a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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Signs of autumn

Some of the leaves on the trees are turning golden and a few are scattered on the ground yet at the same time the bees can still find some flowerlets on the last of the lavender bushes to flower.

The quince tree has produced enough fruit for us but as usual they are not perfect and the worm eaten parts have to be cut out before they are used.

The sedum is just starting to colour and already the bumble bees come for the early open flowers.

The second crop of raspberries is doing well, thanks to recent rain and of course the bumble bees that assiduously visit their insignificant flowers.  It always seem to be the carder bumble bees that visit the raspberries at this time of year.

The Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) or pourpier is happy to see the rain.  This one is growing in my vegetable garden and trying its best to impersonate parsley, but I was not to be fooled.

I get large patches of this and it can be quite invasive.  It can be eaten as a salad vegetable but I confess I have never got passed the “having a nibble” stage.  It is O.K. and I should really pick some and try and make a real salad of it.

I was reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and she writes that one evening Thomas Cromwell had a salad of purslane.  It was a popular dish in Tudor times so I should not ignore it.  Does anyone else eat it?

This year we have had a lot of apples from our four apple trees.  We have given them away, I have made apple jelly and will later make chutney and Kourosh has taken charge of bottling them as compote.

Our favourite for eating is the Reine de Reinettes which is a sweet crisp apple that also is very good to cook.  It reminds me a bit of Cox’s Orange Pippin.  August seems so early to have so many apples.

At least the tomatoes have decided to ripen but I think I will have plenty of green ones this year for chutney.

In the meantime the extra tomatoes go in the pot for coulis to be frozen for the winter.

Will my butternut squash ripen before the winter?

Will this be a cold winter, for there seems to be more rose hips on the roses?

Hiding under a pot of geraniums this baby mouse was too young to run away.  Instead he rolled over to try and shelter under the leaves.  With all the fallen apples around I expect he will find plenty of food to grow up with and store away for the winter. whatever the weather throws at us.

 


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Problems in the potager

We are not great vegetable gardeners but I have always managed to raise lots of tomatoes.  This year, starting with the seeds of the excellent tomatoes I had last year, I have had problems.  The plants have been strong and healthy but the tomatoes are not ripening so quickly.  They are very large fruits and they taste good.  Last year the fruits were of a more even shape and I wonder if last year the bumble bees have been doing a bit of cross-pollination, giving me a different result this year.

I should not complain as they are starting to ripen now and I should have enough to provide enough tomato coulis to last us over the year.

This year,my sister sent me Golden Sunrise tomato seeds and I reluctantly put in two plants.  Actually, they gave great plants, well shaped fruit and ripened normally.  Of course, it goes without saying that my Sungold cherry tomatoes have been providing me lots of fruit for ages.

I think I will not keep the seeds of these tomatoes for next year and I would be grateful for the name of a good “heat resistant” tomato for next year.

My next enigma comes from the Pepper seeds “Havana Gold” sent to me by my sister.  These, unfortunately, germinated very easily from a few seeds.  As I am not sure what to do with them, I thought I would grow one plant as an ornamental in a pot and I put the other three into the garden to die quietly.

I quickly noticed that the pampered plant in the pot was being out paced by the plants in the garden, so I stuck it in beside them.

If you look carefully, you can see the small pepper plant between its sisters and the aubergine plants.  I cannot understand why the potted plant has stayed stunted.  Any answers?

The aubergine plants were bought and put in at the middle of May and are only now starting to grow and flower. (?).

The next enigma is the cucumbers.  We were given the seeds by a friend, as we both like these little cucumbers, and he brings the seeds from Lebanon.  To be economical with the seeds, we decided to start the plants off in pots.  Nothing. Replanted. Nothing.  Perhaps the seeds are too old now?  So we stuck them into the ground, much too late and they grew like Jack and the Beanstock plants to give us lots of cucumbers.

I would be grateful if anyone had any ideas of what might be happening.

I do have good news.  We scrapped the raised bed for the Butternuts (here in S.W. France it is much too dry for raised beds, I think) and let them run over the strawberries that I have ceded to the slugs.  This works much better and I am going to have plenty by the autumn.

The raspberries, both the gold and red, have fruited again – many thanks bumblebees for the sterling pollination effort.  I find the raspberries much less frustrating than the strawberries.

As always, Kourosh manages to find things in the garden.  This is a long-horned beetle – pretty obvious – and I had a problem getting a good clear photo and keeping its antenna in focus.  The coin is a one euro, about the size of a pound coin.

The Cerambyx scopolii lays its eggs in a variety of wild forest trees and the larvae bore into the tree and can excavate galleries of up to 8-10 cm.  A heavy infestation would be harmful to trees or plantations.  The adults eat pollen but I have yet to see it any on flowers.  I think they keep to the forest flowers such as elders and hawthorns and the umbellifers.

Yesterday, was the find of a caterpillar of Acherontia atropos outside our back door on the grass.  I recognised the funny spike on its rear and Kourosh Googled the photo to get the identity of the Death’s Head moth.  I checked out, on the web, what it might eat and came up immediately with potatoes.  I thought – not in our garden!  However, looking further I saw that it would be tempted by any of the solanacea, such as Deadly Nightshade.

I do have some in the garden and there is plenty outside in the woodland.  It has been recorded on other plants so I do not think it is as fussy as that.

This huge caterpillar will turn into the Death’s Head Moth.  This strange moth has the ability to fool bees to allow it to enter their hives and steal their honey.

We have already found the moth near our beehives, so click the link if you are interested to see the adult moth.

 

 

 


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Baby birds in a French garden

Nothing gives us greater pleasure than sharing our garden with all the creatures that live among us and amuse us on a daily basis.  This has been even more important during these last few months when we have had to  stay mostly at home.

It is always wonderful to watch the courting of doves, or the antics of the sparrows which often reminds me of a bunch of school boys.

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During this hot period when the temperatures have been around 30C (90F), the birds need feeding,

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And equally important they need clean water for drinking and bathing.  The juvenile sparrow in the front does not appear to be sure getting herself wet.

young male sparrow

The young male sparrow is as big as its daddy, but is still more fluffy and appears to need more naps!

Juvenile blackbird

I must admit that I am particularly fond of blackbirds singing for us, and I am so glad that several pairs have raised their young in our garden.

young sparrow

I really wish I could cuddle that little sparrow with her downy feathers on the buddleia.

young redstart

Once again we have had several redstarts raising their young in the garden.  The juveniles are very cute and not as shy as the parents.

Juvenile tobin

For the last couple of weeks Amelia and I have been watching two baby robins in the front garden when we have been having our coffee.  Their bodies start speckled and still no red breast.

young robin (2)

Little by little the speckled front changed to red.

young robin

Finally the red breast become more prominent, but she still has not lost her cute fuzzy head.

  • Kourosh