Allium cernuum, feast or famine

Last year I wrote about my success with half a packet of Allium Cernuum seeds (See here More eggs). My first half packet had produced some precious bulbs but the second half, used a year later, had failed.

My natural assumption was that these were tricky to grow and that a bigger effort was necessary to provide me with the bulbs I wanted – not only in a few pots but in the ground.

I allowed the flowers to form seeds – no problem here as they attract all sorts of pollinators – and planted them out in a pot to overwinter outside.

Believing that the seeds were difficult to germinate, I sowed them thickly.
I think every seed must have germinated.
This is where I am at the moment with the pot. I have planted areas in the border. I have already given away one planted pot to a gardener friend and planted one pot for a friend that I will keep until next year when I hope it will flower.

As you can see, there is going to be excess. I hate to throw seedlings away but I think that quite a few will find their way to the compost.

Next year the pots will be much fuller than this one!

The dirty garden

Last Wednesday morning started in a strange way. Sitting at breakfast and looking out of the window – things looked different.

All I could think of was that someone had changed our window panes to yellow tinted glass while we were sleeping. They must have been very quiet but I could think of no reason for the change in hue. I had a quick look at BBC online as I thought there could have been a volcanic eruption somewhere but nothing was mentioned.

As the morning progressed the colour lifted and I had my second surprise when I started a bit of weeding in the front garden.

All my lovely Hellebores were diseased! It looked fungal to me.

Then to my horror I saw that all the other plant leaves had been attacked by the same disease. Here I started to get suspicious as I could not imagine the one fungus successfully attacking such a variety of plants. We are having a lot of tree pollen being blown around at this moment and the spots could be rubbed off like soft pollen but I did not think that was the answer.

Then I remembered the yellow light and searched on the French sites and found out that we had sand from the Sahara blown onto the garden. I had to wash my parsley well that day and it was strange to think that the sand from the Sahara was going down my sink.

Luckily our car was under shelter but there have been very dirty looking cars driving around and the car washes are busy! This is the first time I have encountered this phenomena but I believe it is not too unusual in the south of France.

Continuing on the strange theme, we saw this strange beast in our pond this week. Has anyone any idea what it is?

Just before noticing the beast, I thought a wall lizard had fallen in and drowned in the water, so I tried to scoop it out of the pond in case it might be still alive. The “lizard” swam off to hide in the pond weed! So, I have another question. Was the “lizard” a newt or do wall lizards swim?

This week the bulbs are filling the borders. The front garden is a mass of flowers. The late daffodils are mingling with the early tulips.

We have some Puschkinia bulbs in pots for the first time this year. They are not very showy, perhaps it is the way I have planted them. Perhaps they would be better to accompany another flower or would do better in the soil.

However, they attract the bees and provide us with bee entertainment when we are lucky enough to have the warmth to enjoy our coffee on the patio.

Even their leaves are smudged with dust and I could not find enough clean flowers in the garden to fill a vase for the house. So I had to content myself with a slightly soiled bunch of flowers.

In the top of the back garden there are three trees in flower. From left to right – the ornamental pear “Chanticleer”, the little pink cherry blossom “Accolade” and the Nashi.

We planted Chanticleer in the autumn of 2019 and it is now showing clearly its distinctive tall form.

The little Prunus “Accolade” was a impulse purchase in spring 2020. It is not a purchase we regret as the little tree is smothered in a mass of flowers.

The Nashi “Kosui” was only planted in January of 2021 but perhaps it will give us some fruit this year as it has plenty of flowers.

So much happens in the garden at this time of year. Even the evenings can be colourful.

March 17 2022 at 20h20

A Week of Flowers, Day 3

Eleagnus umbellata, 30.3.21

One of the joys of sharing gardens through the blogs is finding the gems that are perfect for your own garden. We bought several of these trees in 2017 and they thrive well in our garden with these pretty flowers in the spring. Eventually, we hope that they will produce fruit.

Honesty (Lunaria annua) flowers, 14.4.21

I have a beautiful dark leaved variety of Honesty that self seeds where it fancies, much to the delight of all the different types of bees. I love it too. A large part of my delight in seeing it flower every year comes from thinking of the friend who sent me the seeds.

Problems in the potager

We are not great vegetable gardeners but I have always managed to raise lots of tomatoes.  This year, starting with the seeds of the excellent tomatoes I had last year, I have had problems.  The plants have been strong and healthy but the tomatoes are not ripening so quickly.  They are very large fruits and they taste good.  Last year the fruits were of a more even shape and I wonder if last year the bumble bees have been doing a bit of cross-pollination, giving me a different result this year.

