a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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The October Garden

After months of drought now everything is wet!   The Nerine bowdenii has shot up with rain, totally unconcerned with the dry summer as it lay dormant underground.  But the petals are sodden.

The little cyclamen have pushed through undeterred by the dry summer.  Certainly autumn flowering bulbs and tubers are good drought resistant plants for the garden.

The bees go out for nectar and pollen when the rain stops but this poor bumble bee was quite soaked from the wet petals.

The Tulip tree or Liriodendron did not get watered during the summer but the autumn rains have been sufficient to allow it to put on its usual autumn show.

Since we have had rain the Chosia ternata “Sundance” has started flowering.  I find the Choisias do very well in the garden and as well as the C. ternata (basic?) I have a Choisia ternata “Aztec pearl”. which I prefer as I like the finer leaves.  Yesterday, I saw a Choisia ternata “White Dazler” in a nursery.  It was covered in white, very perfumed flowers that the bees seemed to be appreciating as much as I was appreciating the perfume.  I paused from purchasing as I do not have a place ready for it at the moment, and it was 35 euros.  Has anyone experience with this variety?

My Osmanthus heterophyllus “Goshiki” has also come through the summer to provide us with loads of perfumed flowers but it does live in a shady spot and did not have to withstand any scorching.

Today was sunny and in the low twenties Centigrade and it was so good to get into the garden after all the rain, even though the work to be done is a bit daunting.

The good thing about sunny days in the garden is that you are never alone.

Today a grasshopper joined us for morning coffee.

Then we were amused while we had lunch on the patio by the antics of another green insect.  This time better camouflaged, in amongst my potted Salvia uliginosa.

This is the Praying mantis doing her special photo pose, with me taking her from her best side.  They seem such clumsy creatures that do not seem to know quite what to do with such long legs.

Kourosh is a fan of Praying mantis and the insect did not object to being handled gently.  Some people keep them as pets.  I’m glad Kourosh seems to be satisfied with keeping his bees.


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Some winners and losers of the dry summer

I’m going back into September here and the garden is dry.  Just as I was hoping to get a bit more out of the vegetable garden, I encounter our hottest, driest summer.

I was so concerned that there would be nothing left to flower even outside the garden for the bees that I chucked down loads of Cosmos and Cosmos sulphureus seeds in the vegetable garden as I felt I could keep them watered.  They were just seeds that I had gathered last year from the garden so I had plenty.

My attempt at growing chick peas was a failure but I did discover that you could eat them raw from the pod like green peas.

The Borlotti beans produced very little and the parsley refused to grow.

This is my sole butternut production.  I shall be dependent on my neighbour Annie for her pumpkins in the winter.

There have been notable successes.  The aubergines did well, as did the courgettes.

And these delicious little cucumbers kept producing all summer.

In summary the vegetables performed poorly but our pear trees produced more fruit this year although the apple trees produced hardly any apples.

The Comice pears above were very good but I think our Conference pears beat them on flavour.

The tomatoes survived as I watered them and they produced enough to eat in salad and make coulis to freeze.  The little Sungold did well on the wigwam we made.  The leeks and Brussel sprouts are planted for the winter but everything needs to be tidied and sorted for next season.

I think the bees probably think I should just stick to planting flowers.

The senna plants that I have grown from seed are doing well.  Whether they will survive the winter remains to be seen.

I watered late in the evening and by that time the senna had closed their leaves and gone to sleep which I find a very endearing trait.

I have noticed less leaf cutter bees in the garden this year.  They are such pretty bees with their abdomens bright yellow and full of pollen.  I have had no leaf cutters nesting in my bee houses either this year despite providing fresh bamboo tubes and drilled holes.  I do not know if the dry weather could affect them adversely.  I’d be interested in anyone else’s experience.

We will have to wait until next spring to see how a lot of the plants have survived.  I do choose drought tolerant plants.  There are some good surprises, like many shrubs such as fuschia will just look totally miserable yet survive.  Others have been disappointing and I will not plant anymore Tithonia rotundifolia which I thought was drought tolerant but does not grow well from seed unless it is well watered.

I am going to try to grow from seed, Tithonia diversifolia, which is a big brute of a plant and is supposed to be drought tolerant.  It is a perennial and I may live to regret it but it looked quite stunning when I saw it.

There were plenty of opportunities for tea and coffee in the garden, in the shade, and we shared these moments with the various garden visitors.  This bee seems to have recognised her stolen honey in the dregs of my lemon balm and mint tea.  She just cannot work out how it got there.


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Garden Birds

The real hot days of summer (la canicule) are behind us.  Amelia and I found that this summer with the temperatures often between 35 and 40 degrees Centigrade, we were sitting less in the garden.  Oh, well, I told her, it is a good excuse to go to the beach!

asters

Now in late September it is milder and we can attend to the neglected tasks in the garden.  And to admire the autumn flowers and of course to sit down for a cup of coffee.

front garden

Our garden is usually very peaceful, except for the chattering of the birds.  But the garden would surely not be the same without the birds.

When we first bought this house we had very few visiting birds.  Now I am amazed with the variety of the birds.  They all need water, and so we have placed several watering havens for the bees and the birds.

The hoopoe has become a regular summer visitor to the garden.

Hoopoe

The green woodpecker made a bright splash of colour in the garden.  It is the first year that I have seen the woodpecker in the front garden.

woodpecker 1

The Redstarts have remained one of my favourite birds.  This year they occupied four nests that I had made for them and they raised at least four young ones in each nest!  We get both the black Redstarts as well as the common Redstarts.

red start 1

Birds require plenty of water, not only to drink but to keep their feathers clean and their antics in the trough provide us with lots of amusement.  We  see Redstarts taking their bath almost every day at the moment.

red start 2

I am almost sure that they actually enjoy frolicking in the water as much as my granddaughter used to do.

baby sparrow 1

The sparrow make their nest under the eaves, and I am sure that they must have had three broods this year.  Like all baby animals, they too look cute.

baby sparrow 2

But without a doubt, my favourite, at least for this year, is the warbler (I believe it is the melodious warbler).

Sometimes we have mistaken it for a sparrow as it is shy and moves away quickly, but its fine beak is a give-away.  The warbler has also started taking bath, but it is a quick dip in and out.

A couple of year ago, from a holiday in Malta, we brought with us a few seeds of what I call the giant fennel.  It has grown to well over two metres high and its flowers certainly attracted the bees.  Now in seeds, it seems to attract the warbler.

warbler 3

We shall certainly try to replant it next year, if nothing else to make sure that this beautiful bird keeps coming to our garden.

IMG_0149

– Kourosh