a french garden


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Snow!

An unusual sight today 30 March 2020, it is snowing from early morning.  The air temperature is around 3-4 degrees C so the snow flakes melt when they touch the ground.

Two days ago I was sunbathing in my swimsuit in the garden.  However, the temperature is not forecast to drop below zero.

12.00

I have certainly spoken too soon.  The snow is giving a very decorative dusting to the garden.

We can never complain about the weather being boring.


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Isolation in the garden

Back potager

The vegetable garden remains untouched although it is not from want of time as we are now in our third week of isolation.

Back plum tree-001

Despite the unprecedented events in the outside world the large plum tree fills its branches with leaves to provide shade.  This is a favourite spot for outdoor eating, but when will be able to eat again under its leaves with friends and family?

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We are never the less so grateful for the warm weather and sunshine that allows us to watch as the tulips take over from the daffodil bulbs.  It is an unsettling feeling as I think of so many people obliged to stay in appartements or who find themselves alone.

Cerinthe (1)

I stalk my bees and find the Cerinthe are the noisiest flowers at the moment.  They are a great place to see the Anthophora, like the one above.

Cerinthe (3)

The Cerinthe are a great favourite with all the queen bumble bees at the moment.

Cerinthe (5)

I love these teddy bear shaped bees and remember searching in vain to discover what sort of grey bumble bee it was, and being so puzzled to discover that bumble bees did not come in grey.

Red dead nettle

Outside in the wild, Anthophora (and bumble bees) love red dead nettle, so it is a good time to see them at the moment.

Borage (2)

Only the Borage can attract similar numbers of bees just now.

Broad beans (2)

Our broad beans are doing very well this year.  I plant the seed in the autumn and often the young plants get hit by winter frosts but this year was the first year that we have had no sub-zero frosts in the garden.

Broad beans (3)

The broad bean flowers are a magnet for pollinators.  The Carpenters, like the one above, are particularly fond of them but all the bees come for nectar.  The beans are setting but the ground is getting dry as we have had no rain for some time.

Back walk

This has been our wettest winter and early spring.  The river at the bottom of the garden is still full of water.  Our daffodils put on a good show but it was too wet to enjoy them when they were at their best.

Hellebore (1)

Some plants seem more value than others.  Our Hellebore are still blooming in the shadier spots, they first started flowering at the beginning of February.

Hellebore (3)

When the flowers start to produce seed, the petals lose their colour but I still find them attractive with the softer hues.

Lily beetle (2)

I made an unpleasant discovery in the garden.  A lily has been infected by the lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii).  The only way to get rid of them is to squash them until they pop.  I recommend using some kitchen towel to perform the dirty deed.  It is best to surround the plant with a white paper kitchen towel because if you drop one, it will lie on its back and you will never find it on the ground.  I did this on three consecutive mornings and I have got rid of this infestation but I am sure others will follow and I am keeping my eyes on them for the moment.

Coronilla (4)

The Coronilla is another worthwhile shrub that is still flowering and providing nectar for the bees.

Coronilla (7)

Even very little ones.

Eleagnus umbellata (2)

In February 2017 we bought 10 Eleagnus umbellata for 1.71 euro each from the Pepiniere Bauchery online.  We planted 7 and gave 3 to friends and this year we are reaping the rewards.  They are pretty, small trees which survived well the drought of last year to flower profusely with these attractive white flowers, to the delight of the bees.

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Not all our trees have survived.  One of our two quince trees is dead and a young self sown plum tree that we had transplanted the previous autumn.

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After the intense heat and drought of last summer, I decided to grow more succulents in the pots and they have survived well through the winter.

Osmia cornuta (3)

Our Osmia cornuta continue their nest building oblivious to the trials outside in the human world.

Keep cool

We just follow the example of our little tree frogs and stay peaceful in the calm of the garden.

 

 


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A smile on a cloudy day?

This originates from Instagram (@irrev_gardener) – I do not have an account myself but I hope The Irreverent Gardener will not mind me sharing this.

 

⚠️Bad Poetry Alert⚠️

 

Found this little bumblebee today.

I am not responsible for the poem that follows. (Ok, I am.)

 

                     ‘Save the bees’ 🐝

I hatched out a little too early I didn’t know where to hide,

Then I met a slightly odd lady Who invited me inside. 🐝

She offered me some nectar Presented me with a flower

And then some sugar water To give my buzzy bits power. 🐝

She really seemed to like me ‘We all must save the bees!’