I should not complain as they are starting to ripen now and I should have enough to provide enough tomato coulis to last us over the year.

This year,my sister sent me Golden Sunrise tomato seeds and I reluctantly put in two plants.  Actually, they gave great plants, well shaped fruit and ripened normally.  Of course, it goes without saying that my Sungold cherry tomatoes have been providing me lots of fruit for ages.

I think I will not keep the seeds of these tomatoes for next year and I would be grateful for the name of a good “heat resistant” tomato for next year.

My next enigma comes from the Pepper seeds “Havana Gold” sent to me by my sister.  These, unfortunately, germinated very easily from a few seeds.  As I am not sure what to do with them, I thought I would grow one plant as an ornamental in a pot and I put the other three into the garden to die quietly.

I quickly noticed that the pampered plant in the pot was being out paced by the plants in the garden, so I stuck it in beside them.

If you look carefully, you can see the small pepper plant between its sisters and the aubergine plants.  I cannot understand why the potted plant has stayed stunted.  Any answers?

The aubergine plants were bought and put in at the middle of May and are only now starting to grow and flower. (?).

The next enigma is the cucumbers.  We were given the seeds by a friend, as we both like these little cucumbers, and he brings the seeds from Lebanon.  To be economical with the seeds, we decided to start the plants off in pots.  Nothing. Replanted. Nothing.  Perhaps the seeds are too old now?  So we stuck them into the ground, much too late and they grew like Jack and the Beanstock plants to give us lots of cucumbers.

I would be grateful if anyone had any ideas of what might be happening.

I do have good news.  We scrapped the raised bed for the Butternuts (here in S.W. France it is much too dry for raised beds, I think) and let them run over the strawberries that I have ceded to the slugs.  This works much better and I am going to have plenty by the autumn.

The raspberries, both the gold and red, have fruited again – many thanks bumblebees for the sterling pollination effort.  I find the raspberries much less frustrating than the strawberries.

As always, Kourosh manages to find things in the garden.  This is a long-horned beetle – pretty obvious – and I had a problem getting a good clear photo and keeping its antenna in focus.  The coin is a one euro, about the size of a pound coin.

The Cerambyx scopolii lays its eggs in a variety of wild forest trees and the larvae bore into the tree and can excavate galleries of up to 8-10 cm.  A heavy infestation would be harmful to trees or plantations.  The adults eat pollen but I have yet to see it any on flowers.  I think they keep to the forest flowers such as elders and hawthorns and the umbellifers.

Yesterday, was the find of a caterpillar of Acherontia atropos outside our back door on the grass.  I recognised the funny spike on its rear and Kourosh Googled the photo to get the identity of the Death’s Head moth.  I checked out, on the web, what it might eat and came up immediately with potatoes.  I thought – not in our garden!  However, looking further I saw that it would be tempted by any of the solanacea, such as Deadly Nightshade.

I do have some in the garden and there is plenty outside in the woodland.  It has been recorded on other plants so I do not think it is as fussy as that.

This huge caterpillar will turn into the Death’s Head Moth.  This strange moth has the ability to fool bees to allow it to enter their hives and steal their honey.

We have already found the moth near our beehives, so click the link if you are interested to see the adult moth.

 

 

 

A View of Andalusia

Happy New Year to you all.  I do hope that this new year and the new decade will bring much happiness to everyone.

Amelia and I spent the holidays visiting my son in Andalusia, Spain, at Malaga.  On first of January the sun was shining beautifully and the temperature in the shade was about 18 degree C (65F).

Malaga 01.01.2020

There were even a few hardy people (must have been British!) who swam in the sea.

Malaga (03) 01.01.2020

The public WCs along the beach have always caught my eye.  The imagination and the artistic inspiration of the Spaniards impresses me.

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The outside walls of the buildings were decorated with beach scenes.

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Why should such ordinary buildings not be decorated?

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The WCs were clean and clearly newly painted.

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I think they would amuse the children as well as the adults.

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It was not only the WCs, but many of the recycling bins near the beach were also decorated.

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One last memory for me was the sign on one pet grooming shop in Malaga which did make me laugh.

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Have a wonderful 2020.

    •  Kourosh

The Season Starts or Finishes now?

The beekeepers, consider that after the honey harvest in autumn, the next season just begins.  There is so much to be done to tidy the equipment and make sure that the bees have enough provisions to last them through the winter. We been lucky this year.

