a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Plants and places

25 Comments

Sometimes you get it right – sometimes you are a bit off. Here, I am happy we have a Madame Isaac Periere rose just by our doors.

The rose is a deep rich pink and highly perfumed.

What is a bit off is the bright red poppies that I have sown underneath. Not a harmonious choice of colours at all.

The poppies will only be there in the spring and I would prefer to see the bees in them than to go for the colour match. I have also noticed that Anthophora “buzz” pollinate. I thought that it was a phenomenum unique to bumble bees but these Anthophora bounce on the flowers and buzz them to release the pollen.

One of the most difficult places in the garden are the shady, dry spots. I find the Arums cope well. They have huge tubers at their roots and they must store the moisture in the winter and survive on this during the summer.

The Tellima grandiflora manage to survive in the shade and dry and provide delicate flowers that are appreciated by the early bumble bees. They are good at providing a ground cover during the summer and self-seed but are never over powering and unwanted plants are easily removed or transferred.

I am not so lucky with the Iris. Just now, in this region, even the most reticent gardeners have beautiful displays of Iris in a host of beautiful colours.

These Iris are in the border of the front garden. I am not sure how they got there (Kourosh?)

These Iris are at the bottom of the back garden and have been taken over by weeds. There lies my problem. Iris are beautiful when in flower but they do not have the decency to disappear afterwards, like tulips or daffodils. Their rhizomes should be left open to the sun but other plants and weeds seem to find this a great place to grow in.

These Iris are growing outside our front wall and although they look charming at the moment, their ever increasing rhizome base makes it difficult to control throughout the rest of the year.

I do like Iris but I would love to hear how I could grow some or rather where the best place is to put them in a garden.

Some flowers I do not like. These are red hot pokers or Kniphofia. They are just not my colours. We were given a split for our early garden but even with few flowers, I asked Kourosh to dig them up. He did, but pleaded for their relegation to a stony, inhospitable site where nothing else could grow. I relented and then noticed that the bees like them!

I had thought the flowers too narrow to allow the bees to enter. I had not realised that the flowers widen as they mature and the bees can access the flowers. I have never seen any take the pollen.

Here you can actually see the drop of nectar that the bee is lapping with its tongue.

Well. despite the colour the Kniphofia has the right to a place in the garden!

We choose the plants but the frog chooses us. He is happy as we have had our first rain in ages and he likes to sit on the potted lemon tree and make his presence known.

Don’t jump!

Please do not go in there. It may look like fun but you always end up getting stuck in the spout.

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.

25 thoughts on “Plants and places

  1. A beautiful selection of plants, especially the various irises, though Madame Isaac Perier is certainly the highlight. These kniphofias are opening here also and I like them very much!

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    • She is a beautiful rose. It is Kourosh that looks after the roses, does the pruning and suffers the thorns. I like to cut them for decoration inside but roses seem more trouble than a lot of other flowers. Amelia

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  2. I love always to see your garden and your observations of the insects that visit. I do love the little tree frog. In all my years in Vancouver I have only seen one of that type. We do have a couple of dark olive coloured frogs …. my books indicate they could be one of a couple of varieties so I am not sure what they are. The are presently staying in our little pond sheltered by an old lilac that is in full bloom. They sit in a tray we filled with rocks for the bees to visit. Fortunately the bees have decided on another location to take water.
    Peony’s are swelling and everything is growing so quickly. So happy Spring is in full splendour here just south of VAncouver BC.
    Regards Janine

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    • We do have other types of frogs but I see them more in the back garden when I surprise them hiding under something. Those frogs are shy and hop away as soon as they see you. I have made a little “nature” pond for the common and the agile frogs in the back but so far no takers. Amelia

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  3. So CUTE! I love your froggie! That is such a charming photo of him on the watering can—I’m sure you could sell photos of it if you wanted to. I like your iris colors. I also have trouble working them into the garden. In the early years, it seemed like gophers were getting them so I mostly gave up. I have just a small number growing and some are unprotected and so far still living, so maybe gophers don’t eat them? Not sure. Wish I had more though. I hope someone smarter than me will answer your question about what to do about the weeds and ever expanding rhizomes, because I want to know too. Warmly, lisa

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    • Iris can look stunning and there are so many colours to choose from. My only consolation is that they do not appear to have any type of bees that are interested in them. Amelia

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      • How curious. Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing bees on any iris. They are just too hybridized?

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        • Not all flowers are pollinised by bees. Some are self-fertile and there are lots of flies and beetles etc. that do a good job at pollinising. I just love to see all the different kinds of bees that come into the garden. Beetles and flies just do not do it for me although I do know that they are just as important for a healthy ecosystem. I don’t kill them but I don’t plant flowers for them :).

