a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


11 Comments

What’s in a name?

The incessant rain has been keeping me indoors and I really felt I wanted to accomplish something useful.  So I decided to  polish my halo and go through my camera memory card, removing blurred shots and trying to get some order into the ones that I want to keep as records.  I also mean to find names for bees and plants that I have not recognised.

This was a photo I had taken on 11 September 2019.  Our Asters attracted so many pollinators this year.  I am not very good with butterflies and I supposed it would be one of the tailed blues we get around here.

Wrong!

When I checked my “Butterflies of Europe” book by Tristan Lafranchis I found it was a Geranium Bronze (Cacyreus marshalli) butterfly.  The reason for its name is pretty obvious but that brought me to the “Do you mean Geranium or Pelargonium?” question.  I was rather hoping that its food of preference was Pelargoniums, as I do not have any of these very popular plants and as most people buy them every year from the Supermarket or nursery, I did not feel too selfish about this cynical thought.

However, it seems that the caterpillars can be content with geraniums or pelargoniums as food.  I have plenty perennial geraniums in the garden, as the bees adore them.

In addition, I had not realised that they can be serious pests for the growers who supply the supermarkets and nurseries with pelargoniums.

I have yet to see any damage to my perennial geraniums but I will keep an eye out this summer.  It may just have been our exceptionally warm summer that allowed it to mature on imported Pelargoniums.

Apart from finding out the name of this butterfly, I also discovered that many Pelargonium species originate from South Africa whereas geraniums are mainly a European species.  Pelargoniums have been with us for a long time, they were introduced into Europe from the beginning of the seventeenth century.  The roots of Pelargonium triste had a local reputation of treating dysentery which interested the apothecaries of the time.

Not bad for a rainy day :).


16 Comments

Water, water everywhere

Since last week it has been raining more and the field behind the garden is covered in water.  You should just be able to see the hives in the background, of the photograph.

Looking in the exactly same direction but further back, a second field is also completely flooded.

Fields on the other side are much the same.  In fact, any low land the Seudre flows past in this area has been flooded.  A lot of the land in this area was marsh land so it is not so unusual.  It is just these areas have been much drier in the past forty years.

The rain has kept me out of the garden but the bees have always taken the opportunity of the mild temperatures and any sunshine to get out of their hives.

We had five hives at the end of the summer.  Pissenlit was the smallest and we reduced her to six frames, hoping she would thrive on the ivy in the autumn.  She seemed less and less active until at the beginning of December we opened her to find no bees.  The frames of honey were there but no bees and no signs of disease.  She was a large swarm that had come to our apricot tree in the front garden on 31 May this year.  She had built up quite well but did not keep up with her original energy.

Our next disappointment was when we opened the Poppy hive for the winter oxalic acid treatment on 16 December and found the hive empty.

This was a surprise as she had gone into winter as our largest and busiest hive.  We have had the Poppy hive from 2015 and she has swarmed and re-queened every year.  We had noticed in the past couple of weeks that she was not so busy but we were not too concerned.

Once again, there were no signs of disease and there were plenty of stores of honey and pollen.

I will add a close up of the same frame, so that you can see the different colour of pollen as well as honey that they had stored..

The few bees we found at the bottom of the hive were all perfect with no wing malformations.

There were never any large number of dead bees in front of the hive.  It was just empty and we feel that the emptying must have taken place relatively rapidly as we watch our hives regularly.

Moving onto a happier note, we have now three large bushes of winter flowering honeysuckle near the hives and they are soon popular with the bees when the rain stops.

The Mahonias, Charity and two Media, are all flowering and much appreciated by the bees.

The Eriobotrya japonica or Loquat has even more perfumed flowers and that attracts the bees too.  This tree would be hardy in most places in the UK but I do not recall seeing it.  You would be unlikely to get fruit in the UK but I highly recommend it for its perfume.

Our Viburnum tinus on the fence is full of buds and the bees will not have long to wait until the flowers open.

In fact, some of the flowers lower down have already opened.

These plants are very easy to propagate if you cut off some roots from a large plant.  We are hoping to have a few more on the road side and we were very pleased to see these cuttings thrive and start to flower this year.

I finish this post marveling at the optimism of this white tailed bumble bee.  In the UK the bumble bee queens are supposed to snuggle down and rest/hibernate until the spring allows them fine enough weather to start making their nest and their colony.  This white tailed bumble bee has pollen on her hind legs so I can only assume she has started her nest and is raising her young.

The rain is against her but I hope she finds enough nectar and pollen in the garden to raise at least some worker bumble bees to help her find food and to keep them warm.


11 Comments

The rain and gloom continues but I get a surprise

The rain continues and the sky is more often grey.

The Seudre is full and flowing, at the end of our garden.

More and more puddles are appearing in the low lying parts of fields.  That’s the gloom but…

My surprise arrived with the copy of my son’s new novel God of Thieves.  The actual arrival of the book was no surprise as we had ordered it with the intention of giving it pride of place in the book cabinet.

It was when I opened the book that I uncovered my surprise.   It had been dedicated to me.

To say I was touched is too simple, even glib.  In fact, the words of the dedication resounded in my head triggering off an explosion of emotion and memories.  It is true I have enjoyed discussing the characters with him enormously and I feel I know them all personally  and there is a definite female thread running through the book, or should I say books as this is the first in a Trilogy.

As a mother your pleasure comes from giving without any thoughts of recompense.

The recompenses can be very private and hidden from view from the rest of the world.  I talk of those boxes, you know the ones.  The ones with the carefully folded papers now growing brittle with age that contain the school magazine with a five year old’s published poem or a card with that special writing.  Not for the general public.

Here was a public acknowledgement as if it was being shouted to all the world.  But thankfully it is hidden graciously, tucked delicately into the book only to be read by those who actually care.

This is Diavosh and I in October, relaxing before his final push to publish God of Thieves.

If you are still interested to learn more you can check out this interview.

Of course, should you wish to purchase the book, it is available in Kindle and paper format on Amazon UK and Amazon USA