a french garden


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A Straw Poll on the Proposed Development of the Lagoon Field alongside Wilden Marsh

I saw this on Murtagh’s Meadow who had re-blogged it.

It struck a chord.  Natural spaces around us in France are being insidiously nibbled away and natural areas and woodland cleared.

 

The Wilden Marsh Blog

WILDEN MARSH NATURE RESERVE AND THE LAGOON FIELD

Walking through a sunny Falling Sands Nature Area this morning, I looked up at the new houses along the top of the high Lower Stour Valley bank thinking of the marvellous view some of the residents have of Wilden Marsh. I am thankful that the River Stour and Worcestershire and Staffordshire canal is acting as a barrier between the marsh and the housing and residential estates along the west bank. The site of the old sugar factory is now a new combined housing and residential estate in the final stages of completion.

We are now faced with the threat of the Lagoon Field being turned over to residential/industrial use. The thought is terrifying! It would be a huge mistake and very bad news for Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and the south to north wildlife corridor it is part of. I am unable to come to terms with the fact that this development…

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The loss of a beehive.

On 7th May, we lost our brave Violette.

For those of you that might be interested to know, in April I wrote that our favourite hive, Violette, swarmed.  The swarm arrived happily in a nuke that we had placed on the roof of the old chicken coop and subsequently we transferred her to the end of the garden where we keep our hives.

Violette BeehiveTwo weeks later we noticed a small bundle of bees on the ground, in front of Violette.  We suspected that the new queen was among them as I had read that sometimes on return from her nuptial flight she is so tired and heavy that she cannot fly well.

Queen bee outside the hive with her courtSo I decided to gently pry the bees to see what I could find.  “There she is!”, Amelia noticed.

Queen bee outside her hiveI lifted the queen gently and placed her in front of the hive entrance.  She walked in and soon the rest of the bees followed her inside.  Unfortunately, this happened three times, over two days.  Each time she appeared to have tumbled out of the hive.  Something strange was definitely happening.

So a couple of days later, on Sunday 7th May, we prepared the smoker to open up Violette.  There was no need to use the smoker, as the hive was completely empty.  No bees to be found, dead or alive.

I spoke with a couple of very experienced beekeepers who told me that they too have had hives completely empty.  They believe that whilst outside the hive they must have been poisoned and subsequently died.   We found three closed queen cells in Violette and opened them to see fully formed queens, abandoned by the bees.  There was no visible sign of disease on the bees before.  We found it strange that a week earlier the hive was full of bees and then nothing.  No bees!

The swarm that we had collected from Violette in a six frame nuke, however, was so busy that for a couple of nights we saw some bees staying outside the hive at night.  It appeared that there was no room in the inn.

Nuke with too many beesAs we had the smoker ready we opened up the nuke, and found out that she had very large brood on both sides of five frame, and a lot of bees moving around.  We quickly transferred to a full ten frame hive, plus a super.  She is now called Iris.

Iris Bee hiveViolette’s frames were all destroyed in case of any illness, or transfer of any possible poison.

But nature is what it it is and we have to accept that sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.

The two pairs of blackbirds in the back garden appear to have each raised two chicks and the fledglings are ravenous.

Black bird with fledglingsThe large poppy seeds that I planted at the edge of the vegetable garden last year and they did not grow then, are now in flower and are loved by the bumblebees as well as our honey bees (and of course by us!)

PoppiesThe phacelia that self-seeded from last year’s planting is also well loved by bumblebees and the honey bees.

IMG_0180So as consolation, I made a cup of coffee for Amelia with a little chocolate bunny.  “But who is sitting in my chair”, she cried!

IMG_0128The little tree frog, our daily visitor, was nonplussed by our intrusion.

Tree frog

Kourosh


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A good spring for Osmia cornuta

Warning! This blog has a high bee content so only if you are interested in the bees as well as the garden :).

Bees in a French Garden

My bee houses have been rewarding me with lots of activity from the Osmia cornuta in the past weeks.  I’m sure they don’t need any help to find hollow nesting places but when they choose my hollow bamboo canes or drilled-out wood I have the pleasure of watching their antics.

The first I know that some bees have hatched is the frantic activity of the males.  This 17 second video gives you an idea of what it looks like.

I admire the tenacity of the males who guard the holes against all comers.  You can get the idea in this 16 second video.

The male can be easily recognised by the little tuft of white hair on his head.  They are around several weeks before the females eventually hatch and then the excitement really mounts.

