a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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July finishes

As July finishes the weather forecast predicts clouds, rain and lower than usual temperatures for the beginning of August.

This is not our usual August weather but no one is surprised as “normal” becomes a word to put behind you and take each day as it comes.

The baby birds in the garden at the moment keep us amused.

They seem to have adolescent bad hair days.

The young blackbird will soon change and become an elegant bird with sleek black feathers but the feathers on the head have stayed brown and mottled.

There are another two occupants of the front garden that have lived with us for six years now but never made it into the blog.

These are our two tortoises, Pegah in the front and Posht behind him. They were born in a friend’s garden in the nearby town of Saintes. Originally from North Africa their forebears were brought over as pets for children long since become adults.

There are always plenty of tasty green leaves to tempt the tortoises. They nibble and go and eat a wide variety of plants. I have noticed my sedum leaves being consumed.

In the spring the poppies are in high demand.

It is not only leaves that they eat but the flowers too. Given the opioids in all parts of the poppy, I imagine that they pass a very happy, contented springtime in the garden.

In the summer we cannot help but give them the odd treat of banana or watermelon but I have read that they should not be given an excess of fruit so I limit our treats to tomatoes.

I am not sure quite how the nutritional requirements are derived because they seem to have similar habits to goats and will browse on anything that takes their fancy. I feel they would eat any fallen ripe fruit that might come their way.

In fact, although these tortoises are reputed to be completely vegetarian, they very happily eat snails – shells and all!

Perhaps it is because these are French tortoises.


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The summer garden

We don’t have a big vegetable garden. I like to have plenty of tomatoes for eating and also for freezing as sauce. This year they are very behind. It is the same tomatoes that I have been growing for some years but they are about a month behind their usual growth but it is the same for everybody else nearby. Instead, we have plenty of lettuce this year – just one cucumber plant grown from seed but you can’t win them all.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have sown parsley without success, so far (any hints gratefully received). I have planted my leeks for the winter as I am already thinking of winter soups.

It looks as if we are going to have at least one butternut.

I also grew some Uchiki Kuri plants from seed as I thought they were the same as the French Potimarron. I was also in search of the fragrant pumpkin flowers I raised in the garden one year. So far, I have not noticed any perfume from these flowers but it is very fleeting and maybe I was not around at a propitious time. I’ll keep sniffing them as the season advances.

Kourosh has always fancied a climbing grape vine. A friend brought us this vine and assured us it was a type that would climb. It looks as if we may get our first grapes from it this year.

The vegetable garden is hard work. I would rather be watching the Megachile bees building their nests in the bee house. These are leaf cutter bees and they seal off each cache of egg and pollen with either a piece of leaf or chewed bits of leaf. You may see some suspicious circles on your plant leaves as if someone has been at them with a little hole punch. I hope you don’t grudge them these little bits of leaf as it does not harm the plant.

Actually, it is tough to have favourites as I love finding the Tetralonia bees still asleep in the summer mornings tucked inside the flower of a Hollyhock.


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Green grows the grass

I had to take this photograph from upstairs to show the grass still green in the middle of July. Usually this space is more brown than green at this time of year, certainly last year we had had no rain for a long time and the grass was brown. This year the grass has been so wet that it could not be cut.

So many plants had made their home in the grass. The wild mint and Achillea make it perfumed to walk on but it has all been cut now to let me move in the garden without wearing wellington boots. The plants are doing well outside in the wild spaces and the side of the roads.

The bees are spoiled by the abundance of clover and other flowers that are blooming just now. The rain has stopped here and we are promised sunshine. At the moment the clouds are still plentiful but they are white ones and they let the blue sky through.

With the grass cut and fair weather in sight it is time to get to work in the garden again. That often means weeding and of course the weeds have been growing too.

I’ll be looking for places for some of the new plants that I have started off in patio pots. I have only the one colour of Fuschia in the garden and although it has done very well and we have split and replanted it throughout the garden, I am hoping this “Blue Sarah” Fuschia will prove as hardy.

The Carpenter bee has already given it her seal of approval even if she is “stealing” the nectar by boring into the source rather than bothering to go in by the conventional entrance. The hole she has opened will stay and be used by smaller, short-tongued bees, like some of the bumbles and honey bees, to give them easy access to the nectar.


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First baby toad emerges

Yesterday we saw our first baby toad – almost adult, without a tail.

Taking a picture was non too easy as he was quite frisky.

Today I realised he was not alone and a group of them were becoming more adventuresome and coming right out of the water to use their newly developed lungs.

I went to get a little bit of netting to help them climb out the plastic pond more easily but I need not have bothered as they were already on the stones surrounding the pond and in the grass.

Now we are frightened to go near the pond in case we stand on them!

They still like to keep together and there are plenty of damp places around the pool under the stones. In fact, all around the pool you can see baby toads, despite there still being tadpoles in the pool.

We first noticed the eggs on 21 May 2021. However, it is possible there were other spawning events before or after that date. The other tadpoles may just be late developers. Seemingly, once the toads leave the water they only return eventually to breed. They have chosen a good time to enter the garden because it is warm and damp, which sounds perfect for baby toads.

I do not expect to find any slugs in the garden now!