a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Reflections at the end of September

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The weather has been fine, so we have left the butternut and the potimarron to finish ripening. Some days have been warm enough to enjoy the last days at the beach. Fruit wise this year, it has been poor. Some apples only and a second crop of raspberries that go very well with yoghurt and our new honey.

The Salvias are still adding colour to the garden and at last I was in the right place to get a photograph of our Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum). We don’t have hummingbirds in France but these day-flying moths are beautiful and hover close to the flowers they take nectar from. Their wings beat at 80 times a second and so appear as a blur in my photograph.

I had a quick look on the net to find out where they lay their eggs and what their caterpillars eat. Their preferred plant food comes from the genus Gallium. I was horrified to find that “Sticky Willy” (Gallium aparine which I loath but I admit does find its way into the garden. I’d have liked to encourage it – but that is going too far. I have been trying to grow Gallium odoratum as a groundcover but so far I have been unsuccessful so this is a reason to try harder.

The cosmos are finishing but the asters are still providing lots of colour and attracting butterflies and bees.

The new queen bumble bees are very grateful for the nectar the aster provide.

This is an Epeolus bee which is a type of parasite or cuckoo bee as it lays its eggs in the nests of other bees. The ivy has just started to flower here and I have seen the solitary Ivy bees (Colletes hederae), it is likely that this cuckoo bee is looking for the nests of the Ivy bees and just stopping on the asters to refuel on nectar.

We have always had to put up with moles but this year they have invaded the front garden. There are even more molehills there since I have taken this photograph. I do not go for perfection in the garden – but this is a plea for help. Is there anything that can be done to dissuade them?

They are usually mainly confined to the back garden – but there too they are running riot. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Finally, a tribute to the cosmos that are still attracting the leafcutter bees and other pollinators.

Some of the cosmos are falling over while still flowering but also producing seed heads that bring the goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) into the garden. It is well worth having the garden a bit messy and watching these lovely birds.

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.

13 thoughts on “Reflections at the end of September

  1. I have read that a solution of castor oil might do the trick for you and your moles. See https://pestkill.org/moles/castor-oil/ Hope that will help. I do so much enjoy your posts. I feel like I know your garden. Thanks for sharing.

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    • I enjoy sharing the garden with you too! I’d rather use something I made myself so that I know what it contains. I had to look up castor oil in French, it is huile de ricin. I had heard of it as it is used in some cosmetic products and home made soap but I did not know that it was castor oil! Thanks for that! Amelia

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  2. You have lots of autumn colours Amelia attracting a wide selection of pollinators. We have also had a beautiful warm September which we have enjoyed although some plants are wilting.

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  3. Those moles behave differently from those that I am accustomed to. Ours are not so destructive, since the burrow just bellow the grass, without actually digging. I mean, they sort of get under the layer of grass roots, and just push the grass upward. (Gophers do all the excavation.) When skunks dig in the lawns, it is because they want the grubs underneath. The grubs themselves are not much of a problem (for our lawns) but the skunks that pursue them are. I suppose that the same applies to moles. If we get rid of the grubs, the skunks are not a problem. However, our problems have not become serious enough for us to do anything about them.

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    • Talking about skunks and gophers makes me thankful that I have only got moles :). Our moles eat worms but I am only concerned about the unsightliness of the earth heaps as we do not cultivate a lawn and just mow whatever comes up. This is the first time they have been so bad in the front garden. Amelia

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      • Oh, worms are not as easy to get rid of as grubs are. Getting rid of them would not only be difficult, but also unhealthy for the lawn and garden. Unlike grubs, which are seasonal, worms live there most or all of the year.

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  4. Your garden has that really lovely slipping toward autumn look about it that I really like. Your asters are gorgeous.

    I don’t have moles, but I do have voles. I had them years ago and the outside cats had sent them away (and killed some –little vole paws left on the patio –ick). But the voles are back. They behave totally differently to your moles; rather than digging holes they leave tunnel trails all over. I wonder if they are ruining the asparagus, but I haven’t figured out anything to do about any of it. Please do post an update about it if you try out the castor oil suggestion.

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  5. Lovely asters! We had a lot of mole hills when we moved in, but twelve years of cats have put them off, so I think the answer is a cat!

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    • Getting a cat is a much too drastic solution for me. Yours must be great hunters and wait until they pop up to the surface. I have seen the mounds getting larger in real time, so that is when the cats must pounce. Amelia

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  6. Lovely pictures as always, here the humming bird hawk moths are very keen on red valerian.
    One solution to the mole problem is to put pea sticks in the grass with empty plastic drink bottles upside down on top. Apparently when the wind blows the moles are troubled by the rattling noise!!
    Many yeas ago when I was still living with my parents (that tells you how long ago this was) a naval officer lived next door. He had mole troubles on his otherwise beautiful front grass. For some reason he owned a shot gun and waited outside until the earth moved slightly, indicating mole proximity, and then fired. I still remember the noise and I think the moles did leave the area.
    PS I have computer problems so my replies/likes etc may be erratic

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    • Thanks for reminding me about the plastic bottles. I used the plastic bottles some years ago and I did find that it moved them on, so I am sure they did not like the noise. The problem was that I was getting so many plastic bottles in the garden that I found that they were irritating me more than the mole hills and I got rid of them. I am considering starting them again, though. Strangely, our next door neighbour shoots into his mole hills! Perhaps that is the best solution and he is chasing them all into my garden? Amelia

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