a french garden


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Distractions

Cerinthe

There is a lot of dew in the garden at this time of year.  The grass is wet and Wellington boots are a necessity.  But trudging down the garden early in the morning I noticed what lovely patterns the dew left on the flowers.

Phacelia

The Phacelia was well sprinkled…

Winter Honeysuckle

as was the Winter Honeysuckle.  So I felt the urge to sprint, as fast as my Wellies would allow, back to the house to get my camera.

Full rose 2

In the front garden the fully open rose was in competition …

Rose bud

with the rose bud to produce the most delicate drop patterns.

House

Then I spotted and extra big drop on a Persimmon left hanging as a winter treat for the birds.  I managed to get an upside down image of the house!

But all this had started with good intentions, my weeding tool and Welly boots.  It is too easy for me to get distracted in the garden.

Bemused robin

As the Robin followed me back and forth through the garden, he seemed to be trying to work out what I was up to.  It was as if the rolls had been reversed and I was being watched for the entertainment value I was providing.

Only fair really, after all the hours of pleasure I get watching the wildlife in the garden.


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Yellow and purple

Verbena & sunflower

I have just realised how many of the flowers in the garden at the moment are either yellow or purple.  It was not intentional.  These perennial sunflowers were only used as a temporary filler to separate me from the next garden where I am creating a new border where trees have been removed.

Bumble on yellow sunflower

I have enjoyed them so much and they have survived so well in this extra hot year that they have won their place to stay.

The Verbena bonariensis work well with them and I am finding more self-seeded babies that I will mix with them for next year.

Amistad and sunflower

The sunflowers provide the perfect backdrop for my Salvia amistad which are a new addition to my salvias this year.

Salvia Amistad & uliginosa

The Salvia amistad is planted beside the Salvia uliginosa, also in its first year.  I saw it last year in a post by the Anxious Gardener but as it is pale blue it is not really allowed in this post.

Salvia Amistad

I could not imagine the Salvia Amistad being such a favourite with the bees but it must contain a lot of nectar as the bees completely disappear down the flower to remain there for some time before emerging looking very self-satisfied.

Salvia Amistad and bee

The bumbles prefer the shorter flowers of the uliginosa but I have seen them find another way to reach the nectaries by pushing aside the sepals like this bee above is doing.  Trying to walk down the throat of the flower is not an option for the fat bumble bees.

Cosmos and bumble

My Cosmos sulphureus was also an after thought this year and I put the seeds down late into any space that had a patch of soil vacant.

Cosmos Sulphureus

Their bright patches are a magnet for all sorts of bees and some are already setting seed which I will leave for the birds to feast on.  I will also be keeping enough seed for next year too as these ideal fillers and brighteners.

Geranium Megachile

My blue (they look purple to me) geraniums are starting to emerge from where the hot sun has been keeping them at bay.  These are the true geraniums and provide pollen for the bees, not like the stiff pelargoniums that are frequently grown as potted plants over here but have no attraction for bees or pollinators.

Korean Beauty

I have a Clematis “Korean Beauty” growing at the moment.  My sister, who loves clematis, gave me the seeds which I have dutifully germinated.  I find clematis infuriating as I try to guide them to a more upright orderly pattern but they usually end up forming tangled balls of untidy growth.  Then when I try and sort them out I end up snipping the wrong stem and finish with a flowering spray of clematis in one hand and a stunted looking plant left in the ground.

Bumble with Korean Beauty (1)

However, Korean Beauty has won her place in the garden because the bees love her and I like watching their antics as they search for the nectar.  The bumble bee above could hardly wait for the flower to open so that it could get first in line for the nectar.

Phacelia

My first sowing of Phacelia in the vegetable patch has finished.  It has stood guard over the saffron and kept the area virtually weed free.  Now I am waiting for the saffron shoots to appear.

New Phacelia

The experiment worked so well that I have sown another patch on the vegetable garden where some lettuce and greens have finished.  It is fun to watch the bees with purple pollen.

Malva sylvestris

I have been thinking about native flowers and although I try and pull out as much of the Mallow sylvestris that I can, I wonder if I am being too harsh.  It can be very invasive but perhaps I should find a legal corner for it.

Common Fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica

I did sow some common Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) last year because of its attraction for pollinators but time will tell if I will regret doing this.

Tradescantia (2)

My tradescantia has just started to flower for the second time this year with its purple petals and yellow tipped stamens.  And I must not forget to mention the little purple flowers of the nepeta pushing into the picture from the side.  The nepeta is a real workhorse of a flower for a hot dry garden and has, of course, purple flowers.

