the bees though. I do have an Evodia which was very little when I planted it so it looks as if I should not expect flowers from it in the near future 🙂 Do you not get a lot of grass re-growth using the grass cuttings for mulch? Amelia

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      • Once you’ve spread straw and grass cuttings around the plants that you wish to protect, the material is in my experience thick enough to prevent grass growth.

        How much? 10 cm thick works for me. It will get compacted and eventually decay. Then you top it up again. How quickly? That depends also on how much water the mulched plant is receiving. Let’s say, as a first approximation, that laying down cuttings 3 times per season is needed.

        Especially In those years when the summer is really hot and dry, mulch is in my experience very, very much preferred to keeping a circle of empty soil around the selected plants / trees. Even a thin covering works to prevent the full strength of the sun bearing down on the soil and dessicating the top layer and the young roots.

        For plants that like acid soil you might want to try sawdust as mulch (raspberries in particular love this). It’s a good idea to let the sawdust compost a bit and not use it totally fresh. Also, make sure you have coarse sawdust as if it’s very fine it will make a crust that blocks water.

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        • …. On the other hand, in super wet years a thick layer of mulch will lead to a sticky mess and to super happy snails 🙂 So always consider the circumstances.

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          • One more thing (I do go on so much 🙂 — before you lay down the mulch, cut the grass closely to the ground (scissors, motorized weedwhacker, whatever). This will prevent already-grown grass from poking through your freshly laid material. It makes a big difference.

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  9. … A follow up to my previous comment — I notice now you’ve mentioned that the plant in the last photo has already flowered in the spring. This reinforces the possibility that it’s an amorpha (likely amorpha fruticosa). Watch out – amorpha is beautiful, also a good mulch material source and a nitrogen fixer, but can get seriously invasive if it gets sufficient water.

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    • I checked out the flowers on the net and I am sure. The catalogue of my supplier lists the flowers as pale blue which had made me discount Amorpha fruticosa as a possibility. It has no chance of getting too much water. I am so glad I am able to put a name to it now.

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  10. We have a false acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia) but, although the leaves do look very similar, the flowers are totally different – pale and pea-like.

    Lovely pictures, as always!

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