When the sun plays on the Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) tree the perfume expands over the garden and the bees descend on the flowers. The flowers are just starting to open and are only opening slowly.
Have you ever been caught out by thinking an artificial plant was a real one? There are some fake plants that, well placed in a shady corner of a restaurant or hotel, have had me deceived. However, when I look at the Loquat I find that the fluffy stems that support the flowers look more as if they have been fabricated from a soft, synthetic velvet rather having grown in such perfection. The leaves, on closer inspection, are a bit suspect too. Rather too thick and shiny.
The most unusual is the perfume. Extremely pleasant as it is, I find it reminds me of baby talcum powder and not of any other flower that I know! It almost seems as if it is a real plant pretending to be artificial!
We are too far north for the tree to produce its delicious fruit but it is H3 hardy so suitable as decoration in areas with a mild winter.
The Elaeagnus x ebbingei is still flowering. I must try and note next year how long its perfumed season lasts. I am growing this as a screen between the us and the neighbouring garden. It is very amenable to being cut and I like to let it have a free form to give access to the birds and bees but it takes well to being pruned.
The winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is H6 so we are looking at a plant that will take very cold winters but reward you with flowers and perfume when there is some sunshine and warmth.
The honeysuckle is frequently visited throughout the winter by the buff tailed bumble bee (just to confuse me the buff tailed bumble bees have white tails in France) but I noticed this carder bee on the honeysuckle. It interested me as it is a queen carder that I frequently see in springtime here.
It has a thick brown band at the top of its thorax and I had straight away thought of the brown-banded bumble bee (Bombus humilis) however, it does not match the description of Steven Falk. I then checked on Atlas Hymenoptera – Les bourdons de la Belgique and I think I have found my carder bee as one of the three types that used to be found in Belgium although now they have practically disappeared.
Perhaps I should post this on my other site Bees in a French Garden to see if anyone can help me here. But whatever their names are it is nice to see them in December.
You can tell that the bumble bees are finding plenty of pollen and so must still have a nest with young that they are feeding. The young queens only need nectar to survive until they decide to make a nest. The strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) H5 is a real hardy tree and the flowers are very attractive, if low on the perfume stakes.
Another white, perfumed flower still blossoming is the Osmanthus heterophyllus “Goshiki”, I should really take a cutting to see if I could start another plant but this one is shaded by a wall and I am not sure whether it would stand the summer sun.
It seems that most of my very fragrant winter flowers are white but now I have the Mahonias I love the splashes of yellow that they are providing. “Charity” is the most prolific but the two “Media” are close behind.
The Anisodontea el rayo continues to flower and attract the bees but now some of the leaves have taken on a copper tint. When I first saw the colour change after some cold nights I thought that was the end of the flowering season but the buds were unaffected and went on to open and flower.
I tend to forget the heather. I am still surprised that it does so well as I had got it into my head that I would not be able to grow heather in my chalky soil. However, the E. x darleyensis varieties that I have survive very well but I could use them more effectively but I am not sure how. Any good placement ideas that have worked for you?
For colour, if not for perfume, the cotoneasters brighten up the garden in all weathers. A seasonal picture to wish everyone a happy Christmas.
Even if you feel more like these primroses that have popped up as if to say “Is it spring yet?”