a french garden


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What’s in a name?

The incessant rain has been keeping me indoors and I really felt I wanted to accomplish something useful.  So I decided to  polish my halo and go through my camera memory card, removing blurred shots and trying to get some order into the ones that I want to keep as records.  I also mean to find names for bees and plants that I have not recognised.

This was a photo I had taken on 11 September 2019.  Our Asters attracted so many pollinators this year.  I am not very good with butterflies and I supposed it would be one of the tailed blues we get around here.

Wrong!

When I checked my “Butterflies of Europe” book by Tristan Lafranchis I found it was a Geranium Bronze (Cacyreus marshalli) butterfly.  The reason for its name is pretty obvious but that brought me to the “Do you mean Geranium or Pelargonium?” question.  I was rather hoping that its food of preference was Pelargoniums, as I do not have any of these very popular plants and as most people buy them every year from the Supermarket or nursery, I did not feel too selfish about this cynical thought.

However, it seems that the caterpillars can be content with geraniums or pelargoniums as food.  I have plenty perennial geraniums in the garden, as the bees adore them.

In addition, I had not realised that they can be serious pests for the growers who supply the supermarkets and nurseries with pelargoniums.

I have yet to see any damage to my perennial geraniums but I will keep an eye out this summer.  It may just have been our exceptionally warm summer that allowed it to mature on imported Pelargoniums.

Apart from finding out the name of this butterfly, I also discovered that many Pelargonium species originate from South Africa whereas geraniums are mainly a European species.  Pelargoniums have been with us for a long time, they were introduced into Europe from the beginning of the seventeenth century.  The roots of Pelargonium triste had a local reputation of treating dysentery which interested the apothecaries of the time.

Not bad for a rainy day :).


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Out of the bedroom window

Out of the bedroom window the leaves under the apricot tree testify that autumn is changing the garden.

With the tall “Sweet Lavender” aster now in flower,  the asters are still the main attraction.

The carder bees’ colour may be fading but they love the tiny flowers of the “Sweet Lavender”

The asters are the best place to see the bee action.

There are still a lot of butterflies around like this Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and they join the bees.

I decided to visit my Mulberry as we have had no rain for some time and it was never watered during the dry summer.

The leaves change to a beautiful gold in the autumn and this year is no different, thankfully.

I was standing admiring the Mulberry when I noticed a huge dragonfly on the leaves basking in the sunshine.  I rushed back to the house, got my camera, came back and it was still there!  Such a difference from photographing bees or butterflies!

It is a Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) and much more impressive than the little brown damselflies that were in the garden at the same time.

Another find was a mass of these toadstools growing under the debris in a border I was clearing.  Sorry I had no time to find or speculate on a name as there is too much to be done outside at the moment.

I have decided to do more vegetables this winter.  So apart from the usual broad beans, brussel sprouts and leeks, I have added onions, carrots, cauliflower and Romanesco brocolli.  This is just an experiment brought on by following Notre petit jardin Breton.  They make so much use of their garden that I felt I should make more effort.  If the slugs and snails are unkind to me it could be a short experiment and I will stick to the easier option of tomatoes and courgettes in the summer.

I have been harvesting my surprise crop of Goji berries but I am still unable to develop a taste for them.  I decided to dry them as they are usually sold in “raisin” format.  I pricked them first and them set them to dry at a low temperature in the oven.  I managed to get them to look like raisins but they still remained too juicy to consider storing them.  They did taste marginally better.  The birds have not touched them yet.

The birds get pretty spoiled in the garden as Kourosh feeds them every morning and we have gleaned sunflower heads for them from the fields that have already been harvested.  Obviously they taste better than Goji berries.

It must all be a matter of taste or availability.  I have masses of this white erigeron growing all round the paths and walls but it attracts no pollinators.  Then I saw this honey bee feeding on it.  Will she have a problem when she gets back to the hive with the nectar?   Will her sisters say, “Why did you collect that when there are loads of asters out there?”

The Cosmos is still blooming…

and there is still plenty of sunshine to enjoy a break from clearing the borders.  October has been a good month in the garden, so far.

 


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Green grass!

1-From potager

It’s the middle of August and the grass is green!

1-Back garden

In the summer the vegetables get watered and any of the new or less drought tolerant plants but not the grass.  The grass gets left to go brown and anything that grows up after it rains is mowed.  However, this year the rain has kept the garden and usually the vegetables sufficiently watered.  My neighbour, Annie, who has gardened here for many years does not remember a year with such constant rain.  In between the rain there has been plenty of sunshine and the temperatures have not been low.

1-Wisteria

After the first blossoming in the spring the Wisteria usually blossoms another once, sometimes twice, later in the summer but this year it has hardly stopped flowering.

1-Philadelphus

Even the Philadelpus that I cut back heavily after it flowered in May has decided to push out a few more blooms.

1-Tall Cosmos

That’s the problems with plants.  They don’t do what you expect them to.  I like to have Cosmos in the garden in late summer to add some colour and give plenty of flowers to cut.  I sowed this “Sensation mix” for the border, the  120 cm. marked on the seed packet seemed a good height for the borders.  However, these are now taller than I am and are hiding a sunflower I planted behind them.

1-Earthwalker throwback

The sunflower they are obscuring is grown from the seeds I kept from my “Earthwalker” variety which has not bred true but it is a very attractive colour all the same.

1-Short Cosmos

Returning to my Cosmos problem some of  the Cosmos on the other side of the garden have kept to their expected height – but not all.

1-Vanilla Ice

I am a bit disappointed with my pallid “Vanilla Ice” sunflower.  These ornamental sunflowers seem to flower later and be more delicate plants than the plain ones my husband sows from the birdseed.

1-Lilac Aster

This year I sowed Asters for the first time.

1-Puple Aster

A 60p packet of “Duchess mixed” bought in the UK has provided a lot of colour.  I bought them to attract the bees but I have not seen a lot of action around them yet.

1-Halictus scabiosa in Aster

But this Halictus scabiosae bee was using the Aster as shelter in a windy day and did not want to be disturbed.

1-Wildlife Word box

This week I bought a new bee box from Amazon.  I am quite excited as it can be taken apart in the autumn when the bees are finished laying their eggs.  I thought the design was simple and innovative.  The holes look rather large but I have been surprised by some little bees tackling large holes or canes.  It is a bit late to put one up so I may get nothing this year.

1-New this year box

The newest “husband made” box has almost got a full occupancy.  The three holes that look empty on the log are in fact partially filled.  Some bees appear not to fill the holes or canes fully.

1-Megachiles

These tiny Megachiles are very busy at the moment and I wonder if they will be tempted by the new box.  Some people are concerned that the bee boxes can be parasitised and prefer to use paper tubes that can be opened to remove and clean the cocoons.  I asked on a bee forum and found that opinion was very split on this.  It has to be born in mind that parasites are part of nature and if you accept one part you have to accept the other.  I think the bee boxes are fascinating and a wonderful way to observe some of the bees.  My box originates from Wildlife World which is a UK company that supplies tubes and paper liners that I might try, although they do not deliver outside the UK.

1-Hoopoe

The other evening we had a surprise visit from two pairs of hoopoes.  We had never had four hoopoes on the lawn before!  They made themselves at home and were extracting lots of juicy looking treats from the moist grass.  They came right onto the patio and helped themselves to some bird food.  We were very hopeful that they would become permanent visitors but unfortunately that was the last we saw of them but we can always hope that they’ll come back!