a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

The last of the lavender

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The lavender is just about finished in the garden now but this carder bumble bee seems determined to extract the last drops of remaining nectar.  There are several clumps of lavender in the garden and the lavender that was in full sun is well and truly grilled.  These clumps were in partial shade and flowered later.

The Russian sage is likewise pushing out the last flowers.

The Verbena bonariensis is losing the round shapes of the flower heads as the last flowers push forth.  Just as well for the short tailed blue butterfly (Everes alcetas), (actually  Geranium Bronze [Cacyreus marshalli] see Dromfit comment below)who is still around for the moment and is pleased to pose for photographs.

The sedum which I always think of as a butterfly trap has been disappointing.  I have not found it covered in butterflies as I had hoped, in fact I have found this year generally a poor year for butterflies in the garden.

However, just as I was mulling this thought over, a Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) came to my dahlia – something I have never seen before.  I think the butterflies just like to keep me guessing.

My fuschia have been coping very well with the heat and lack of rain.

On looking closer, though, you can see how damaged the inside petals are.  Any ideas what causes that?

There are always lots of bumble bees visiting the fuschia and their front legs grip tightly onto the petals so that they can get to the good stuff.  From the number of marks on the petals it looks like the fuschia provides generously for the bumble bees.

I don’t grow a lot of clematis but this “Helios” has always been a favourite of mine.  It grows on a north facing wall and is not abundant.  I would really like to find a better place to grow it as it cannot be seen to advantage – a project for next year.

My Leycestria has survived the heat well and is now producing its pretty deep red/black berries.  They can be eaten and have a caramel flavour.  Unfortunately, they often squash between your fingers as you pick them so they are not a good berry to harvest for enjoying later.  In France the common name is “Arbre aux faisans” or pheasant tree.  The perfume of the fruits are reputed to attract pheasants who are apparently extremely partial to these berries.  We have not been overrun by pheasants yet and none of the local birds seem interested in the berries and they are left to dry up on the plant.  I don’t know why.

It is the season to say goodbye to a lot of the bees.  I do not usually see the wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum) now.

It is likely to be the last time I see this Megachile (probably centuncularis) if the predicted storms and rains arrive and keep the weather cool and wet.

It made me realise how long our carpenter bees keep us company as I don’t think a week of rain will keep them away.

And lastly, our first queen bumble bee has arrived in the garden and taken possession of the caryopteris bush.  She is a white tailed bumble bee and a considerable size with a bumbly comportment fit for a queen of her dimensions.  She has fallen asleep on the bush some nights but I am sure the light shower of rain this afternoon will alert her to find a dry spot under some leaves to start her hibernation.  We will not have seen the last of her this autumn and she will be back visiting the flowers on the better autumn days.

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.

13 thoughts on “The last of the lavender

  1. Sorry to hear your sedums have not attracted many butterflies. Here I see plenty of red admirals and Small tortoiseshell butterflies visiting it. On my verbena I see common cabbage white butterflies. Your photos are as beautiful as ever – it must be a delight to be in your garden.

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  2. Here in Provence our lavender was over two months ago! We’ve not had a lot of butterflied but a reasonable number of hummingbird moths. As a Californian I miss hummingbirds, so the months are as good as it gets here. This summer we had several nests of carder bees down in the lamb’s ears (stachys), which we discovered while cleaning up the ears. We covered them back up and left them alone, they were not at all aggressive. Is it normal for them to nest that way?
    bonnie in provence

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    • I have never heard of carder bees nesting in the soil. Usually they fill up dry stems a bit like the Osmia do. Were they nesting in the soil or in the stems of the Lamb’s ears? The cocoons would have to be protected from rain, I would have thought. You can be very dry in Provence but also get heavy rains. Steven Falk says they nest in pre-existing cavities in walls,dead wood, hollow stems. They were perhaps just sleeping as they do not usually stay with their eggs. Very interesting. Amelia

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  3. Lovely pictures Amelia…. but wrong butterfly.
    It is, in fact the Geranium Bronze [Cacyreus marshalli] introduced to Spain [Mallorca… in an imported load of Pelargoniums] and, because of the popularity of Pelargoniums has spread to mainland Europe…. apparently regarded as a pest by growers, it has little impact on gardens! In my view a ‘nice’ import…..

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    • What would I do without your sharp eyes! We do get the Short-tailed blues, especially on the wild mint and as soon as I saw the tail… Thank you for the I.D. Amelia

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      • It’s the underwings that are the most telling with many of the butterflies… especially the blues and fritillaries….. and isn’t “Peristroika” wonderful as an insect plant…. our lavenders have been gone two months now, but Russian Sage just keeps on giving…. like Gaura and Chicory, it doesn’t know when to stop!

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  4. Lovely pictures and very informative! There have been many white butterflies this year where I live and it has not been uncommon to see up to five flying together. Our sedum has been a magnet for honeybees.

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  5. The weather plays a large part in what we see outside. The interactions of the sunshine and the rainfall are complex. For myself I would vote for sunny days and plenty of rain when we are asleep :). Amelia

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