a french garden

May sunshine, flowers and fruit

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Bottle brush

This May has been so hot and sunny, following an extremely mild winter that some of our plants are doing unusually well, like the bottle brush (Callistemon spp.).

bee in rince bouteille

Kourosh had bought it for the bees and I was concerned it would be too tender to do well here.  This year it is well established and attracts clouds of bees, they do not seem to object to fighting their way through the spiky petals so the nectar must be good!

Pink flowered succulent

I have been trying to grow more succulents in the pots this year so that they are easier to care for in hot, dry summers.

Succulent flower

I am happy to see that many of the succulents attract pollinators, too.

echium amoenum

Not everything succeeds in a garden.  I planted seeds of Echium amoenum last year to harvest the flowers to make Gol Gav Zaban tea.  I only managed to grow two plants which are now flowering but I do not think all their flowers would be enough to make a cup of tea.  In the meantime the bumble bees appreciate them and I have to wait to see how the Echium vulgare, planted at the same time, does.

Reine de reinette apples

Experience helps.  We have two Reine des reinettes apple trees in the garden.  I like the flavour very much and it reminds me of the U.K. pippin apples.  However, they have a tendency to set a lot of fruit.  At first we assumed a lot of the little apples would fall, in due course.  However, they do not fall and it results in lots of little apples.  Now, I knock off excess and leave no more than two at a time near each other.  Time consuming but worth it in the end.

Eleagnus angustifolia

We have planted an Eleagnus angustifolia on the hedge near the road.

Eleagnus angustifolia flowers

This year we have had plenty of the pretty yellow flowers, providing nectar for the bees and perhaps this year some fruit for us.

Loquat 1

This is the first year that our ” néflier du Japon ” (Eriobotrya japonica) or loquat has managed to hang onto its fruit through the winter.  I am looking forward to enjoying them and in the meantime I have been given a supply of the fruit by some friends whose tree is a bit more advanced than ours.

Raspberry

The yellow raspberries are ripening…

IMG_3786

as are the cherries but as usual I am sure the birds will beat me to the cherries.

Peas

So far, so good with the peas.  Does anyone know if all peas can be eaten as “mange tous”?

Lichen moth

This gorgeous moth was resting on my bee house otherwise I would never have spotted the perfect lichen-like camouflage.

wasp & parasol

Our parasol continues to attract visitors.  This time it is a little wasp.  The two spikes in the photo are where Kourosh knocked off the beginnings of its nest.  Now we have given up and are letting it be.  It is not the stinging type of wasp.

Car wasp

Because the car was not moving over the confinement Kourosh noticed this wasp bringing in a green caterpillar and taking it inside the window slot.  It has been busy for some time.  We will no doubt see the result in a few weeks or perhaps next spring.  I am sure it could have found much more convenient and stable sites.  It does not seem overly perturbed when its nest disappears for an hour and then reappears.

Philadelphus

More sunny weather is forecast for the next few days so we will have plenty of time to enjoy the garden and our coffees under the trees and enjoy the perfume of the Philadelphus.  The restaurants and cafes will not open in France until 1 June 2020 and with the inconvenience of social distancing they are not as tempting to us as pre-Covid times.

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.

15 thoughts on “May sunshine, flowers and fruit

  1. That photo of the bee in the Bottlebrush flower is fabulous! The Eleagnus, is such a lovely tree and we have just planted one, but it is absolutely tiny! Hope it grows quickly. The moth is lovely and is almost begging to be touched (but I wouldn‘t!). And your Philadelphus must be a joy. Such a lovely post Amelia! Our restaurants are open from today, but with perspex divisions between tables, masks everywhere, early closing and leaving your name and address I think we will also stay at home a bit longer! 😉

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    • The Eleagnus genus has many useful and attractive plants for the gardens. Mine have all been sturdy and relatively fast growing, which is another big plus for them. We are really appreciating our garden at the moment and the thought of dining with so many restrictions does not attract us either. Amelia

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  2. I liked the bee ‘swimming’ in the bottlebrush too. I hope you manage to get to the cherries. You could probably eat the peas shells and all, but nothing beats sweet. fresh peas!

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  3. All parts of the pea plant are edible, so long as we’re talking garden peas, Pisum sativum. Snow peas and snap peas are varieties that have been bred to have less fibrous pods and shoots. I don’t know what variety you’re growing, but the young shoots, leaves, are flowers are likely to be tasty. They might be too fibrous to cook, that’s all.

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    • Thanks for that. They are a dwarf variety intended for shelled peas, so probably the pod would be more fibrous unless I were to pick it really little which seems a shame. Interesting that the whole plant is edible. Amelia

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  4. Ah, lemon bottlebrush! It was so common when I was a kid that it became disdainful among those who blamed it for allergies. It happens to bloom prominently during allergy season. There happens to be one at work, which is an odd species for they style here. I intend to put one in my own garden eventually, just so I can prune it the way I like the to be pruned, rather than as an unkempt shrub, as they are typically pruned.

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    • The common name we use, bottle brush, describes it so well and I have never seen the attraction of a bright red flower that looks like a brush. In addition, as you say, it is usually very unkempt looking. Ours is solely, for the bees and for our pleasure in watching them. I would be interested in how you could prune it to improve its look. Amelia

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      • If I were to hedge it, I would do so very neatly and seasonally so that it would still bloom well. If pruned over winter, it grows uniformly until it blooms about now, and can be shorn again afterward, and again next winter, or just in winter. So-called ‘gardeners’ shear all the bloom off, BUT do not shear them back enough to keep them confined and neat. Consequently, they get overgrown and shabby, but without bloom. I prefer to prune them out as small trees, so that the old growth is always being replaced by new growth. That way, they do not collect all that crud within, but still bloom on the outside. I enjoy the specimen at work because it looks so excellent for a species that has such a bad repuation.

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        • I’ll take your advice. Ours is still young enough that we should be able to keep it neat. Amelia

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          • I actually described two different options. Shearing is one technique. Pruning it up as a neat tree is another technique. I do not recommend one or the other; but will recommend that whatever you do, that you keep it neat so that it does not become a thicket of tangled crud as they so often do. If you shear it, so so as few times as possible annually, so that it blooms. If you shear it in winter, but then let it grow ‘fuzzily’, it blooms about now. If you shear it after bloom, and let it do the same, it may bloom again. Alternatively, you can just prune it once annually over winter. Anyway, when you shear it, do so aggressively, and shear it back farther than you want to, so that it grows back to where you want it to to bloom.
            If you prune it up as a small tree or large shrub, keep the interior clean as the exterior blooms freely. Thicket growth is not appealing.

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  5. lovely picture of the bee in the bottlebrush showing the pollen baskets!

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  6. Thank you. Tony says the bottlebrush will need to be cut back if I want to keep it neat. I’ll have to do that one day K is not watching because he never likes to cut the plants too much and some of them do need a hard cut. Amelia

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  7. I envy you all those fruit trees. Do they need spraying ? Looks like your summer is coming along beautifully.

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    • We do not spray any of our fruit trees. The fruit is generally trouble free. Our big plum tree has little plums but perhaps forms fruit so early it escapes problems. The apples rarely have problems. Our quince was usually spoiled with worms although it had beautiful flowers. We bought a biological viral treatment to be sprayed on this spring. However, the tree died mysteriously before we had time to use it. We are left with one other quince. They are the only fruit trees we have problems with. Amelia

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