The mating is not an elegant affair and this pair managed to get stuck in…

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Planting bulbs the hard way

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This pot has lain since May of 2014 just to satisfy my curiosity.  I had noticed daffodils appearing in the garden where I thought they had not been planted but at the same time I doubted whether they would self-seed.

Bee approaches daffodil.jpg

I have read that bees are not attracted to daffodils but that will depend on the bees, the availability of other flowers and of course the variety of daffodil.

bee-in-daffodil

These pictures were taken in March of 2013, before we started keeping honey bees so I cannot answer for their tastes in nectar or pollen.

Daff seeds 24.5.2014 1.JPG

I do find that some of the daffodils go to seed so in May of 2014 I decided to plant some of the seeds.

bumble-in-tulip

In addition, the bumble bees are attracted to the tulips although some of them make very inelegant exits from inside the tulips, like this red tailed queen bumble bee.  So I also had seeds of a pretty pink tulip to sow with the daffodils.

Fritillary seed head 24.5.14 (2).JPG

Just to make up a threesome, I had noticed that the snakeskin fritillaria (Fritillaria meleagris) had masses of seeds so their seeds went in the pot too.

The fritillaria had been sown for the first time in the autumn of 2013 and flowered abundantly the following spring.  That was the last time I saw them.  I am not sure whether our hot, dry summers killed off the young plants or whether I had not loved them enough while they were flowering.

bulbs-revealed

The seeds in my pot from 2014 had produced green leaves last year but I felt they would need to be planted out this year.  So with a heave I upturned the pot to see what was happening.

bulb-close-up

You must have faith in me here, as the photo is not clear, but there were masses of fritillaria bulblets (top left), six long, thin but very well rooted tulip bulbs (eight seeds had been planted originally) and lots of little daffodil bulblets.

I don’t like planting bulbs but here I was now with lots of little fritillaria bulblets (that I am not particularly keen on) but now I feel totally obliged to give them at least a chance to grow in with the little daffodil bulbs in a patch at the bottom of the garden.

The six pink tulip bulbs have received a preferential treatment and been replaced with new soil in the pot.

So why do I do it?  Just to be sure?  It is so much easier to pick up a bag of bulbs all ready to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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We need rain

broad-beans-planted

Our region has had water restrictions imposed for agriculture use to protect water table levels.  There are still no restrictions on domestic use for gardens or washing cars.  I’ve planted my broad beans anyway.  I have been protecting unused parts of the vegetable garden with cardboard and I hope to put compost on top of it in the winter.

Mouse nest.JPG

That means mousie has been turfed out of his house.  It looks pretty comfortable if you could imagine it with a cardboard roof.

saffron-001

Still the mouse did not do so much damage as the moles did in my saffron patch.  Last year I thinned out the bulbs and planted them in straight rows and then sowed Phacelia in between the rows.  All that went well and I covered the patch with cardboard after the Phacelia flowers had finished.  That really kept down the weeds down until now when the saffron is popping through…but not in straight lines.

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I rushed out and took a photograph of the first saffron flower of the season.  I think the soil is dry for them this year.

Walnuts.JPG

On the topic of food, we have had a good bowlful of walnuts from the tree we planted about fifteen years ago.  You need to be patient if you want your own walnuts.

2-tone-cosmos

I have found a two tone Cosmos sulphureus.  It is half between my yellow ones and orange ones.  I have kept the seeds.  You never know…  It will be fun to try them next year.

yellow-cosmos

Meantime the bees are indifferent to the colour of the Cosmos.

bee-on-cosmos

There are a lot going to seed now but I find the seed heads attractive too.  I have not seen the birds going for the seeds but I presume they must.

bumble-bee-on-savia-uliginosa

The Salvia uliginosa attracts both the bumble bees and honey bees at the moment.

Dark Salvia.JPG

I like to watch the honey bees on my tall dark Salvia.  The flower looks too long for them but they must just fit in as they disappear completely inside for some time before entering the next flowerlet.

bumble-on-madame-isaac-pereire

It has been too hot for my Madame Isaac Pereire rose this year but I am glad she has not lost her attraction for the bumble bees who go deep inside to buzz in satisfaction.

Girona tree.JPG

I have a problem and was unsure if I should broach it but I took courage and ran outside and took a photograph of it.

Kourosh is an inveterate seed collector.  I have banned him collecting any more tree seeds because once you have a tree it is difficult to part with it.  The problem is we have a tree but we have no idea what it is.

close-up-leaf

This is a close up of the leaf.

girona-tree-2

This is a photograph taken of the tree in flower in Girona, Spain in May 2015 during their flower festival.

girona-tree-1

The previous year’s fruit was still on the trees.  I was sure it would be easy to find the identity of these beautiful, sweet perfumed trees once we returned home.  I would like to know if it had a chance to survive here and of course I would be so grateful if anyone recognised it.