I nodded my agreement As she brought out meats and cheese. 🐝

Then she passed around canapes And offered me some wine

She slipped on a formal evening dress And invited me to dine. 🐝

She laid out some jam sandwiches And a chunky honey comb

As she tucked in my tiny napkin I felt the urge to go home. 🐝

She beamed as I nibbled some food Her eyes were slightly manic

When she offered me a bed for the night I really started to panic. 🐝

It’s really nice that people care But she was taking it too far

I sidled towards the window As she whipped out a tiny jar. 🐝

Inside the jar was a tiny bed A bathtub, and a chair

I flew out of the window quick As she lunged into the air. 🐝

I had a narrow escape my friends My freedom was nearly lost

What makes it worse is the simple fact That I’m actually a wasp. 🐝

 

I so love this poem!  I suppose I felt a twinge of affinity for the mad bee lady as do rescue tired bumble bees form time to time.

I wonder if it would be possible to convince The Irreverent Gardener to start a blog?  I can’t imagine that he is really appreciated on Instagram.

This is my bee rescue dating way back to May 2012 https://afrenchgarden.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/bumble-bee-rescue/

 


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New plants, new places

Spring continues to be mild with plenty of rain to support the abundant new growth.  The large plum tree on the right has finished flowering and has started to put on leaf.

The willows are still bright but I am keeping my eye on them as the leaf buds are just visible and soon they will have to be reduced to stumps providing lots of canes.  More than I will be able to use.

The flowers of the apricot trees stand out on the bare tree discretely.

I have seen the first flower on the Cornus mas.  My plants are quite young but I am hoping for a better show this year.

The Coronilla glauca has more flowers and the ever green leaves a good addition to the hedge.

The Eleagnus ebbingei has produced a good crop of berries this year.  I have read that all the Eleagnus varieties have edible berries (I said edible not tasty) so I will have to have a nibble when they are ripe.

We have another plum tree in flower at the moment.  It is only small and is a shoot from a yellow plum tree that died and had to be cut down.  It is probably a shoot from the root stock and it will be interesting to see if we get any plums from it this year and what kind they will be.

We removed the vines from an area at the top of the garden to create another sitting area.  In the autumn we planted a Pyrus calleryana “Chanticleer”.  This tree has long been a favourite but we had not got a good position.  With the removal of the vines, we decided we could at last have this tree.  It has already produced some flowers but it will take some years before it will put on a show in the spring and shine in its autumn colours.

We have also been tempted to plant the ornamental apple tree Malus coccinella.  It too is quite small.

The little tree has managed to hold onto the little apples that are both decorative and hopefully feed the birds in winter.  I would be interested to hear from anyone with this tree on how keen the birds are on these fruits.

I grew this Loncera nitida from some small cuttings I took some years ago.  I have been very pleased with it as a ground cover plant and I have been transplanting rooted growth to areas I want to cover.  I hope these rooted transplants will take more quickly as the little white flowers are very attractive and much appreciated by the bees just now.

Elsewhere. the Hellebores continue to provide lots of colour.

They mix well with the heather and daffodils and provide good ground cover in the summer time.

The male Osmia cornuta continue to patrol the bee houses but it will be at least another two weeks before the females will come out, I think.  In the meantime they keep dry in the empty bamboo tubes when it is cold and wet and take nectar breaks when it is sunny.


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Spring in February

For the moment the garden has decided it is opting for full on spring.

We have not really had a winter yet.  The borage decided to keep on flowering this year.  The bees did not complain.

The colour is supplied by the Camelias and everywhere the Mimosa trees are in full bloom.  That is everywhere but in my garden as I do not have the patience to deal with all the shoots they push up around their trunks.  The bees just have to go a bit further to find them in neighbours gardens.

Next door’s sheep have been producing a good crop this year, mostly twins.

My first Osmia cornuta arrived on the twelfth of February.

By the next morning lots of male Osmia were already checking out the holes in the bee holes hoping to find a female.  They will have to wait some time yet.  In the meantime they rest in the holes when they are not hungry or it is cold.

How many bees can you see in the photograph above?

I can see five.  Four in/on the log and one (rather blurred) sitting on the wall to the right of the bee house.

It is a delight at the moment watching the bees enjoy all the spring flowers.

This year I am enjoying finding the different hybrids of my self-seeded hellebore.

I still love my original dark purple…

but I like the variety of this delicate small petal variation.

The big pussy willow at the bottom of the garden is just starting to display pollen and as the plum tree nearer the house is starting to finish flowering, the bees will transfer their allegiance to the willow from next week, I think.

Next week I will be keeping my eye on the Japanese medlar and I wonder with this mild weather whether we will have medlar fruit this autumn for the first time.

Whatever happens the garden always keeps you guessing.


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Beginning of February

February sees me still struggling with a ‘flu/virus that I cannot seem to shake.

However, last Saturday I read Murtagh’s Meadow and she informed me that the first of February was Saint Brigit’s day and was considered by many in Ireland to be the first day of Spring.  Physically this made no difference to my cough but it did considerably lift my spirits.

IMG_3174-001

The hazlenuts outside of the garden are in flower and for the first time I saw bees gathering pollen from their catkins.  I have never seen this inside the garden and I have a sneaky feeling that our bees prefer other pollen.

