a french garden


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Les jardins du Coq

I must admit that I get jealous when I read about the garden visits in the U.K.  However, I found a garden to visit – open from April and one and a half hours drive away.  It is also on our way to visit the orchids in St Maurice de Tavernole. So on a beautiful May day we paid the gardens a visit.

I suppose I had expected more similarities with garden I had visited in England, where I am excited by the prospect of discovering new plants and trees.

Here in France the gardens are designed not just for plants.  This garden of two hectares is divided into themes designed to evoke personal memories and a message of peace, love and liberty.

Even the straw acting as a dressing bears a tile with a quotation from Charles Baudelaire, “Ce qu’il y a d’ennuyeux dans l’amour, c’est que c’est un crime où l’on ne peut pas se passer d’un complice.”  So here you come to reflect and to relax. in the beauty of the garden.

The roses were not fully out in May.

There is a meadow area with the orchids and wild flowers left to their own devices.

There were bee orchids and purple orchids and other orchids not quite open.  Plenty of birds foot trefoil and

burnet moths.

There were goats and chickens for the children to see but the geese had been put in an enclosure as they can be a bit bad-tempered at this time of year.

 

Along the way I had plenty to think about. And as we found a pretty seating area we could not resist a little pause.

The bench could look good in our garden, and the message is in English this time.

A rather enigmatic message?

I like this idea of the roof tiles around the tree.  It is something I might try myself.

This is what is rare in France!

A tea room with a view!

How good did it feel to enjoy a pot of tea with accompanying sweet biscuits with a view like this!

O.K. I admit I am a philistine.  Perhaps I can return and make more of an effort to get in touch with my inner self.  It certainly has the necessary scenery and the hints to guide you on your way.

Good point!

Kourosh caught me from the other side of the lake taking a purposeful stride to the next stop.  Perhaps, I have still not sunk into the cool, relaxed mode that is recommended for this garden.

So I leave you with a very pertinent quote and a resolution to return another time to chill out and allow the ambiance and quotes to do their work.

 

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Into June in the garden

From May the garden seems to explode with flowers.  The roses fight to take pride of place.  The Veilchenblau is a favourite with the bees.

The Étoile de Hollande and I have a difficult relationship.  The perfume is superb but I call her a bit of a thug but she retorts that I have never given her a proper  space and room to grow the way she likes.  She has a point.

The New Dawn stays cornered at the bottom of the garden but has got more light this year, but not more attention.

I’ve managed to move my peonies into better positions and I have been rewarded by finding out that the bees will take their pollen.  However, it seems that when I move a peony that I unwittingly leave some root behind and another one pops up, which was not my aim.

The garden has taken up a lot of time lately.  There has been such a lot to plant and then the broad beans had to be gathered and shelled – a long process.  The poppies are too pretty to entirely remove.

When the first of the pink poppies of Troy open they are surrounded by all types of bees.

There are plenty of red field poppies but it is the big pink poppies that are the favourites.

It is really a time of abundance for the bees in the garden as the cotoneasters are in flower.

They are loved by all the bees and the bigger the bush the more noise of bees there is.

Every year is different but this year has brought a lot of these little beetles in everyone’s garden here.  They look like little beetles that eat pollen.

I often see things and mean to find out about them but I am too slow.  All winter a strange assembly of sticks, like a caddis fly larva pouch, has hung on the garage door.  I have meant to check on it until one day I saw a chrysalis protruding from the end.  Too late I thought!

Luckily, we were just in time to see the emerging moth.  I think it is Canephora hirsuta, or Hairy Sweep, a type of bag moth.  It is a male because the females have no wings.  This is the first time I have seen it here.

The bees have been busy in the Persimum or Kaki tree.  This year the tree has produced a record number of flowers.

Despite the ground being scattered with the excess small fruits it looks like a lot of fruit has set.

We have been having strawberries for a while now and our first raspberries are coming through too.  These yellow ones are ready before the pink ones and are sweeter with a good flavour.

The first flowers have just opened up in the lime tree so the bees will be in for a busy time in the next few days and we will enjoy a perfume fest.


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Redstart

What would the garden be without the birds?

In our garden in France some days we hardly hear any sound of human existence.  Just the two of us digging, weeding and replanting.

