a french garden

Accepting choices in the garden

21 Comments

This is one of my arch enemies.  The snail is less voracious in the dry, summer weather when it lies in wait under plants or stones.  Otherwise, they can munch through a freshly sown line of parsley in one night.

At 6 o’clock in the evening the other day I saw a snail walking up our wall at eye level.  It was not raining and it seemed a curious behaviour.

On closer inspection, I noticed the snail was not alone.  I recognised one of my friends – a glow worm larva.

I never realised how voracious the larva could be, nor how persistant.  The larva nibbled the snail’s antenna causing the snail to curl up in a bid to escape.

The snail fell off the wall and broke on the stones beneath with the glow worm larva firmly attached.

Twenty four hours later the feast was still continuing.  The adult female glow worm does not eat and I am sure this one must have absorbed enough protein for its metamorphosis into the adult glow worm.

The same evening I checked the garden to see if there were any female glow worms signaling for mates.  There were.  I apologise for the poor photograph ( I have slightly better here, here, and here.

Seeing the fairy-like lights flashing in the night after dark in the summer is something I treasure.

But what if there were no snails in my garden?  What if I could somehow eliminate them and grow my parsley in peace?

Then no snails, no summer fairy lights.  I have to accept that to live with the snails has its benefits.

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.

21 thoughts on “Accepting choices in the garden

  1. Oh what a wonderful post! And you are so right: encouraging natural predators makes for a far more interesting and diverse garden 🙂

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  2. Glow worms! Well worth a few snails. I saw them lighting up whole bushes along a river in Borneo. Have never seen them in the UK though I believe they still cling on in a few places. Your garden is a magical place.

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    • They are present in Cornwell, I believe. It means looking for them after dark in the middle of summer. That means it is very late for people with early rising small children :). It can be rewarding for even if you do not see glow worms, you might see other night time creatures. Amelia

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  3. Great post, I had no idea. I don’t know if we have glow worms here in provence, I would love to see them. That snail was truly a moveable feast.
    bonnie in provence

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    • I am pretty sure you will have glow worms. You have to look in the summer but not after a long dry spell. Actually, I think your area has had plenty of rain this year so you might be surprised if you had a walk after dark. Amelia

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  4. I certainly will….
    bonnie

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  5. great pics! I never knew, glow worm larvae eat snails. At least the beasts are good for something 🙂 this year they have consumed most of my salad and ALL of my cabbage turnips…

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  6. Fabulous photos Amelia and so envious you have glow worms – I’ve never seen one and there’s currently a project to try to find them in Carmarthenshire meadows. A friend found an adult female emitting light about 10 miles away last week so they are around. But to find the larvae on the snail was wonderful observation. Thank You,
    best wishes
    Julian

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    • You have to be prepared to go out late at this time of year until it is dark and they are only emitting light in the summer! Luckily, there are always some in the garden so we don’t have to go far. Amelia

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  7. Fascinating – I did not know the glowworms are predators, but that is nature. I will be looking out for little lights soon too. 😃

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  8. Wow, biology in action! Something I’ve read about, but never seen. Thanks for that.

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  9. Great pictures of something I knew nothing about. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Fascinating observations and wonderful to be able to see nature “red in tooth and claw”. The story of the snail, the glow worm larva and the gardener is surely a paradigm for the situation we find ourselves in as humans. If we want the world to continue in some way we humans have to settle for compromises.

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    • That is exactly how I felt. We always work for “perfect”. Watching nature we see that “perfect” does not exist. We have to accept compromise or be very unrealistic in our aspirations. Amelia

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  11. Good post. I think gardeners need to learn to live with pests within reason. If we were to wipe out all the pests with insecticides, we’d also be removing all the predators, which is just asking for bigger trouble later on. Right now I’ve got noticeable insect damage (aphids, 4 Lined Plant Bugs) on several species, but I am restraining myself from using anything toxic to get them under control. A healthy and diverse population of insects, good and bed, is best for keeping things in balance.

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    • Heavy interventions often result in more disturbance and ill affects than they cure. Humans have an inborn need to control all they see, unfortunately with unforeseen negative consequences. Amelia

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