 


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Hot August Days

parched grassAugust has been hot and  dry.  Rain showers have passed to the north of us and to the south of us but we remain parched.  The trees must be able to reach lower damper soil with their roots but even they are tiring.  The leaves are starting to change to autumn colour because of the drought stress and the apples are falling.

weeded look

I have to water the young plants and the judicious watering is creating a well-weeded took as even the weeds are succumbing.

Saville gdns hydrangia

My “Savill Garden” hydrangea has survived and flowered for the first time but only the cared for plants can make it through the hot sun and dryness.  Even the lavender requires some water.

Canna

Only the Canna has survived and flourished without watering.  I don’t actually like it and years ago I presumed I could kill it if I never watered it.  Not so.  Now I keep it as it provides a trouble free hedging and it is easily controlled by pulling out the new plants once a year either in autumn or spring.

A gold star goes to a tough, yellow flower that I was given, I think it must be a perennial sunflower.  This on the other hand is a favourite as the bees adore it.

B.sylvarum.. (1)

I could do with a help on the I.D. here.  Even the bees are getting bleached in the sun!  I would like to know if this is a Shrill Carder bumble bee or just a very bleached other carder.

B.sylvarum.. (2)

Here is a side shot if it helps.

Whip snake long view

One creature that was enjoying a hot sunny spot in the garden was this Western Whip snake or couleuvre.

Whip snake portrait

They are not venomous and very shy, not hanging around when disturbed.  I was surprised, therefore, to see it later in a different part of the garden.  Coincidently, it was near a hose each time.

garden hose

In view of the colour of our garden hose, I wonder if it was just looking for a friend?

Bumble bee mint

Outside of the garden the wild mint is in flower and attracts loads of bees and butterflies.

honey bee mint

I have let our mint flower in the garden too and notice our bees on the flowers.  Does this meant that our honey will have mint overtones?

honey bee gaura

The Gaura is the favourite flower of the honey bees in the garden at the moment.  The pollen is all carried away by mid-morning but I notice the bees fill-up on the nectar while collecting the pollen.

Artemisia absinthium

I am fascinated by my Artemisia absinthium bush.  This is the plant used in the production of absinthe and known commonly as Wormwood as it was used in the treatment of intestinal worms.

What fascinates me is that I never see an insect on it: not a fly, or bee or butterfly.  Yet it has pleasant little yellow pom-pom flowers that remind me of Mimosa.  It was at one time used for strewing on floors to keep insects away or for folding into materials to protect them from damage by mites.

I have tried rubbing it in my hands and it has a not unpleasant odour and I wonder how it would fare as an anti-mosquito treatment.  I think I will cut the branches and try it in the cupboards this winter as an anti-moth remedy.

Sphinx caterpillar

This caterpillar did not come from my garden.  My neighbour Annie brought it down to me as she knew I would be interested.  It was 12 cm. long and 2 cm. tall (?), a real chunky chappy.  I recognised it as a Sphinx caterpillar but as it happened our beekeeper friend, Michel, was here too and correctly explained that these caterpillars grow into Death’s head hawkmoths; moths that love honey and can invade bee hives.  I must admit I was a bit sceptical of moths attacking bee hives but check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death%27s-head_hawkmoth.

Poor bees they have a lot to put up with!

 

 

 

 


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Wildlife Wednesday – A Perfect Storm

Are your garden plants treated with neonics? Julie is highlighting the lack of clarity in labelling of treated plants destined for our gardens.
Will gardeners be able to lobby for more transparency? Even in France?

Gardening Jules

Inspired by Tammy’s Casa Mariposa blog, I have been trying for some time to compile a list of UK Garden Centres and Nurseries which sell plants without neonics – systemic insecticide use. I am failing. The RHS were unable to help – despite selling a licensed logo “Perfect for Pollinators” This isn’t regulated – plants can be treated with neonicintoid insecticides and still carry the label.

Astrantia Roma Astrantia Roma and Bumblebees

Neonics, used to kill off insects by commercial growers deemed to be aesthetically harmful to a plant, stay within the plant – that same systemic insecticide is able to kill the very pollinators it’s labelled to attract. Which is beyond stupid. Laced with hidden toxic chemicals enticing us to buy the perfect plant we are creating a pollinator death trap. Dave Goulson reports “Neonics in soil can persist for years. They can also last for several years once inside perennial…

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