This Spring we have  four pairs of redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) nesting in our garden, on the ash tree, under the car porch, in the Persimmon (Kaki) tree, and on the low beam outside the  kitchen.  This last one was originally an old robin nest.  That makes it a bit awkward as we have to be able to get in and out of the outhouse, but it seems that the bird and us have got used to each other, as long as we don’t look at her when we pass by.

Actually I think three pairs are the common redstarts and the other pair are black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros).

redstart 2

Here in France they are called le Rouge-queue and le Rouge-queue noir.  Looking at their tails, I think I agree with the French.

redstart 3

I had a peep inside their nest earlier, as the little bird was carefully preparing it.  Have you ever seen such soft bedding?

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A few days later I looked at the nest on the beam outside the kitchen door,  The nest was all ready with five eggs.  It looks as if she has used the sheep’s wool from next door to line the nest.

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I have left several water dishes for our birds, but I think the redstarts are the cleanest birds.

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Their bath times remind me of my grand daughter who loved what she used to call her ‘splishy splashy’.  Is this one washing her ears?

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The black redstart also loves bath times,

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I wonder if they would like deeper baths?

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This all makes a change from the bees and swarm collecting.

Kourosh


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First days of May

House front

This is the time for the first and best bloom of the roses.  The climbing rose at the front of the house is Madame Isaac Pereire and has just started flowering.

Madame Isaac Pereire and bumble

The early bumble bees have claimed this rose as theirs.

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The male early bumble bees have started to appear.  They will be looking for the new queens so their cycle will soon be finishing.  I will miss them, they are so quick and lively.  I will have to wait until next spring until the new queens appear and start their own nests.

Rosa Mutabilis on side

My Rosa Mutabilis is making a bid for freedom.  I planted her too close to the willows, which were cut short at the end of March, and now she is trying to escape from them before they shade her again.  The willows will win the race so I must really find a better place for her in the autumn.

Rosa Mutabilis

The colour of this rose changes as the flower matures.

Rosa Mutabilis and bee

Of course, the best feature is that the bees love the rose pollen.

Red hot poker and bee Kniphofia

It’s amazing how my view point of plants can change.  I was given some Knipofia or red hot pokers but never really liked them and I removed most of them.  Kourosh saved this one.  It is in a very poor position but it attracts a lot of honeybees.  It must have a lot of nectar as they stay inside the flower a long time and I often see two or three bees on the same flower.

Smerinthus ocellata Eyed Hawk moth 1

It is not only bees that we notice.  The “dead leaf” on the young willow shoots looked a very unusual shape – for a willow leaf.

Smerinthus ocellata

A closer look showed us a beautiful moth, Smerinthus ocellata, the Eyed Hawk Moth, I think.  It looks so clear in a photograph but the resemblance to a dead leaf is uncanny in the light of day.

Laurel hedge (1)

The bees are omnipresent in our lives at the moment.  Our neighbour opposite has a laurel hedge and I had warned her to tell me if she saw any strange insects flying near it because Asian hornets often nest low in hedges for their first small nest.  Two days ago she came to see me because of the flying insects and the noise of buzzing in the hedge.  I immediately got on my bee suit as the laurel was not in flower so I presumed a swarm had landed in the hedge.

She was quite right.  There was a lot of noise and it was honey bees!  I searched all through the hedge, it was empty in places, but there was no swarm and the noise was not in the one area but all over.

Laurel hedge (2)

Then we noticed that the bees were all doing the same thing.  They were on the underside of the very young shoots and lapping up the surface exudate.

The laurel is known as Laurier palme here.  I checked on it and its latin name is Prunus laurocerasus.  The leaves are actually toxic if you were to choose to chop up the leaves and make cherry-laurel water.  However, small doses of this water has been used in the past to give an almond flavour to pastries and sauces.  Traditional medicines have used the cherry-laurel as an anti-spasmodic and sedative and to treat coughs.  It contains hydrocyanic acid and I can think of better things to flavour my sauces with.

However, the bees want it.  Could it be an ingredient of propolis?  Propolis is what the bees use to fill any holes in their hives and has antiseptic, antibacterial and antioxydant properties.

