In praise of Mullein

We have lots of Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) in the garden.  It self seeds, but the small seedlings are easily transplanted in the autumn to a more appropriate site.

All the Mullein plants do not have a happy life.  This year the caterpillars have ravaged quite a few.  Some were able to make a come back, others not.

The more voracious caterpillars continued to devour the plants right to their almost flowering buds.

The caterpillar becomes very large and fat and is easily recognised.

Swallow tail butterfly – Papilio machaon

Please see Malcolm’s comment below.  The caterpillars on the Mullein are from Mullein moths! I have had Swallow tails on my fennel previously and have confused these fat caterpillars although the colour is different.   

They are also a wonderful source of pollen for bees.  They have to get up early to get the most plentiful offerings of pollen.  By the afternoon there is not much action on the flowers.  But new flowers open each day.

It is not just honey bees that use the Mullein flowers to provide pollen other bees gather the bright orange pollen too.

You can see how tiny this bee is by comparing with the size of the stamens.

The flowers have been used to make herbal cough syrups but they have to be carefully gathered as the duvet on the leaves and stem can be irritating to the throat if mixed in with the flowers.  The infusions are also supposed to be beneficial for the throat and coughs but need  to be filtered carefully.  I have not tried gathering the flowers but leave them for the bees.

I was pleased to see that our neighbour has left a Molene standing proudly beside their drive.  Every little helps and in our dry, chalky soil it makes a very easy architectural plant.

 

Les jardins du Coq

I must admit that I get jealous when I read about the garden visits in the U.K.  However, I found a garden to visit – open from April and one and a half hours drive away.  It is also on our way to visit the orchids in St Maurice de Tavernole. So on a beautiful May day we paid the gardens a visit.

I suppose I had expected more similarities with garden I had visited in England, where I am excited by the prospect of discovering new plants and trees.

Here in France the gardens are designed not just for plants.  This garden of two hectares is divided into themes designed to evoke personal memories and a message of peace, love and liberty.

Even the straw acting as a dressing bears a tile with a quotation from Charles Baudelaire, “Ce qu’il y a d’ennuyeux dans l’amour, c’est que c’est un crime où l’on ne peut pas se passer d’un complice.”  So here you come to reflect and to relax. in the beauty of the garden.

The roses were not fully out in May.

There is a meadow area with the orchids and wild flowers left to their own devices.

There were bee orchids and purple orchids and other orchids not quite open.  Plenty of birds foot trefoil and

burnet moths.

There were goats and chickens for the children to see but the geese had been put in an enclosure as they can be a bit bad-tempered at this time of year.

 

Along the way I had plenty to think about. And as we found a pretty seating area we could not resist a little pause.

The bench could look good in our garden, and the message is in English this time.

A rather enigmatic message?

I like this idea of the roof tiles around the tree.  It is something I might try myself.

This is what is rare in France!

A tea room with a view!

How good did it feel to enjoy a pot of tea with accompanying sweet biscuits with a view like this!

O.K. I admit I am a philistine.  Perhaps I can return and make more of an effort to get in touch with my inner self.  It certainly has the necessary scenery and the hints to guide you on your way.

Good point!

Kourosh caught me from the other side of the lake taking a purposeful stride to the next stop.  Perhaps, I have still not sunk into the cool, relaxed mode that is recommended for this garden.

So I leave you with a very pertinent quote and a resolution to return another time to chill out and allow the ambiance and quotes to do their work.

 

Into June in the garden

From May the garden seems to explode with flowers.  The roses fight to take pride of place.  The Veilchenblau is a favourite with the bees.

The Étoile de Hollande and I have a difficult relationship.  The perfume is superb but I call her a bit of a thug but she retorts that I have never given her a proper  space and room to grow the way she likes.  She has a point.

The New Dawn stays cornered at the bottom of the garden but has got more light this year, but not more attention.

I’ve managed to move my peonies into better positions and I have been rewarded by finding out that the bees will take their pollen.  However, it seems that when I move a peony that I unwittingly leave some root behind and another one pops up, which was not my aim.

The garden has taken up a lot of time lately.  There has been such a lot to plant and then the broad beans had to be gathered and shelled – a long process.  The poppies are too pretty to entirely remove.

When the first of the pink poppies of Troy open they are surrounded by all types of bees.

There are plenty of red field poppies but it is the big pink poppies that are the favourites.

It is really a time of abundance for the bees in the garden as the cotoneasters are in flower.

They are loved by all the bees and the bigger the bush the more noise of bees there is.

Every year is different but this year has brought a lot of these little beetles in everyone’s garden here.  They look like little beetles that eat pollen.

I often see things and mean to find out about them but I am too slow.  All winter a strange assembly of sticks, like a caddis fly larva pouch, has hung on the garage door.  I have meant to check on it until one day I saw a chrysalis protruding from the end.  Too late I thought!

Luckily, we were just in time to see the emerging moth.  I think it is Canephora hirsuta, or Hairy Sweep, a type of bag moth.  It is a male because the females have no wings.  This is the first time I have seen it here.

The bees have been busy in the Persimum or Kaki tree.  This year the tree has produced a record number of flowers.

Despite the ground being scattered with the excess small fruits it looks like a lot of fruit has set.

We have been having strawberries for a while now and our first raspberries are coming through too.  These yellow ones are ready before the pink ones and are sweeter with a good flavour.

The first flowers have just opened up in the lime tree so the bees will be in for a busy time in the next few days and we will enjoy a perfume fest.