 


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Perfume and colour

IMG_9260

Such a lot has changed in the garden this week.  Looking from the outside of the front garden, the Wisteria is still in flower and the Iris and Arum lilies are pushing up to meet it.  Unfortunately, so is the wild grass.  The weed seeds get blown against the wall and find a comfortable place between the iris corms to put down roots.  I’ll pull them out one day after it rains when the ground is nice and soft.Map butterfly Araschnia levana

The lilac trees have started to flower adding their powerful perfume to the garden.  The lilacs attract various butterflies and bees.  This week it was a Map butterfly (Araschnia levana), they have two broods and this is the spring brood with more colourful wings.

IMG_9111

This little glistening Halictid bee is not so highly coloured but has a metallic sheen and frequents the lilac too.

Coronille

Another perfumed surprise was my “Coronille” which originated as some cuttings from a friend.  I was not aware of how perfumed they were.  This year they have become very respectable little bushes making an excellent hedging plant as they are evergreen.

Coronilla

The only problem is that no-one seems to know their proper name.  It looks like the plant the RHS call Coronilla valentina subspecies Glauca “Citrina”.  It is certainly my type of plant – easy to grow, perfumed, not too fussy and bees love it!

quince tree

At the bottom of the garden both quince trees are still in flower.  This one is the prettiest shape.

quince tree

The other quince was called a German quince and is a longer shape tree.  Strangely, the little round tree has round quinces and the German quince has longer shaped fruit.  However, both fruits taste the same.

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I planted red stemmed willows  to try and make a screen where the large pine tree was removed.  These have been cut back earlier and are all starting to shoot.  It will be interesting to see what sort of screen I will have this summer.  In the meantime..

IMG_9227

I have lovely tulips to look at.

thyme

I am also very pleased with this thyme (another plant from a friend) which is full of flowers and is covering the ground but not impeding the Salvia to push through.

chamomile

The chamomile is also working well as ground cover but slower than the thyme even though I re-rooted parts of it in the autumn.  I think I will use the thyme as ground cover elsewhere in the garden.

IMG_9121

I’ve seen more bees in the garden last week, so hopefully populations are building up again and I have heard of a swarm in the area.  This is the normal time for the first swarms in this region.

chafer

Of course, the bees were not the first pollinators.  This chafer may pollinise my quince tree as it flies from tree to tree munching on the pollen or it may just be very hungry and finish off the entire flower.  I have checked – it has left plenty of flowers that should give me some fruit.

IMG_9192

I bought this Centauria plant in a nursery in France to attract bees.  So far it has been covered in ants!  I wondered if they intended to farm aphids but there is no sign of aphids – yet.

poppy and Anthophora

There is one plant that the bees make a bee-line for – the poppies.

red poppy and Anthophora

My light coloured Anthophora plumipes female is gathering pollen throughout the garden.  My first poppies provide bright splashes of colour in the garden but these poppies appear in random places, self sown from last years seed.  The seeds I have sown this year are up but are not flowering yet.IMG_9243

Another of my spring favourites is the Cerinthe.  The pale green foliage is so fresh.  It is beside some sedum in the picture above.  I really must cut the flower stems on this sedum as they are starting to bud but the dried flower stems still look attractive even at this time of year.

cerinthe and bombus praetorum

The little spring bumble bees (Bombus praetorum) have arrived and buzz pollinate the Cerinthe.  The sound of the bumble bees in the Cerinthe is part of the springtime in the garden.

Light Anthophora plumipes female

I don’t suppose many people let their brussel sprouts flower for the bees.

bee in brussel sprout flower

I also wonder if these little bees (compare its size with the flower stamens) get mistaken for flies.  I hope nobody tries to spray them with insecticide.


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My hazelnut trees are flowering!

Two flowers corylus avellana

Bright red against the blue sky!

Single flower

They are not like the flowers on apple or pear trees, in fact, the petals remind me more of sea anemones.

Front flower

I must admit, this is the first time I have seen the flowers of my hazelnuts.  Last year I saw the photographs of these intriguing flowers on one of my favourite blogs, New Hampshire Garden Solutions.  He sees everything!  I was determined I was not going to miss seeing mine this year.

Size comparison

I think you will forgive me for missing them when you see the size comparison with the male catkins.

corylus avellan flower and catkin

Once you have seen one they become obvious to spot but given that they are in flower now when it is cold and damp in the garden, I think that these unusual flowers will pass unadmired in many a garden.

corylus avellana flower

 

Seeing my hazelnut flowers for the first time lifted my spirits during a cool, dull, damp week while I nursed my cold.