Swarm in hawthorn

The bees are omnipresent.  They tax our ingenuity by swarming in tall Hawthorn trees but Kourosh has improvised with very long stick and a plastic bucket secured with packaging tape.  I did not think it would work – but it did.  We are at swarm number seven now.  It has been a busy time for the bees.

Tree frog.JPG

At the moment I look forward to a quieter life, like that of our little tree frog that sleeps under the plastic cover of our outdoor table.  He only wakes up when we lift of the cover to have our morning coffee.


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The Ash Tree

Ash trees border

She refuses to be another daisy,
Picked for her beauty and left to die,
She is pure, wild, fearless and free.
Difficult to find even with an open eye.
Yet as grounded as the mighty ash tree.
She wears strength on her leaves,
And when darkness bereaves,
She does not fear,
She becomes it.                                     ( The Ash Tree by Ashley Wilson)

Along our border, we had a whole line of mighty ash trees.  During the past few years we have lost three during summer storms.  Lucien, my old neighbour told me that he planted them when he was very young.  He is no longer with us,  but his memory through these trees, that now must be nearly a hundred years old, will remain.

Ash trees

They provide a great deal of shade and in summer Amelia and I love them and sometimes curse them as they provide too much shade to the vegetable garden.

The ash tree (Fraxinus) flowers are pretty enough but do not appear to interest our bees.

The ash trees have both male and female flowers that can appear on different trees or on different branches.  We do get a lot of flowers on our ash trees but they seem to attract very few pollinators.

So, a couple of years ago, Amelia chose another variety, the flowering ash tree (Fraxinus Ornus).  We bought a tree which is some three meters tall, and has started to flower beautifully.

Flowering Ash Tree

And I am delighted that its flowers do indeed attract both the bumble bees as well as our honey bees,

Fraxinus Ornus (1)

Although this little lady is carrying pollen, I think that she is also sucking nectar.

Fraxinus Ornus (2)

Ashley Wilson, at the end of her poem notes that for the Celts, the Ash tree was considered as the guardian of children and represented resurrection and renewal.  To the druids, the ash tree represented the realm between the sky and the earth.

So I hope that in these troubled times, our ash trees – both types – will be a sign of renewal into Spring and Summer and that they will be the guardian of our little bees.

Kourosh

 


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Colour in April

Border in front gdn

This part of the front garden border provides lots of colour near the house but I have not planted anything there for years.  I first sowed forget-me-nots in the garden over ten years ago and that one sowing was all that was needed to ensure their appearance every spring.  Sure they will have to be hauled out later in the year as they get untidy, but it is nice to see them again in spring.  I am getting a bit worried about the white alliums though and I think I might have to be more severe this year.

Honesty

Kourosh flung a handful of Honesty seeds in front of the green plastic composteur and that has created a bright screen that I expect will be self perpetuating.

Male orange tip Anthocharis cardamines

The Honesty is very popular with all the pollinators and I see a lot of orange tip butterflies on it.

Showing off-001

This is a male Anthocharis cardamines.  They look so good against the purple petals,  I wonder if he is just showing off.

Iris

The purple Iris outside the front walls are beautiful and provide lots of colour but I have a difference of opinion with Kourosh here that they create too much work.  After the flowers have past I find that Iris stems provide ideal nursery spaces for all sorts of weeds and prevent efficient strimming along the base of the wall.

Choisya Sundance (1)

Contrary to the Iris, is the Choisya “Sundance” which is in flower just now and is a workhorse.  It gives you perfumed flowers and the yellow, evergreen foliage light up the winter garden.

L.tatarica

Another impressive evergreen is my Lonicera tatarica.  It is in flower just now and survives in a dry, shaded spot in the back garden.

Camassia in pots

I don’t keep too many pots, but I love to have pots of Camassia on the patio at this time of year.  They attract a lot of bumble bees, so as soon as the sun is out in the morning we are out with a coffee and the bees are on the Camassia.

Carder in Camassia (1)

The queen bumble bees make a lot of noise as they go about their morning tasks.

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The Anthophora bees are frequent visitors too.  This could even be a female A. plumipes as we have only the grey females here.

Victoria plum tree

In the back garden it is the Victoria plum tree that attracts the bees at the moment.

Andrena fulva in plum tree

I am pretty sure that this is an Andrena fulva.

