a french garden


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Perfume and colour in the December garden

bee-on-mousmoula

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.

loquat-flowers-dec

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.

elaeagnus-x-ebbingei

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.

bee-on-winter-honeysuckle

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.

bombus-p

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.

bombus-brown-band

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.

bumble-on-strawberry-tree

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.

Osmanthus

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.

honey-bee-on-mahonia

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.

anisodontea-el-rayo

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.

heather-1

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?

cotoneaster

For colour, if not for perfume, the cotoneasters brighten up the garden in all weathers.  A seasonal picture to wish everyone a happy Christmas.

primroses

Even if you feel more like these primroses that have popped up as if to say “Is it spring yet?”

 


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Back to the garden

gdn nov 2013

I’ve never seen the grass so long.  We’ve been with the family in the U.K. for a month and it has rained a lot both in the U.K. and here.

Potager nov13

I managed to tidy the small vegetable plot before I left and it looks sadly empty.  In the bottom right hand corner there are rows of saffron bulbs that I dug up about this time last year after I had collected the stigmas.  I stored the bulbs over the summer and replanted them at the end of August.  I thought I had lost them all as nothing appeared until I saw some tips in the middle of October.  This was very late as they usually are in flower by October, however, my six bulbs that I planted in 2008 have now become 77 little plants.  It looks as if I will have to wait until next year for the flowers.

Garden 13

The medlar tree is full of fruit and provides some interest in the back garden.

For the rest I feel that the autumn is not a good season in the garden.

Euonymus europaeus

At least the spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) provides colour in the back.

Persimmon fruit

The Persimmon tree in the front garden is the only tree to give me red and yellow leaves of autumn, as well as the fruit.

Strawberry tree

I think I am missing the bees.  We have had little sunny weather since our return and I rushed out to take these photographs while the sky was blue.  I can always count on the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) to attract the bumbles bees when we have some sunshine.

Arbutus unedo

At least our birds haven’t been hungry while we’ve been away.  The fruits are edible but I have never tried them as I’ve read that they do not have much of a flavour.

Carder bee

There are a few stray cosmos left in the front garden but everything looks washed out.

I think I will have to put more effort into adding some interest for the autumn next year.  I have already started thinking of next summer and I have under-planted the trees in the back hedge with geraniums to add colour and keep down the weeds.  I have tried an on-line nursery here for the first time and I am awaiting the Elaeagnus angustifolia that I have ordered from them.  It is only a small bare root tree so it might be some time before I will know if the fruit will ripen here.  It does have a common name in France and is called the Olive of Bohemia.

Clathrus ruber

Clathrus ruber

This fungus comes up regularly where I have mulched the plants with wood chippings.  I find it very attractive as the lacy top is bright red and it appears from a cream coloured, egg shaped body that pushes out from the soil.

Bottom of garden

Another project for this winter is to add interest to the narrow strip of trees at the bottom of the garden.  Trying to take inspiration from Beth Chatto’s book “Woodland Garden” I want to introduce some shade loving plants.  I already have some Ruscus and spring bulbs on the edges.  In the summer everything will have to fend for itself.

Sparkle in tree

Of course, I am also trying to improve my photography.  Do you see the sparkle in the top right hand of this photograph?

Subtle sparkle in tree

I think I prefer the more subtle effect.  I’ll have to wait for more sunshine to try for more sparkles in my photographs.

I got this tip from a great blog I follow Focused Moments.  I think Rachel could have started a craze in WordPress with her great photographs including a point of light.

Tall Nepeta

I also have a puzzle in the garden.  This long straggly flower is supposedly a tall Nepeta but I wonder if it was wrongly marked or I picked up the wrong pot in error.  Granted that I should have found a sunnier spot for it but it must have grown to about two and a half metres tall.

Nepeta flower head

Does anyone recognise this as an autumn flowering Nepeta?