 


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The heat goes on…

We were away for over a week and we seemed to have missed a week of rain although the temperatures were not low.  I thought things might have started to change in the garden.

Goldfinch eating Cosmos seeds

But no: the Goldfinches are still dining on the Cosmos seeds.

Pink Hollyhock

The stray Hollyhock in the vegetable garden is flowering happily with no sign of rust despite the rain.

Bee in Hollyhock

The bees are happy to visit for the nectar but I would not think she would want all that pollen she has stuck onto her at this time of year.

Medlar fruit

The Medlar tree is heavily loaded with fruit this year but it is not ripe yet.

Olives

It has been so mild that even the little olive tree has given us some olives but it will be a long time before we get enough to do anything with them.

Persimmon tree

I love the colour of the Persimmon tree at this time of year and I had thought that the mild year and warm autumn would give a bumper crop.

Persimmon and Great Tit

However, it has not been an exceptional year and we better get them off the tree tomorrow or else the birds will peck them all.  I thought it was all the Blackbirds fault but this Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) has been caught in flagrante delicto.

Blackcap

It was only after taking the photograph that I realised the Tits (a Great Tit ( (Parus major) here ) were being helped by a Blackcap ( Sylvia atricapilla), well the free-for-all will end tomorrow and it will be back to peanuts and sunflower seeds for them.

Winter honeysuckle

I was pleased to see my winter flowering honeysuckle had started to flower while we were away.  I cannot be sure what kind of bumble bee this is as the buff-tailed bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) in France have white tails!  So very easy to confuse with the white-tailed bumble bees (Bombus lucorum)   Perhaps this winter I will have more time to hone up on bumble bee IDs.

Bumble bee

I’m pretty sure this one is an early bumble bee queen (Bombus pratorum) as the yellow band on her abdomen was broken in the middle and the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust says this bee has the most variable colouration.  If you are interested in my tentative identification of bees have a look at my other blog “Bees in a French Garden”.  I am always keen to have contact with anyone interested in solitary bees.

Liquidambar

The colours of autumn are not appearing uniformly which with the sunshine give the feeling of springtime more than autumn.  My Liquidambar is turning yellow but I do not see much red in its leaves.

Cotoneasters

The cotoneasters are trying their best to provide a vivid red and are laden with berries this year.

Physalis

My Physalis or Chinese Lanterns are bright red where they have self-seeded themselves here and there.  They are a lovely addition to an autumn garden but I am not sure how to make the best of them.  Mine seem to have a weedy growth and I wish I could make better use of them.  Any tips for a better show next year?

Mahonia "Sweet Careless"

I was pleased to see my Mahonia “Soft Caress” that I planted last January has flowered.

Rosa mutabilis

I planted it at the same time as my Rosa mutabilis which I first saw in Christina’s garden blog, it is such a delicate rose and virtually thornless and is full of flowers at the moment.

Salvia and bumble bee

In fact, it does not feel at all like autumn yet.

 


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Lac Bajamont

1-Fisherman

We took a break for a few days last week to stay outside Agen and visit the area nearby, between the rivers Garonne and Lot.  Lac Bajamont, is not well known but was nearby so we decided to take a look.  At first site it reminded me of some of the small lochs you see in Scotland, it even had a fisherman on the bank.

1-Hummingbird Hawkmoth

There were plenty of thistles around but you would not see a Hummingbird Hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) in Scotland!

1-Lythrum salicaria (Purple loosestrife)

The  lake was bordered by wild flowers like these purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) although it is not a natural lake but more a dam of 22 hectares that has been created by the nearby local councils to control local flooding and regulate the flow of the river.  The lake is under the protection of the Fishing Federation of the Lot and Garonne and is used for course fishing.

Teasels and knapweed

Teasels and knapweed

As we walked around the lake we were impressed by the variety and abundance of wildflowers.

Honey bee on bird's foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

Honey bee on bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

Of course, where there are flowers there is lots to see.  I think that someone must have had hives as honey bees were very much in evidence on the flowers.

Top- Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) Lower-Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Top- Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) Lower-Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

There were lots of Meadow Browns and I spotted the very similar Gatekeeper as well.

Top-Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) F Lower-Common Blue M

Top-Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) F Lower-Common Blue M

The bright blue of the male butterflies seems so unreal.

Spotted Fritillary, Melitaea didyma

Spotted Fritillary, Melitaea didyma

Sometimes you need to get closer to feel the full impact of the colours and patterns, like the eyes of this Spotted Fritillary.