Bee in plum tree

However, this one I am not so sure of, but it might be an Andrena flavipes or Andrena nitida – see comments.  All comers are very welcome on the plum tree.

Thyme

Another flower attracting all comers is the thyme.

Thyme and tulips

I started this thyme off to cover a difficult patch between two tree.  I had already tried other options but this is thyme taken from patches growing wild in the garden and I have supported it by covering the edges with wood chip.  The tulips are from a previous idea and I’ll let them fight it out themselves as they seem pretty determined.

I am very happy with its spread and I am considering using it in other places to inhibit weeds in sunny spots.

Cerinthe

This is a clump of self-sown Cerinthe.  Probably the biggest draw for solitary bees in the garden at the moment.  It is so thickly sown that it has completely suppressed weeds (well the nasty ones, I am not counting the borage and a bit of fumitory).  So, I cannot ask for more colour or more bees from this clump of flowers.

 


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It’s hot!

This spring has been very mild.  Milder than we have ever experienced here.  We need a parasol to sit in the sun on the patio to have lunch.

First flowering Wisteria

The Wisteria has already started to flower on the atelier wall and the Carpenter bees are in their element.

Osmia cornuta mating

The Osmia cornuta have had perfect weather this year.  The males are all gone now but not before coupling with plenty of females.  The little chap with the cute white fringe in the photo above is the male Osmia.  The female was very compliant perhaps because it was warm and the leaf was very comfortable.

Osmia on box

The females are busy building their nests and putting on a great show for our friends passing in front of the bee houses.

Overfilled bamboo

Some bees are so enthusiastic with the tube filling that the tubes have a convex finish.

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The boxes also attracts other insects.  I am not sure what this fly is doing but I view it with suspicion as there are many insects that are parasites of the Osmia.

Wasp in bee house

This wasp may just be looking for a place to nest, or yet again to leave its eggs to hatch in a nest which will soon provide a delicious Osmia larva to feed the wasp’s young.

Andrena cineraria

I think this is a male Andrena cineraria as I have the females provisioning their nests under our big plum tree, as they do every year.  These bees are called mining bees as they dig tunnels in the ground in which to lay their eggs.

Nomada

However, this year I am seeing many more of their cuckoo bees.  These bees belong to the genus Nomada and will follow a female Andrena cineraria back to her nest site.  It will then try to find the nesting hole of these mining bees and lay its eggs inside.  The action is just like the cuckoo who lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and so takes no further responsibility for bringing up its young.

Bombylius bee fly

The other insect I see often over the mining bees nest site is this cute looking fluffy insect.  It is not a bee but a Bombylius or bee fly which is also a parasite of the mining bees and other solitary bees.  Life is not easy for the solitary bees.

Bee on Forget-me-not

Our honey bees are having it easy at the moment with lots of nectar on offer.

Bee on Camelia

The Camelia is full of flowers and offers both nectar and pollen and a pretty picture for us.

Speckled Wood

The Viburnum tinus does a great job at the moment, providing nectar for all comers.  This is a Speckled Wood butterfly but it also attracts the queen Asian hornets which we try and trap before they can build their nests.

Orange tip

I’ll just pop in this photo of an Orange Tip butterfly on the Honesty in case people get the correct impression that I am besotted by bees.

Tulips

I do appreciate the occasional flower that does not attract bees.  These tulips are almost white when they first appear and every year I say to myself, “That’s strange, I am sure  they were a deeper pink last year.”

Redder tulips (1)

After just a few days they take on a much deeper tint.

Ash leaf Maple

Elsewhere in the garden spring continues with the trees unfolding in sequence.  At the moment the Ash-leaved Maple is putting on its show.

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I like the tassels and the leaves will shelter us from the sun at a favourite sitting place in the summer.

Plum tree

The big plum tree in the back garden is full of new leaves.

Tiny plums

In places the flowers have withered to reveal the tiny beginnings of the plums.  The question here at the moment is what will happen to the plums, apricots and cherries this year?  For the last two years the frosts have destroyed all the plum flowers or new fruits and we have had no plums.

Our daytime temperatures have been in the low 20 degree centigrade with blue skies but the night time has dropped to 2 or 3 degrees.