a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Rain at last!

29 Comments

The rain has come too late to have much effect on the summer vegetables but in the end the tomatoes yielded enough fruit for our needs for sauce and late salads.  The butternut have yielded seventeen – not all very big but an improvement on the raised beds of last year.

At least now I feel confident enough to put in some brussel sprout plants.

Golden leaves carpet underneath the Liquidamber.  The leaves are golden as the Liquidamber has not changed colour yet and these are dry leaves it has cast off in an effort to survive the lack of water.

The Ginkco is turning yellow and the parched leaves give the garden a true autumnal feel.

In the middle of the photograph is the struggling hydrangea “Saville Garden” that I planted in 2014.  I really must find a better place for it.  there is just not enough moisture for it in this spot and even too much shade for a hydrangea.

The Nerine Bowdenii fair better as they have bulbes that allow them to survive through the dry months.

I’m glad they provide nectar for the bumble bees, too.

I’m not sure where this bumble bee has been to get so covered with pollen, I think he needs to stop and have a good groom.

The Geranium Bronze (Cacyreus marshalli) is still coming to the asters.  I misidentified this last week as a blue.  In fact it is a native of Southern Africa but has been introduced with Pelargoniums for gardens.  Pelargoniums are hugely popular in France to be used in pots outside houses in France.  They do not survive the winter and so have to be re-bought the following year.  Good business for the suppliers but I personally prefer the perennial geraniums which are very easy to grow in pots or the soil and can be divided and propagated year after year.

And also, (I am sure you have guessed,) the bees and pollinators can use the perennial geranium flowers but not the pelargoniums.

A bee that I have seen often on the asters is Epeolus fallax.  It is a cuckoo bee; like the cuckoo bird it does not have its own nest but lays its eggs in the nest of other bees.  The cuckoo bees are usually parasites of a limited number of species and not just any bees in general.  The Epeolus are cleptoparasites of Colletes bees and I have found them at nesting sites of Ivy bees (https://beesinafrenchgarden.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/la-bourgade-revisited/).

However, the Ivy flowers are not open yet and the Ivy bees will not be building their nests yet.  So perhaps they are targeting another Colletes bee at the moment.

I saw this tiny bee sitting on the leaf of our potted lemon tree.  You can get an idea of how tiny it is as the photograph has made the leaf’s stomata visible.  I was not absolutely sure it was a bee but the photograph allowed me to see the three simple eyes placed in a triangular pattern on the top of the bee’s head.  It looks much more like a bee now, magnified larger than life-size.

The French marigolds (Tagetes patula) that I planted as companion plants in the vegetable garden are doing well now and are popular with the honey bees.  In France they are called “Oeillets d’Inde” which roughly translated means Indian carnations!  If you ignore the orange colour they do ressemble carnations.

I like to use flowers, like borage, on salads and cakes but I did not realise that French marigolds are edible too.  their petals can be used to colour desserts like fruit salad and have been given the name of saffron of the poor.  I have to look into this!

Temperatures have dropped considerably these past few days and it is hard to imagine that we were watching the sun set on the beach at Mescher-sur-Gironde a week ago.  The beach is only a half hour drive from the house and we were able to enjoy an evening swim with temperatures of 34 degrees as the sun was setting.

I do not think that will be repeated until next year.

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.

29 thoughts on “Rain at last!

  1. The season is definitely shifting–but fickle and irregular. A hard frost over the solstice killed off most of the garden, oddly, freeing me up to do fall planting and transplanting. There’s a cooling trend on our horizon, about 10 degrees (F) cooler than average. It’ll make heavy work more comfortable, even as we look up at the skies, sighing, “What next?” I think our swimmable days are done for the year.

    I love your marigold story. Here, we have French Toast–which I gather was once known as German Toast, until the war sullied the reputation of the Germans. One has to wonder what they call it in France.

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    • I have a lovely story about toast. My friend asked me to come with her to the village hall to help her make toast for the apéritif for the local hunting group. I could not understand, as I could not imagine how the toast could stay appetising until it would be consumed. However, toast is little canopies made usually on slices of bread – whereas our toast is called pain grillé (grilled bread). Amelia

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  2. Thanks for another interesting blog post.

    Here In Norfolk we are also having our first rain – lots of it, with strong, gusty winds yesterday and today. (Our warm sunny weather finished on Tuesday, when it reached 25C.)

