a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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The orchids of Saint-Maurice-de-Tavernole

There is a small nature reserve at Saint-Maurice-de-Tavernole dedicated to wild orchids, about half an hour away from us.

We have already visited this special site in May of 2016 and I made my first tentative identifications.

Orphrys passionis (1)

This time we visited on April 4 to see if we could see any early orchids.  This was a new one for us and I think it is Orphrys passionis or Passion orchid.  The name, perhaps, is derived from a flowering near Easter time.

Orphrys aranifera

These look very similar but have a yellow border which may be, Orphys araneola, the Little Spider Orchid or Orphrys aranifera, the Spider Orchid.

Despite a cold wind it was well worth the visit.

Anacamptis pyramidalis 1

It took us to 4 May for our second visit and by then the Pyramid orchids were out in force.  You should really visit every 15 days to properly appreciate the progression of the orchids but spring is such a busy time in the garden and with the bees that we have missed our chance this year.

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I also missed my chance to see a Eucera bee on a purple orchid, this was Kourosh’s capture.  Not a very good specimen for the orchid but that’s bees for you.

Purple orchid

This purple orchid is in better shape.

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I think this is the Orphrys scolopax with its little green point at the end of the flower.  But I cannot quite see the resemblance to a woodcock’s eye.

Fly orchid (2)

On the other hand, if you squint and use your imagination, you may be able to see where the fly orchid, Orphrys insectifera gets its name.

Iphiclides podalirius

These short visits really drive home the point that it is all about environment.

This Scarce Swallowtail butterfly, Iphiclides podalirius, was flying around and I was able to capture it, even if time was pressing to catch lunch before the restaurants closed.  Yet it is a threatened species in many European countries.

polyommatus bellargus Adonis blue

Likewise, the Adonis blue butterfly, polyommatus bellargus, was feeding on the bird’s foot trefoil.  This is a butterfly on the decline in the U.K. due to habitat loss.

This strip of land is protected yet hanging on against the encroaching agriculture and loss of habitat.

Viw from path

This is what you see from the path as far as the eye can see.

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So is it a choice between the vines, a bottle of wine or a glass of cognac?

Orchid meadow

Or is it a narrow meadow full of orchids and wild flowers?


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Redstarts Breaking News

A few days ago, coming out of the back room from the kitchen I noticed that the red-start had thrown out a tiny broken egg shell.

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I was quite excited hoping that the birds would let me have a quick look.  But, as both the male and female guard their nest, I am reluctant to disturb them too much.

Three days later, I did get my chance, as I saw the female returned with a caterpillar and then a few minutes later she left the nest,  So I rushed to have a look.  All five babies must have thought their mummy is back

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Kourosh


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Redstart

What would the garden be without the birds?

In our garden in France some days we hardly hear any sound of human existence.  Just the two of us digging, weeding and replanting.

This Spring we have  four pairs of redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) nesting in our garden, on the ash tree, under the car porch, in the Persimmon (Kaki) tree, and on the low beam outside the  kitchen.  This last one was originally an old robin nest.  That makes it a bit awkward as we have to be able to get in and out of the outhouse, but it seems that the bird and us have got used to each other, as long as we don’t look at her when we pass by.

Actually I think three pairs are the common redstarts and the other pair are black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros).

redstart 2

Here in France they are called le Rouge-queue and le Rouge-queue noir.  Looking at their tails, I think I agree with the French.

redstart 3

I had a peep inside their nest earlier, as the little bird was carefully preparing it.  Have you ever seen such soft bedding?

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A few days later I looked at the nest on the beam outside the kitchen door,  The nest was all ready with five eggs.  It looks as if she has used the sheep’s wool from next door to line the nest.

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I have left several water dishes for our birds, but I think the redstarts are the cleanest birds.

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Their bath times remind me of my grand daughter who loved what she used to call her ‘splishy splashy’.  Is this one washing her ears?

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The black redstart also loves bath times,

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I wonder if they would like deeper baths?

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This all makes a change from the bees and swarm collecting.

Kourosh


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First days of May

House front

This is the time for the first and best bloom of the roses.  The climbing rose at the front of the house is Madame Isaac Pereire and has just started flowering.

Madame Isaac Pereire and bumble

The early bumble bees have claimed this rose as theirs.

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The male early bumble bees have started to appear.  They will be looking for the new queens so their cycle will soon be finishing.  I will miss them, they are so quick and lively.  I will have to wait until next spring until the new queens appear and start their own nests.

Rosa Mutabilis on side

My Rosa Mutabilis is making a bid for freedom.  I planted her too close to the willows, which were cut short at the end of March, and now she is trying to escape from them before they shade her again.  The willows will win the race so I must really find a better place for her in the autumn.

Rosa Mutabilis

The colour of this rose changes as the flower matures.

Rosa Mutabilis and bee

Of course, the best feature is that the bees love the rose pollen.

Red hot poker and bee Kniphofia

It’s amazing how my view point of plants can change.  I was given some Knipofia or red hot pokers but never really liked them and I removed most of them.  Kourosh saved this one.  It is in a very poor position but it attracts a lot of honeybees.  It must have a lot of nectar as they stay inside the flower a long time and I often see two or three bees on the same flower.

Smerinthus ocellata Eyed Hawk moth 1

It is not only bees that we notice.  The “dead leaf” on the young willow shoots looked a very unusual shape – for a willow leaf.

Smerinthus ocellata

A closer look showed us a beautiful moth, Smerinthus ocellata, the Eyed Hawk Moth, I think.  It looks so clear in a photograph but the resemblance to a dead leaf is uncanny in the light of day.

Laurel hedge (1)

The bees are omnipresent in our lives at the moment.  Our neighbour opposite has a laurel hedge and I had warned her to tell me if she saw any strange insects flying near it because Asian hornets often nest low in hedges for their first small nest.  Two days ago she came to see me because of the flying insects and the noise of buzzing in the hedge.  I immediately got on my bee suit as the laurel was not in flower so I presumed a swarm had landed in the hedge.

She was quite right.  There was a lot of noise and it was honey bees!  I searched all through the hedge, it was empty in places, but there was no swarm and the noise was not in the one area but all over.

Laurel hedge (2)

Then we noticed that the bees were all doing the same thing.  They were on the underside of the very young shoots and lapping up the surface exudate.

The laurel is known as Laurier palme here.  I checked on it and its latin name is Prunus laurocerasus.  The leaves are actually toxic if you were to choose to chop up the leaves and make cherry-laurel water.  However, small doses of this water has been used in the past to give an almond flavour to pastries and sauces.  Traditional medicines have used the cherry-laurel as an anti-spasmodic and sedative and to treat coughs.  It contains hydrocyanic acid and I can think of better things to flavour my sauces with.

However, the bees want it.  Could it be an ingredient of propolis?  Propolis is what the bees use to fill any holes in their hives and has antiseptic, antibacterial and antioxydant properties.

Swarm in hawthorn

The bees are omnipresent.  They tax our ingenuity by swarming in tall Hawthorn trees but Kourosh has improvised with very long stick and a plastic bucket secured with packaging tape.  I did not think it would work – but it did.  We are at swarm number seven now.  It has been a busy time for the bees.

Tree frog.JPG

At the moment I look forward to a quieter life, like that of our little tree frog that sleeps under the plastic cover of our outdoor table.  He only wakes up when we lift of the cover to have our morning coffee.