a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Discoveries in the garden

26 Comments

We have just had a week of intermittent rain. The garden looks green, the poppies are coming up everywhere and look very happy.

The bees are still getting out during the sunny spells, you can see the black pollen on her legs.

My choisia is full of flowers and is the most perfumed plant in the garden at the moment. It has a lot of yellow leaves. I do not know whether this is due to its near death experience last summer when it was very dry. Also it is badly situated under a large Ash tree.

I do not want to lose it. The bees would miss it too. Any comments would be welcome.

I inherited a clump of Arum lilies with the garden and I have split them and they are now in some shady spots. They love the rain but are remarkably resistant in the dry summer.

I have never associated them with bees. Then I noticed a bee go into the flower – but it did not come out.

It had been caught by a crab spider. Often I notice bodies of insects inside these flowers. They make excellent traps for spiders.

I had never thought of the arum lily (or any lily) being attractive to bees but I noticed that the bees were very interested in them.

They were disappearing into the base of the flower and gathering a pure white pollen.

Bees are content to share when there is room for all to forage. They seemed to be getting something from the yellow part of the flower although the white pollen was deep inside.

Our first bush peony (Festiva maxima) has just started to flower.

The bees were getting right in there and gathering plenty of pollen. The bees seem indifferent to red varieties of peony that I have. I will keep my eyes on the red peonies when they open but I am sure the bees ignore these ones.

The most exciting discovery was strings of spawn on top of the new little pond. Kourosh pointed them out but when we looked the next day they had disappeared! However, they had just sunk beneath the surface and were still there.

I think it could be possibly toad spawn as these are usually laid in strings. We do have toads. I see them when I am weeding and it makes me jump to see what looks like a lump of earth start to move – they are so well camouflaged. I always worry I might decapitate one with my weeding tool, they look such gentle creatures. Toads are useful for gardeners as they will eat slugs.

Yesterday they had just started to change into their tadpole stage. There seems masses of them so I hope some will survive.

I also noticed a strange creature in the photograph. I never did pond dipping as a child so I do not know what it is. It looks like the nymph stage of some insect, on the leftside of the photo. Pehaps a damsel fly? It is good that the little pond is attracting some life.

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.

26 thoughts on “Discoveries in the garden

  1. I know that Arums have a very interesting way of reproducing. The long yellow ‘spadix’ produces heat (unusual for a plant), and gives off a smell to attract insects. Hidden in a chamber at the base of the spadix are the male flowers (above) and the female flowers (below). The female flowers are receptive before the male flowers produce pollen, to avoid self-pollination. There are downward pointing hair-like structures in this chamber which allow insects to enter, but not to leave. At this stage the female flowers are receptive, and the insects will pollinate them if they have pollen. When the female flowers stop becoming receptive, the male flowers produce pollen and the hairs decay allowing the insect to leave whilst picking up pollen on the way out – to take to the next plant. There is no nectar, so no reward for the insects. In my garden I have the wild Italian Arum which, I am told, smells of urine to attract insects. It’s a mystery to me why bees are attracted to your Arum. Surely they are interested in the pollen (and collect it), but what attracts them? Maybe your Arum comes from a part of the world where a bee-attractive scent is produced? They even seem to be feeding on it. Maybe they collect the scent? It would interesting to see if the bees go down into the plant before pollen forms and get trapped. Anyway, the crab spider knows insects will visit – and it just has to wait for them!

    Great news on the toad tadpoles in your pond – I await to hear which they are. I think the strange creature is a water beetle larvae – but don’t quote me!

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    • I had heard that the Lords and Ladies arum use this strange method to trap pollinating insects but I did not know that these Arum have the same system. I presume that at the moment my arum are at the male flower stage as the bees are gathering copious white pollen. The bees gather lots of other essences and resin from the plants to use in the propolis. Perhaps the spadix exudes something interesting. I have seen the odd water beetle, so given the time of year, I think that must be what the creature is. Amelia

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  2. Are Arum lilies the same as Calla lilies? We had Calla’s in California, and I loved their hardy resilience, even in the dry season.

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  3. Perhaps your yellow leaves on the Choisya are just last season’s leaves giving way to the new ones coming out? I’m surprised that your callas survived the winter, did you protect them? I believe it goes below zero where you are …..
    bonnie in provence

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    • I hope the choisya is just losing its leaves like the Magnolia does every year. I just let the Arum freeze. It goes into quite a soggy mess some years but it soon disappears. It happens every year and it does not stop it shooting back up again in the spring. Amelia

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  4. Gosh, you had me there! I looked it up and my arum lilies are in fact Zantedeschia aethiopica and are commonly known as Arum OR Cala lilies. It looks as if they come in different colours but it is only this one that I know. Amelia

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  5. Fabulous photos Amelia, especially catching the crab spider, plus I really like your paeony. ‘m trying to think of any other flower which produces such wonderfully white pollen as in the Arum, and drew a blank!
    Best wishes
    Julian

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  6. Lovely pictures Amelia. Thank you.

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  7. Great photos Amelia. I have a few shrubs with yellow leaves, which I put down to sunburn and frosts in March… stressful to say the least. I know you got a late frost, so perhaps the Choisya is just regenerating.

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  8. Lovely pictures, Amelia. One of the haunts of the crab spiders here are the perennial geraniums that seem to to want to cover the garden. The spiders lurk under petals and leap out to catch unsuspecting insects.

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    • That’s interesting as I have a lot of perennial geraniums and have not found them particularly susceptible to harbour crab spiders. That saying, they do crop up on a lot of different flowers. Amelia

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  9. Lovely set of pictures…. certainly toad spawn…. those strings are unmistakable.
    Waterbeetle larva…. or rather was a waterbeetle larva…. I think it is the moulted exoskeleton of a waterbeetle larva…. and you now have a larger one living in the pond.

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    • I am not at all knowledgable about beetles but I have seen a diving beetle in the pond. The pond gets a daily visit at the moment and the tadpoles are free-swimming now but tiny. Amelia

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  10. Black pollen where does that come from Amelia? I think Magnesium shortage can cause the yellowing of leaves in some plants. Some rose fertilisers contain it as a trace element, could be worth a try.

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    • The standard “cure” for leaves yellowing if the veins are still green is needing iron, and an application of sulfat de fer usually does the trick. Citrus and hortensia are especially susceptible in our very alkaline soils here in Provence, there is a chemical reaction that causes the iron in the soil to bind up and not be available to the plant.
      bonnie near carpentras

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      • Thanks for that. I do have some iron sulphate in a bag. It only works though if you dilute it and pour it onto the plants :). Now the weather is nicer here I will try and catch up with my work in the garden. Amelia

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    • The black pollen comes from the poppies at this time of year. I love to see all the different colours of pollen the bees store around their brood in the hive. I have used epsom salts before on the roses. It must have worked as I have forgotten completely about it. I think I still have some sachets somewhere. Amelia

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  11. How interesting about the bees and the lilies! So happy you got some rain. We’re still dry here. And Yay! Congrats on your toad spawn!!! So thrilling!

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