    We don’t get Epeolus fallax in the UK (just E. variegatus and E. cruciger). Ivy Bees here don’t have a cleptoparasite – yet. Our Ivy Bees have been on the wing since late August and will continue to early or mid October. Before Ivy is in flower they (mostly the males) will go on other plants, such as Canadian Goldenrod, for nectar. Females emerged in early September and we saw mating balls of Ivy Bees on the 8th. Females are now busy collecting pollen (when the weather allows), though Ivy has an extended flowering time and some plants aren’t yet in flower.

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    • That is so interesting. I did not realise the seasons for the bees could be so different. I follow two nesting sites for the Ivy bees, so I will go and check on them, just in case. Luckily, one of them is next door in our neighbour’s garden. A couple of years ago he came over as he thought our honey bees were digging in his garden which he found very strange. There is very little else flowering here apart from the ivy for our Ivy bees when they are flying. Amelia

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  3. Your photo of the tiny bee is impressive! Your camera has amazing resolution. Hope you get an id for it.

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    • I have a Canon 100 mm lens which I am very happy with. The camera came with a Canon kit 18-135 mm lens but either I am no good at landscape photography or the kit lens is of a much lower quality. Perhaps, now that winter is creeping in I will read that book on landscape photography I bought for a present for my husband. Amelia

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  4. How lovely! The tiny bee photo is fantastic. And I’m very jealous of your swim.

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    • I think if you have been born in the U.K. the idea of swimming comfortably in the sea in the evening remains very special always. I used to swim quite comfortably in the Clyde in the summer but I suppose those days have past. Amelia

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  5. I regularly use pot marigold petals in salads as they spring up in my veg patch of their own volition each year, but I didn’t know you could eat French marigold petals too!

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    • I really like the idea of trying to use them to colour food as well. The flavour of the flowers have been described as like passion fruit. I am going to make more effort next year as they could even be used as a border plant as they seem to take the heat better than a lot of other flowers. Amelia

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  6. Oh for an ocean swim. (sigh) After three days of MEGA rain, we are due for another week of sunshine, I might get a few more tomatoes from the outdoor plants. They suffered when we had 10 days of heavy smoke, temps in the 50’s, and only quick dashes outside to water and talk to them. The greenhouse will appreciate the sunny boost as well. Finally one of my Brandywine tomatoes is turning red. They are my favourite and I try every year, despite knowing they will probably not make it. 😦

    Despite not knowing much about them, we saw more bee varieties this year than ever. But we have also got escaped herbs and pollen laden plants all over the place. My Mason bee cocoons are almost ready to be harvested, just a few more weeks before I put them to sleep in the fridge until April/May. Thanks to them the apples are breaking branches this year!

    Annie in the PNW, USA.

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  7. Viola flowers are edible and decorative too

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  8. Wonderful photos of the flowers and insects, Amelia, and that gorgeous beach scene. Hard to think you’ve still had temps as high as that so recently, but I’m sure it’s a relief to have had some decent rain at last. Quite a crop of butternuts too. I always think a photo of a bumble so covered in pollen grains like yours is a brilliant way of communicating how valuable they are as pollinators.
    Best wishes
    Julian

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  9. Lovely photos. We don’t have any leaf colour yet, but like you we had some trees shed their leaves in August due to the drought. But now we have had a good rain at last too! 😃

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  10. Ah, any rain must be nice! We get none through summer. Every few years, there is an odd storm in the middle of summer. We got one this year, but without rain. It was what started the fires.

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    • I feel very bad talking about rain after your awful fires. The smoke was detected in the air in Europe. California is such a beautiful State but perhaps a victim of its popularity. Amelia

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      • You should not feel badly about it. The climate is excellent here, and the lack of rain through summer is part of what makes it so excellent. I know that it is also why we have fire season. However, I do not want to live anywhere else. This is my home.

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  11. Thanks for an interesting post. Like jeremyb 12 above, the ivy bees have been on the wing here since early September and I have seen them in many locatons around here. An evening swim sounds wonderful!

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  12. Ihave to admit after I read the comment, I looked more closely and I did see the Ivy bees. However, the two places I know there have been nests still show no sign of even the males. These sites are very much in the shade, so perhaps it is a matter of time. Amelia

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  13. So glad you finally got some rain! I have been meaning to try marigolds on salads – let me know how you like them.

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    • Go for the petals in your salad! I tried a whole flower and it was surprisingly good. A unique herby flavour. I only flushed the flower head under water but I would recommend that if you are brave enough to go for the whole flower head, you wash it more thoroughly, like you would curly parsley. Remember they are quite low growing flowers. Amelia

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