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  4. What a delightful frog, a wonderful shade of green! I’ve heard people say great things about Madame Isaac Periere (who was she?), the rose I mean, and I can see why, its voluptuous and sumptuous. I only have one iris flowering now, and I wonder if it’s for the same reason you mention, overcrowding, though I did try to keep the roots exposed. A friend came round and said ‘I love your ginger’, and she’s right, the rhizomes do look a bit like ginger!

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    • I think she was the wife of a rich banker. Not very romantic, is it? I have very pushy Iris, they don’t get overcrowded they just push everything else out of the way. There must be a good way to get the best out of them without them taking over. Amelia

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  5. Nice post, thanks. You might try dividing your Iris and situating them completely within that border. Doing so will also give you a chance to weed out the undesirables. You’ll get more flower spikes, then maybe you’ll fall in love with your Iris once again.
    P.S. I always leave my watering cans and other containers on their side or with a way out for curious wildlife. Nothing is more shattering than discovering a trapped dead animal or reptile. Once was too many times for me.

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    • I think your idea to keep an eye on the iris and spend some more time on them is probably the way forward. Not the best way for the reluctant weeder :(. I think leaving the watering can on its side is the best way too. I need a bit of training in tidiness. Amelia

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  6. I’m impressed with the shot of the bee on the kniphofia. You must have a good camera to show the drop of nectar so clearly.

    I actually bought some kniphofia so that I would have colour n the garden at the end of the year (as well as food for the bees). They don’t go with my originally intended colour-scheme but in the relatively dark spot under the window, I think they look quite funky.

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    • I think I exhibit, strongly. the human charactristic of the mind influencing the truth of what the eyes see. I found the ret hot pokers garish and the shape of of the leaves and flowers harsh and unpleasant. Now I see the bees on them gathering nectar, I see bright cheery colours and architectural plants. It has shifted my harsh view of them completely. Amelia

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  7. That’s a lovely picture of the bee with nectar. I remember red-hot pokers being very popular in the UK when I was growing up but now I hardly ever see them. I wonder what happened, was it just fashion?

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    • Yes! I remember them too and I was given them by an elderly couple who had them in their garden in England and found that they coped well here. Certainly garden plants go through fashions in the U.K. Amelia

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  8. I am an Iris fan after inheriting several from my mother’s and great aunts gardens. I discovered an easier system for growing them on a garden visit and blogged about it here: https://brimfields.com//?s=Iris&search=Go
    They do really need a dedicated bed in the sunshine, although I have been experimenting with popping in a few annuals after they have flowered.

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    • That was incredibly helpful, Brian. The Iris have been Kourosh’s domain and I have been concerned that they are spreading too much but I did not realise that it would be as simple as removing the old rhizomes and planting the new summer shoots. I did not realise they would flower so quickly. I will wait now until I see the new leaves coming before removing the old ugly roots. They grow very well here and I do not think a once a year ” dig and replant” too much attention for such lovely plants. I think, out of our Iris, my favourite is the one you call Palida or something similar. Amelia

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  9. Wonderful shot of the bee with the drop of pollen. I don’t like Kniphofia either but somehow yours look good. I love red poppies but I see what you mean about matching the rose. Would a large Nepeta work there, like ‘6 Hills Giant’?

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    • A nepeta would certainly look good with that rose and it would be just the right tone. We have over used the Nepeta in our garden because it tolerates the dry so well. I find it more drought tolerant than lavender and it flowers over a much longer period and grows in very unhospitable areas of our garden. The poppies will not last for too long and I forgive their brash colour as they attract the bees to our coffee spot. Amelia

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  10. I agree with you on the Kniphofia and they somehow remind me of gardens in the seventies when that big fluffy grass was in fashion… was it Pampas grass? 😉 Your rose makes a pretty picture against the wall of the house. And your frog is just so sweet. I hope he didn’t jump!

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    • No, we persuaded him to hop elsewhere but we do try to be very careful with the watering can, as Kate has commented. The first time we could not work out what the echoing, low booming was but it is difficult to get them out once they go in. A case for prevention rather than cure. Amelia

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  11. Your cute green frog looks as if he is about to take a dive. I am a big fan of iris too but accomodating them all is difficult as they don’t like competition. And as I grow them from seed I have so many babies to find room for. Sunbaked positions are at a premium. Madame Isaac Periere is a wonderful choice for next to a door as it smells so wonderful.

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    • Iris do not flower for a long period but they mark that time of year and draw all your attention. I always have so much problem finding places for baby plants. You are a real hero to grow iris from seed. Amelia

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