Honeybee on winter honeysuckle (3)

Even these last days of November, the winter flowering honeysuckle provides both nectar and pollen for our bees.

bumble Bee 1

It is not just the honey bees that interest us.  The bumble bees are frequent visitors at this time on several mahonias in the garden.

Beehives near la Seudre

Our five hives are tucked away at the end of the garden, and the autumn so far has been mild.  This has not been the story across France, where the French Union of Beekeepers (UNAF) have named 2019 as a black year,  UNAF has applied to the French Government to take the necessary steps to indemnify the beekeepers in the worst affected regions,  The cold spring and exceptionally hot summer contributed to the loss of many bee colonies across France.

Here the summer was so dry that even the sunflowers did not have much nectar, so the bees could not produce as much honey as usual.  Normally one hive can produce 20 or even 30 kilograms of honey in autumn.  The average in this region was around 5 kilogram per hive.  As I said, we were lucky as around us there are forests of sweet chestnut trees, so we collected a fair amount of all flowers honey as well as forest honey which is mostly chestnut honey,  Certainly enough for us and our friends.

In total we also collected 11 bee swarms that came to our garden.  We housed them and kept them for a few weeks and then passed them to friends who had lost many colonies.

Beehives near la Seudre. 1. jpg

During the past month we have had a lot of rain and after 18 months that the river at the bottom of the garden was dry, now la Seudre is almost full of water.

So, Amelia and I are already looking forward to next year beekeeping life.

For me, apart from occasional visit to see how the bees are getting on, the pleasure is to watch the birds. coming to our front garden.

Robin

The robin, specially at this time of the year reminds us of Christmas cards.

She comes regularly bathing in front of the dinning room.

Robin bathing 1 (2)

So does the sungthrush.

Song thrush bathing 1

Sometimes I wonder if the birds like washing themselves or do they, like children, actually enjoy bathing.

Song thrush bathing 1 (3)

I think this one was washing his ears!

At this time of the year Amelia likes collecting the leaves for composting, but some of the trees have not totally lost their leaves, The liquidambar leaves, however, are so pretty even on the ground that Amelia does not have the heart to rake them.

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So I wish you a happy autumn and together we look forward to the start of another year of beekeeping as well as gardening.

Kourosh

 

The little bees

For those interested in the bees.

Bees in a French Garden

I was watching the bees and butterflies mob my Evodia tree (or Tedradium daniellii, depending on what you want to call it).  At the same time I noticed clouds of tiny flies around the flowers.  I had never noticed such numbers of tiny flies being attracted to my other “pollinator attractive” plants.

I managed to get close to some of the flowers on the lower branches and look closer at the “flies”.

I was horrified to see on closer inspection that they were tiny bees that I had mistaken for flies.  I measured the Evodia’s petal and it is between 4-5 mm., so that gives you an indication of how small these bees are.

I have already posted about Carpenter bees in France.

I can imagine these big but harmless bees terrifying tourists from northern Europe as they relax in the garden of their holiday home and experience these bees…

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In praise of Mullein

We have lots of Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) in the garden.  It self seeds, but the small seedlings are easily transplanted in the autumn to a more appropriate site.

All the Mullein plants do not have a happy life.  This year the caterpillars have ravaged quite a few.  Some were able to make a come back, others not.

The more voracious caterpillars continued to devour the plants right to their almost flowering buds.

The caterpillar becomes very large and fat and is easily recognised.

Swallow tail butterfly – Papilio machaon

Please see Malcolm’s comment below.  The caterpillars on the Mullein are from Mullein moths! I have had Swallow tails on my fennel previously and have confused these fat caterpillars although the colour is different.   

They are also a wonderful source of pollen for bees.  They have to get up early to get the most plentiful offerings of pollen.  By the afternoon there is not much action on the flowers.  But new flowers open each day.

It is not just honey bees that use the Mullein flowers to provide pollen other bees gather the bright orange pollen too.

You can see how tiny this bee is by comparing with the size of the stamens.

The flowers have been used to make herbal cough syrups but they have to be carefully gathered as the duvet on the leaves and stem can be irritating to the throat if mixed in with the flowers.  The infusions are also supposed to be beneficial for the throat and coughs but need  to be filtered carefully.  I have not tried gathering the flowers but leave them for the bees.

I was pleased to see that our neighbour has left a Molene standing proudly beside their drive.  Every little helps and in our dry, chalky soil it makes a very easy architectural plant.