a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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May sunshine, flowers and fruit

Bottle brush

This May has been so hot and sunny, following an extremely mild winter that some of our plants are doing unusually well, like the bottle brush (Callistemon spp.).

bee in rince bouteille

Kourosh had bought it for the bees and I was concerned it would be too tender to do well here.  This year it is well established and attracts clouds of bees, they do not seem to object to fighting their way through the spiky petals so the nectar must be good!

Pink flowered succulent

I have been trying to grow more succulents in the pots this year so that they are easier to care for in hot, dry summers.

Succulent flower

I am happy to see that many of the succulents attract pollinators, too.

echium amoenum

Not everything succeeds in a garden.  I planted seeds of Echium amoenum last year to harvest the flowers to make Gol Gav Zaban tea.  I only managed to grow two plants which are now flowering but I do not think all their flowers would be enough to make a cup of tea.  In the meantime the bumble bees appreciate them and I have to wait to see how the Echium vulgare, planted at the same time, does.

Reine de reinette apples

Experience helps.  We have two Reine des reinettes apple trees in the garden.  I like the flavour very much and it reminds me of the U.K. pippin apples.  However, they have a tendency to set a lot of fruit.  At first we assumed a lot of the little apples would fall, in due course.  However, they do not fall and it results in lots of little apples.  Now, I knock off excess and leave no more than two at a time near each other.  Time consuming but worth it in the end.

Eleagnus angustifolia

We have planted an Eleagnus angustifolia on the hedge near the road.

Eleagnus angustifolia flowers

This year we have had plenty of the pretty yellow flowers, providing nectar for the bees and perhaps this year some fruit for us.

Loquat 1

This is the first year that our ” néflier du Japon ” (Eriobotrya japonica) or loquat has managed to hang onto its fruit through the winter.  I am looking forward to enjoying them and in the meantime I have been given a supply of the fruit by some friends whose tree is a bit more advanced than ours.

Raspberry

The yellow raspberries are ripening…

IMG_3786

as are the cherries but as usual I am sure the birds will beat me to the cherries.

Peas

So far, so good with the peas.  Does anyone know if all peas can be eaten as “mange tous”?

Lichen moth

This gorgeous moth was resting on my bee house otherwise I would never have spotted the perfect lichen-like camouflage.

wasp & parasol

Our parasol continues to attract visitors.  This time it is a little wasp.  The two spikes in the photo are where Kourosh knocked off the beginnings of its nest.  Now we have given up and are letting it be.  It is not the stinging type of wasp.

Car wasp

Because the car was not moving over the confinement Kourosh noticed this wasp bringing in a green caterpillar and taking it inside the window slot.  It has been busy for some time.  We will no doubt see the result in a few weeks or perhaps next spring.  I am sure it could have found much more convenient and stable sites.  It does not seem overly perturbed when its nest disappears for an hour and then reappears.

Philadelphus

More sunny weather is forecast for the next few days so we will have plenty of time to enjoy the garden and our coffees under the trees and enjoy the perfume of the Philadelphus.  The restaurants and cafes will not open in France until 1 June 2020 and with the inconvenience of social distancing they are not as tempting to us as pre-Covid times.


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Reflections towards the end of July

 

White bougainvillia-001

It was after I read Sue’s post “White is cool” that I remembered that white was our favourite colour for flowers too.  The white oleander was planted in front of the house shortly after we bought it and years before we moved here.  I too loved the idea of a white area.  Crathes Castle garden, near Aberdeen, had a beautiful white border and I intended to find a place in the garden for a display of stunning white flowers.

However, my initial design of my white summer hedge has now the addition of an untidy but profusely flowering lilac Lavatera and hidden from view underneath is a winter flowering honeysuckle.

Gaura nectar bee-001

We meticulously selected the seed from the whitest Gaura, but then gave up as it self-seeded over the garden and we were happy to replant whatever turned up as the bees did not mind either pale pink or pure white.

Molene honey bee-001

And then there are the plants that take up residence of their own volition.

Molene syrphe-001

The wild Verbascum has been flowering non-stop since June welcoming the hover flies and

Molene wild bee-001

bees of all kinds which gather large quantities of the bright orange pollen early in the morning leaving the yellow petals strewn around the plant like confetti.

Acc. sej.-001

Then there are the plants that suddenly beg attention.  Some years ago Kourosh “acquired” a couple of seeds of Feijoa sellowiana.  The seeds germinated and lived in pots that I tended until I was able to get rid of them into a new border.  This year they have shot up to more than a metre in height and flowered for the first time.

Feijoa sellowiana-001

The flowers are extremely attractive and as they belong to the myrtle they should also be attractive to bees.  I will have to wait until autumn to see if any fruit is formed, another extra as the fruits are edible.

Vegetable garden-001

Another additional problem with planning a garden can be illustrated by our vegetable garden.  Planning must be done in advance and, as can be seen, we have our long, sturdy tomato stakes in place but very weak, short tomato plants.  The cooler, wet June was not to their liking and now the high temperatures that are soaring now in July are drying them out before they have time to grow.

Leek flower-001

At least the couple of leeks I have left to flower from last year provide me with some amusement as I ponder on the likelihood of  making homemade tomato sauce this year.

Pot-001

Kourosh spotted this beautifully fashioned “pot” in the house wall.

Polistes dominula European paper wasp-001

I thought it might belong to these wasps that are using the bird bath.  However, I think these are European paper wasps (Polistes dominula) and I have seen their nests around in previous years.

Polistes sparkle-001

I noticed they gather the water differently.  You get the careful type that holds onto the side and gently laps from the edge of the water.

Sparkle wasp-001

Then you get the cool guys who do a full belly-flop onto the water, maintaining themselves by surface tension and float while taking their fill.

Origano-001

The success of the large oregano clump in attracting the bees has also made me think of modifying my planting.

Lavendar clump-001 The large clumps of flowers, like the lavender and nepeta, attract more bees, so I am going to try to spread my plants less in the future.  However, the garden will have the last word.  The yellow haze of cat’s ears (Hypochaeris radicata), visible in the background, has developed on its own.

Dasypoda (1)-001

Without them, we would miss watching the Dasypoda bees bouncing from flower to flower at this time of year.