Bee on Hellebore (1)-001

The Hellebore have started to open and get a lot of attention from the bees when the sun shines.

Bee in white Hellebore-001

I started with dark purple ones from my sister’s garden and bought some white ones little by little.

White Helllebore-001

The Hellebore self-seed liberally and I do my best to recuperate as many as I can.  I am hoping to get lots of crosses like the one above, but it takes time for the plant to mature and flower.  I am just getting to the fun part of the exercise.

Bumble bee on Hellebore-001

They seem ideal plants for me as they provide ground cover and will survive drying out and quite severe conditions during the summer.

Bee on snowdrop-001

I’ve struggled growing snowdrops but I now have an established clump in a very strange uncared for spot at the bottom of the garden.  I’ve never managed to grow them close to the house where they could be seen and enjoyed even in inclement weather.  Fickle flowers!

Plum tree

The plum tree is beautiful at the moment and full of all sorts of pollinators on the sunny days.  It is good to just stand underneath it and listen to them.

Plum tree canopy-001

It feels so good to go underneath it and look through the canopy of flowers – but it does not cure a cough.

Bee on plum blossom-001

I think the easy pickings on the plum tree distracts them from the less generous hazelnut trees.

Tree frog-001

In the meantime, I will take the example of our little green tree frog that finds a comfy spot to enjoy the winter sun whenever he can.

Bee on Speedwell-001

I still keep an eye on the Speedwell which is growing in the grass, happy in the moist spring conditions and untroubled by the lawn mower, yet.

Wild bee (1)-001

I have not seen the pretty grey wild bee again but this bee looks like an Andrena flavipes but if it is, she is flying a month earlier than Steven Falk suggests they might fly in the U.K.

Any comments or identification will be welcome.

 

 

 


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Mid January in the garden

The constant rain that was the garden’s lot before Christmas has eased up.  The temperatures have only teased around zero from time to time and the sunny days are rare but something that brings cheer.

When the sun does shine it is not the flowers but the willows (Salix alba “Chermesina”) that light up the garden.  I planted them in January 2014.

I was so optimistic about the effect my Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus praecox) would have in the garden when I planted it in February of 2015.  I planted it not too far from the back door so that I could enjoy the perfume.  It took util last year to flower and whereas the perfume is striking sampled from close, I do not find it wifts any distance as do my other perfumed shrubs.

It did not start flowering until last year and I find at this time of year the flowers become damaged in the rain.

Perhaps it is not happy.  I admit it is in a fairly shady spot in the summer and if any one has any ideas how I can improve its performance, I would love to hear.

The Winter Sweet cannot compete with the density of flowers on the Viburnum tinus which started opening in December.

All these flowers attract the bees and provide very valuable pollen.

Quantity is important when attracting pollinators and although the Anisodontea is still producing flowers of a very good quality, they are not attracting the number of insects they do in the summer.

This large clump of heather (Erica darleyensis) is always well visited but I have several other newer and smaller clumps around the garden but they do not receive the same attention – just yet!

Only the tips of the Mahonia are in flower now and the berries are beginning to set.

I thought the Japanese Medlar (Eriobotrya japonica) would have finished by now but I could still smell the perfume and found several still flowering bunches in the more sheltered areas of the tree.  It has been flowering all December and is worth its place in any garden solely for the perfume.

As one plant finishes its flowering season another one starts.  This primula is a bit quick off the mark.

But the prize for precocity (or stupidity) goes to the apricot tree – already in flower.  We planted our fruit trees as soon as we bought the house, with little knowledge but great enthusiasm.  I wish we had had the knowledge at that time to look for fruit trees more suited to this area.  We bought them tempted by the pretty pictures on their labels.

Our plum tree, we inherited, although it was very small and it flowers very early, it usually provides a great source of pollen and nectar for the pollinators and very good eating and cooking little plums.  It seems as determined this year to get going as soon as possible.

The winter flowering honeysuckle will keep the pollinators happy until the early fruit trees are in flower.

The bushes are not too high and so provide lots of entertainment watching the bees gather pollen.  The honeysuckle roots fairly easily and we have taken cuttings to give us now five bushes around the garden.

At the moment there is a lot of blue Speedwell (Veronica spp.) in the grass and the bees visit these tiny flowers.  They must have good nectar as this bee looked quite comical pushing its way into a flower that was not completely open.

I was surprised to see this wild bee on the Speedwell.  You can see how small she is as she fits comfortably into the little flower head.  I tried to see what she might be as I had managed to catch sight of the slit at the end of her thorax so I suspected the Halictidae family.  Steven Falk writes that bees in this group often nest underground and some have communual nests and even primitive eusocial communities.  So she could possibly be a fertilised queen getting ready to start her new brood.  Or are they like the bumble bee queens that come out of their shelters during the favourable days of winter to restock on fresh nectar?