a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Summer flowering trees

27 Comments

This is our Heptacodium. I love it. So why is it not in a prime position in the garden? Unfortunately, it goes down to poor planning. When we first planted it there was more light – not a lot, but more.

Now it is so hemmed in that I had difficulty getting a photograph that did it justice. Kourosh in the end obliged by using his phone!

We have another Heptacodium quite nearby just a bit off to the left of the other one. It too is suffering from the same problem of shade from the large Ash trees and now competition from the ever growing bushes of Hybiscus syriacus. I grew these plants, also known as Rose of Sharon, from seed when I first started the garden and never expected them to reach over two metres even with their annual pruning.

The Heptacodium does deserve a good position in a garden. The flowers are delicately perfumed and attract all manner of pollinators.

Having grown the Hibiscus syriacus from seed, I have a mixed bag of colours, ranging from white to various pinks and blues. I have never succeeded with cuttings and although they seed easily, I would recommend buying the plant already rooted if you wanted a specific colour.

Despite the abundant pollen they are not as attractive as one might imagine to pollinators. The bumble bees do like them and perhaps at this moment the pollinators are spoiled for choice in the garden.

I have seen the Rose of Sharon grown as a small tree around here and I think it is an excellent choice and is very easy to shape through pruning in the autumn.

The Lagerstroemia indica can be seen clearly and has been given a prime position in the front garden, largely as it was a present from friends. It has just started flowering.

There is no doubt about the flowers attraction to the pollinators so gives us plenty to watch over coffee on the patio.

In France, around here, most people call this tree Lagerstroemia although it has a common name “Lilas des Indes” or the Lilac of the Indes. I have also seen it written in English as Crape myrtle. Now I would read the first word in the same way as I would “crap”, which does not seem too flattering to me. It reminds me of the last post of Garden in a city where he bemoans the common name of “Hoary Vervain”.

In one corner of the vegetable garden we have grown Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) we like to grow this as it is a natural insecticide if it is cut and dried.

We are at last going through a warm sunny period so it is a good time to dry out the plants. When you cut the stems there is a strong medicinal smell but I do not find it unpleasant.

Despite the plant supposedly having insecticidal properties, the bees and other pollinators are attracted to the flowers.

“He’s behind you!”

Pollinators can be attracted to strange places. Kourosh managed to snap the above photograph from our patio whilst I was stalking the bees with my camera in our front garden.

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.

27 thoughts on “Summer flowering trees

  1. Heptacodium is a favourite here also but not into flower yet, just beginning to show a peep of white.

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  2. This is a new plant to me! I will see if I can find a decent sized one somewhere around here in Dept. 84. Thanks for showing it to us!
    bonnie in provence

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  3. Hello Amelia,
    I really like the Crape myrtle – very exotic looking, but also am intrigued about the Tansy – how/what do you use it for once you’ve dried the stems? I’m intrigued since we have a huge swathe of it here, and it’d be nice to make some use of it.
    Best wishes
    Julian

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    • We hang bunches of it in the shed we keep our spare frames for the bees to ward of the wax moth. I have also cut it up and put it in bags as you would lavender (maybe bigger bags than lavender). I use these to protect clothing and tablecloths from moths. I cannot say whether this works or if I have been lucky. As I mentioned, I find the perfume pleasant which is a personal taste. Amelia

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      • Thanks for that Amelia – we currently have a real problem with head flies on some of our sheep… Could we make them little tansy bonnets I wonder? Or some sort of a tansy based paste/lotion – we’ve never had an issue in previous years, but then it’s been the worst year yet for horse flies here. Probably all linked in to the weather early on? It’s either that or trying tubs of Sarracenias nearby!!
        We’re loathe to use generalised pour on systemic pryrethroids with the bees around, and anyway they’re short lived. The current recommendation of keeping the sheep indoors if the head flies are severe isn’t really an option for us either. We’re trying to muddle through until frosts curtail their season.

        Best wishes
        Julian

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  4. Beautiful photos! We have a lot of crape myrtles here in Georgia, in the United States. They are usually grown as multi stemmed trees or large bushes and if not chopped down (crape murder) they develop gorgeous peeling bark and are very graceful. We pronounce crape with a long A vowel sound….they are also referred to as crepe myrtles (same pronunciation) because the blossoms resemble crepe paper. Beautiful trees, and our bees enjoy them although I don’t notice any scent.

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  5. Hello,
    Very hard to tell for certain, but from the photos it looks like at least one of the Heptacodium could be dug out and transplanted. By digging a very generous distance from the trunk, you could gather quite a good-sized root ball. Late autumn is generally a good time for most items to be transplanted. If the tree is in a dormant state, you will have greater success.
    Then position the tree where it will be best suited, and you can enjoy it in the proper location. Just remember if it stays in the shade and is supposed to get sun, eventually as it matures it will likely stop flowering altogether, and will be susceptible to decay and stress.

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    • This is actually a very good idea. You are correct that in the end the increase in shade will lead to stunted growth and even disease. It may be the kindest remedy to transplant it. I always find the hardest part of gardening is knowing where to place the plants. When we started we put everything around the edges and now we are finding we have created too much shade. Amelia

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  6. Gads! Crape myrtle is a difficult one for me to appreciate nowadays. The color is great of course, both for bloom and foliar color in autumn. The problem is that it is SO overused. I can not tell you all the job sites that I worked on in which it was the primary ‘shade’ tree in a few acres of lawn. It looked ridiculous. Unfortunately, it is one of the few trees that so-called ‘landscapers’ are familiar with, and they know that it will never cause any problems.

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    • This was why I had never bought one myself. It is worse over here as it is very popular with the municipalities to line town streets. However, that withstanding I have grown to love mine and I am looking forward to it developing a mature bark, however, it seems to be growing slowly in my garden. Amelia

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      • We will be getting several this winter, incidentally to line one of the roads. It actually makes sense for that situation. Electrical cables above limit the height of what we put there. Besides, in the redwood forest, there is no need for any more big trees. There are plenty of dogwoods and flowering cherries to bloom in spring, but not so much to bloom during summer, while the majority of our guests are here. I will get accustomed to it.

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  7. So that’s what they are. We have four along the front if our French garden…when not being cut back by the council! We have signs up now to stop cutting. Beautiful.

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  8. Tansy is very good for pollinators in my experience. At some sites in Devon it is favoured by Colletes bees.

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  9. Hi Amelia! I got behind in reading all my favorite garden blogs like yours, so I’m just now enjoying this one. I love the fact that you grew your Rose of Sharon hibiscus from seed! Wow. I’ve never done that. I have one of those, but I bought it at a nursery. Like you mentioned happening in your garden, mine got shaded by faster growing trees and I had to dig it up and put it in a pot for the time being. Your Lagerstroemia is gorgeous. So funny about the common name. Yes, we know them here as Crape Myrtles. haha … Once you’ve dried your tansy, how do you like to use it? You store it in a glass jar and sprinkle around vegetable plants that are susceptible to aphids or something? We get a lot of asparagus beetles — I wonder if it would help with those? I have a tansy which I’ve never harvested. I grow it just because I happen to love its particular scent. I look forward to reading the other posts I’ve missed. Warmly, lisa

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    • I have been forever having to move my plants as they become shaded by other plants that grow more quickly and bigger than expected. It is a problem but at least it seems to be a shared problem! Primarily, we put large dried bunches of it where we keep our beekeeping equipment. It is an outside lean-to and hopefully dissuades any unwelcome beasties. I have also put it into cotton bags (like lavender, which I also use) in linen cupboards and drawers. You could try making it into a natural insecticide, that sounds interesting, but I have never tried myself. Amelia

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