a french garden


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After the break all is quiet in the garden

hellebore

We have just returned from U.K. after spending Christmas with the family.  On arriving, the first thing I do is check out the garden.  I like to see what the plants have been up to while we have been away.  The period between mid December and mid January must be the least active of the year.  So the short version of my inspection is – not a lot to report. I had hopes for my Hellebores but only one of the plants is pushing through buds.

crocus

Some crocus are appearing but it is still too early for much activity on my bulb front.

sarcoccoca

The old stalwarts like the Sarcococca confusa and the…

primrose

primroses are doing their best.

hives

Of course, it is not only the plants that we check on because the bee hives receive the first visit.

sunflower

It was only nine degrees but the sunshine had tempted all the bees to stretch their legs and some even some to stretch their wings.

violette

The light varnish on the “au vent” or sunshade of Violette’s hive is peeling.  I will have to think of a way to clean it up soon.

bee-on

The temperature was only ten degrees when I noticed the bees on the Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica).  It is not far away from the hives but I was surprised they would venture out for the nectar and this bee has also taken the time to gather some pollen.  It is a wonderful tree because even at such a low temperature I could smell the perfume when I was close to the flowers.

winter-honeysuckle

The winter honeysuckle is about the same distance for the hives but was receiving less visits.

heather-and-bee

The heather is further away but these girls are hardy and it is nice to see them taking advantage of the winter flowers.

v-tinus

The Viburnum tinus is holding onto its buds to open up when the weather is warmer.  According to our weather forecast that will not be anytime soon as a cold front is coming in from the north of Europe.  I hope 2017 will be a good year for everyone and, of course, for the bees too.

 


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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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Autumn arrives in yellow

morning-mist

A misty start to a cool morning but at least we have had six millimetres of rain.

start-of-day

The early morning mist adds to the autumn feeling.

maple-leaved-ash

But the sun burns through and lights up the Maple-leaved Ash.  I don’t have many red leaves in the garden in the autumn.

white-mulberry

My best autumn colours are yellow, many of the trees brown and lose their leaves rapidly.  The Mulberry bush is starting to be eye catching.  Actually it was supposed to be a Mulberry tree but it had an accident just as it was really getting going but it accepted its unintentional coppicing with a better grace than Kourosh did.  This is another tree he has raised from seed.

I thought I would try and find out if we should hope for fruit soon and did an Internet search.  Taking my source as the FAO (Food and Health Organisation of the United Nations) I found out that Mulberry trees are commonly dioecious but may be monoecious, and sometimes will change from one sex to another.

This did not reassure me that we had any hope of ever getting any white mulberries.  So if it is dioecious we will not get any fruit as we do not have a second tree in the vicinity to pollinate female flowers and if it produces only male flowers we will still have no fruit.  Let us hope that it is monoecious and produces both male and female flowers as it can self pollinate.

Loquat.JPG

We have a happy event this year with the Loquat tree or Eriobotrya japonica.  This is another of Kourosh’s seedlings!  (We do buy most of our trees, this is just coincidence.)

loquat-buds

For the first time the tree has flower buds.  They are just starting to shoot out.  The tree has not been watered over our dry summer yet is not showing any signs of stress.  In fact, it looks as if it has enjoyed the hot weather.

close-up-mousmoula

The flowers are not yet mature and the fruit, if we get any, would not be ripe until next year.  I doubt whether any fruit would survive the winter here but I am curious to know what the bees will think about the perfumed flowers.

single-walnut

I thought we had gathered all the walnuts but as the leaves start to fall they reveal still more fruit on the tree.  Sometimes the outer green covering cracks and the bare walnut falls to the ground but usually the whole fruit falls and you have to remove the outer covering as best as you can.  You can usually break off the green coating with your foot or wear plastic gloves as it stains your hands dark brown.  The dark brown stain will also stain fingernails a permanent dark brown.  I did not find this out from Wikipedia.

kaki

In the front garden the Kaki or Persimmon fruit are just starting to peep through the mainly still green leaves.  Soon the leaves will fall but the fruit will remain (I hope!)

Bumble bee in sage

The bees are all happy with the sunny weather although the activity starts later in the day.  I had been a bit disappointed in this sage “Hot Lips” (Salvia microphylla) in the summer time, I had not realised it would perform here better in the autumn than in the summer.

The honey bees too are very active and still bringing in lots of pollen.  They have been treated to control the varroa and they all have a full hive of honey to go into winter.  Even the divisions we made earlier in the year have full frames while last year three of the hives needed partitions.

The bees may be ready for winter but there is a lot of work still in the garden.