It has been a difficult summer in the garden. The best laid plans have been scuppered by the heat and lack of rain. I had sown Cosmos suphureus seeds by the vegetable garden to have lots to plant for a bright August garden. However, the heat and lack of any rain did not allow me to move anything.
It’s not all doom and gloom, I did manage to coax some Rudbeckia and Cosmos to flower in the front garden and the bees still enjoyed the flowers even if they were in the wrong place.
There are hardly any Hollyhock flowers left so the bees are obliged to visit the Hibiscus syriacus. They are not as popular as the Hollyhocks and I wonder if it is because their pollen is a lot stickier? This male bumble had to spend a long time grooming after his drink of nectar.
I have been given another Hibiscus which our friend Michel had grown from one in his garden. This one has a much lighter open growth and has more than one stem. In addition, the honey bees like it. It has five petals and a shorter pistil proportionally to the H. syriacus.
Gardners love to share their treasures and when my cousin and his wife, Annie, visited us from Seattle in the summer of 2014, Annie brought seeds of Red Robin tomatoes that she had saved from year to year for twenty years. I was delighted when this spring I got a large crop of seedlings. I planted them throughout the garden and then watched as they failed to thrive and disappeared (homesickness?). The only clump that survived was under the olive tree, I do not think they could take the full sun this summer. Now I have tasted these tiny tomatoes I have decided to collect my own seed and I think I will be able to choose better places for them next year.
Then there are the gifts of unknown species. This was given to me by my sister as “You know that tree with the red leaves” – (you will note the plant does not have red leaves.) It has taken me a year but I have deduced that it could be Cotinus.
At the same time she had potted up a cutting of – “You know that plant with the blue flowers that the bees like”. It was quite a small cutting and the bees like quite a lot of blue flowers. Never the less, it was a good cutting and it survived tucked away forgotten under larger neighbours until its blue flowers poked through a few days ago and I saw the first Caryopteris I’ve ever had.
I’ve even forgiven her for giving me pots of her Japanese anemones when I was starting the garden. I found them so invasive that I have spent the last years systematically, but unsuccessfully, rooting them out. Today I noticed a bumble bee on one that had cunningly concealed itself under my large fuchsia. Perhaps if the bees like them I could permit a few to survive.
I freely admit I am totally biased when it comes to plants that provide for wild life, especially bees. At this time of year in France many of the streets in town centres are lined with Lagerstroemia indica, usually the pink flowered trees. They are popular garden trees as well, but I had found them gaudy. I was very surprised to see how beautiful the bark was in winter. I craved the beautiful bark in winter but the pink flowers were still too gaudy for me until Michel pointed out how the flowers attracted the bees.
It changed my perspective on the tree and it did not seem quite so gawdy but instead appeared an ideal tree to brighten the garden in summer and add interest with its bark in winter. Is this opinion shift common in gardeners? Do we mellow to certain plants over time?
So last week we were delighted to receive a present of a pink Lagerstroemia indica which was planted with great care in the front garden. Now I have to wait to see how long it will take for the formation of the fascinating bark.