a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Self seeders

24 Comments

I often think that the plants that just decide to settle down and flower in my garden do better than the ones I seed and coddle and fret over.

I have a lot of Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) flowering in the garden at the moment (I must admit that I have moved some of the sef-seeders when they were small). I love the colour of the flowers and the height of the plant.

The pollen is a valuable source of pollen for the bees at this time of year. As the pollen is bright orange it is easy to see the bees bringing it into the hives. It is a biennial so it gives you plenty of time to pull out any unwanted plants and they lift out easily.

The tomatoes are way behind this year. I have no fruit on my main crop yet and only a few tiny green ones on the cherry tomatoes. After high temperatures at the beginning of June we have had cooler, cloudier weather with thunderstorms. One night 100 mm. of rain fell which is unheard-of in this area.

On the other side of the vegetable garden we have another small patch that is mainly for herbs.

This patch is at risk of being over powered by the Echium vulgare that has self-seeded and I have not had the heart to remove.

It is very difficult to remove plants that you know the bumble bees love so much.

In amongst all the Echium vulgare is Echium amoenum. If you look very carefully, you will be able to see one pink petal. My intention was to grow Echium amoenum for their flowers for a herbal tea. The Echium vulgare was in the same seed catalogue so I thought I would grow that for the bees. The plants are very similar but the E. vulgare is much taller and more robust but it is very difficult to tell the difference between them at the seedling stage when they self seed. So far this year the bees are doing much better than I am as I have not had enough flowers yet to make even a small cup of tea.

My geraniums that self seed everywhere have been a blessing. They have filled in a lot of difficult places in the shade and cover a multitude of sins.

This poppy is a self seeder from poppy seeds we brought from Barcelona over six years ago. They are usually a dark pink, but this one is a delicate pink and white mix. I must try to remember to pick a seed pod, it would be interesting to see what happens to these next year.

Another surprise comes from our wildlife pond where the water lily is spreading and should help to control over growth of algae. We had noticed another creature in the pond so Kourosh decided to have a closer look at it.

This little creature is about 4.5 mm. long and swims around like a little fish amongst the tadpoles. With the help of Google we have made a tentative ID as a damsel fly larva. I would be thrilled if we had damsel flies. We have often seen damsel flies and dragon flies in the garden in the summer.

Elsewhere in the pond the toad tadpoles are doing well. There are some now with four legs. Some have two rear legs with the front legs still budding from the body. Sorry about the quality of the photos but it is very difficult to get tadpoles to pose for the camera.

We discovered the eggs on the 21 May 2021 so it could be still another month until we finally see little toads emerging.

I do sometimes photograph other things in the garden apart from bees and beasties. This is a Painted Lady butterfly.

The butterfly even has a beautiful name, Vanessa cardui or La Belle Dame in French.

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.

24 thoughts on “Self seeders

  1. For some reason, I have taken note of geraniums in the garden this year. Yes, we have many which we purchased, or grew from seed, but I have noticed more and more seedlings around than previously and they are often quite attractive and promise to make good garden plants.

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  2. Lovely photos as ever Amelia/Kourosh. I am running around trying to shade Pacific Northwest plants that have never experienced 43c before. Unreal heat for here! We are about to SMASH all known records, and it will linger for a few days! Too much.

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    • This year the weather has totally changed everywhere. We had super hot weather much earlier than we ever have. Now it is rain and thunderstorms at the time of year we are usually on the beach. The garden will be different this year as we usually do not get this much rain now. I am no good in the heat and it seems so strange to me staying inside when it is sunny outside. Watermelon helps in the heat. Amelia

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  3. Geraniums are useful for filling odd corners and sometimes you get a nice new variety. Lots of wildlife in your garden, lovely for you and your bees. I love that poppy.

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  4. Many of the perennials I’ve planted turn out to be vigorous self-seeders, most notably the asters, goldenrods, and wild geranium. It’s mostly a blessing, but a mixed one. I also would have trouble removing any plant loved by bumblebees.

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  5. Your pond creature is actually one of the carnivorous diving beetles….
    if he is one of the large ones, he will feed on your tadpoles eventually…
    however, worry not, he’ll not eat many… and certainly won’t have any effect on your overall population.
    A lovely creature to have.
    I am also enamoured by self-seeders, althoughsome take over if not grubbed out selectively…. viz: our lovely Morning Glories.
    But, this year I am transplanting the grubouts elsewhere…. and will comletely weed them out where they were placed first as their task there is done!!

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    • Thanks for the ID. I had to laugh about your Morning Glories – we sowed a whole packet this year and have only one surviving seedling. Amelia

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      • I “chit” my Morning Glories when sowing from packet…. 24hr soak and plant the ones that are showing a white root tip or a split with visible white behind, the others won’t come to aught! 50 to 60 percent is all I’ve ever had from a packet!!
        But, our self seeders are now a cross between a standard pale blue, and a packet od stripey-petalled, multi-coloured ones, and then [we are now year four of these] back-crosses amongst themselves…..
        No idea what we’ll get this year!!

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  6. Vipers bugloss grows in large numbers along a shingle beach near here, turning the beach blue for a while and, of course, attracting lagre numbers of bees! It’s a slightly odd but beautiful plant, or at least I think it is!

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    • There was an article in Beecraft magazine this month and Vipers bugloss was noted as having 35% of digestible crude protein for bees which made it top of that particular list for digestible crude protein. I have never come across Vipers bugloss in the wild in France but we avoid going on holiday in July and August and our walking is frequently curtailed because of the heat. Not so this year! We have never experienced such a wet June and July. Amelia

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  7. Your gardens are so beautiful! I like how you grouped the mullein. It has never occurred to me to do that. Tomatoes–ours are also late. But I have to admit I’m glad we were spared the nasty heatwave that so much of the US west got this last week. We’ve been dry but unusually cool here in our spot. We are getting lucky with the edge of Pacific ocean influence so far. I’m in full adoration of your pond! It’s maturing so beautifully!! Cute tadpoles!! And I wish we could use the French name for the Painted Lady butterfly. So elegant. Love your blog Amelia!

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    • I am glad you escaped that terrible heatwave, I had been thinking of you and I had pictured you in the midst of it. The pool has very few tadpoles now and the tiny toads have disappeared – presumably under stones during the day. However, there are still a few tadpoles, so eggs must have been laid at different times. Amelia

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  8. Lovely as always!! I enjoy self seeders! They are like an old friend who returns each year.

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