Meadow Fritillary. (Mellicta parthenoides)

Meadow Fritillary. (Mellicta parthenoides)

Perhaps it is a good point to mention that I have done my best to identify all the creatures that we managed to take decent photographs of, because I would like to share our walk, but I am not an expert and I apologise in advance if I I have made any errors!

Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii)

Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii)

The waters of the lake are so clear at the edges that Kourosh was able to take this picture of the Crayfish under the water.  This is an invasive variety and not a natural European species.  I must give Kourosh the credit for many of the photographs in this blog as I kept on my Macro lens as there were so many small creatures attracting my attention.

The lake is kept only as a nature reserve.  No swimming or motor boats are allowed and fishing is with a permit only.   This allows joggers and picnickers a site to enjoy the outdoors and its peace.

1-HoaryPlantain - Plantago media.1

Most of the flowers were similar to the ones we see in our area but I had never seen Hoary Plantain (Plantago media) before.

1-HoaryPlantain - Plantago media.

The more common plantain flower is very plain but this plantain has lovely lilac/pink flowers that the bees and butterflies find very attractive.

Knapweed

Hallictus scabiosa on Centaurea nigra (Common Knapweed)

There was lots of Knapweed around.  This is really a plant to attract all sorts of pollinators and one I am going to try to increase in my garden.

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus)

There were lots of blue chicory flowers, this one was being attacked by a snail much to the disgust of the little bee.

Upper- Common blue damselfly, (Enallagma cyathigerum)-lower-Blue Hawker (Aeschna cyanea)

Upper- Common blue damselfly, (Enallagma cyathigerum)-lower-Blue Hawker (Aeschna cyanea)

Of course, being beside the water there were plenty of damselflies and dragonflies around.  Just so much to see.

Swallowtail, Papilio machaon

Swallowtail, (Papilio machaon)

I at last saw my first Swallowtail of this summer.  Not a great photo as it is taken with my Macro lens after a close chase.  It is a big butterfly but it can shift!

Lesser Purple Emperor, (Apatura ilia)

Lesser Purple Emperor, (Apatura ilia)

This one was sunning itself and easier to capture.  It had attracted my attention as it was purple!  The colouration changed with the angle of the light that was falling on the wing scales.  You can just see the slight colouration in the photograph but it does really look purple in certain lights, in others it looks a much less remarkable brown.  I was very lucky to see it on several counts.  Firstly the female does not have the purple reflection and secondly they often spend the day on the crowns of trees.  The eggs are laid on Poplars and Willows and we have plenty of those near us but this is the first time I have seen it.

unknown moth

Unfortunately, I’ve had no luck identifying this.  I would guess at a moth, but it has such a strange wing shape.

vetch

I’ll close with a picture of some vetch.  We took so many photographs on our short walk round the lake that it’s been hard to condense them to give an idea of the place.  Our lasting impression was of admiration for the brilliant solution to the areas previous  flooding problem.


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Summer is here

Amegilla on lavender

Summer is definitely here.  Outside the garden the fields are full of sunflower and I could stand all day and watch the bees on my lavender.  My little grey Amegilla albigena that I noticed for the first time last year, has returned like an old friend.

Chitlapa 26.6

My Chitalapa has been flowering from the end of June and is still going strong.  It is a hybrid of the Catalapa or Indian Bean tree and Chilopsis or desert Willow.  Catalapa are beautiful trees but really need space so this has proved a good compromise and the flowers are delicately perfumed.

1-fading Magnolia

The perfume from the Magnolia grandiflora is much stronger and is held even by the blossoms as they fade.  It looks as if it holds onto its nectar too as the bee is still interested in it.

1-Bumble and clover

Despite the variety of blossoms available the bumbles love the clover.

1-Oleander

Before we even came to live here permanently I planted Oleander outside the house.  Apart from it being beautiful and reminding me of Greece it is supposed to keep away mosquitoes.  I would never have planted it if I had realised how fragile it is.  This winter was mild and it thrived but usually it is damaged over the winter by frost and cold.  When it was smaller we covered it with fleece but it is too big now and so any damaged branches must be cut away in the spring.

1-Cyclamen

I was surprised to find this winter flowering cyclamen in the back garden under the trees completely ignoring the summer weather.  There are always surprises in the garden.

1-Bumble starts drinking

We found this tired red tailed bumble bee and gave her a 50:50 solution of sugar and water.

1-Starts on the next drop

I was surprised as she lapped up the first drop and started on the second!

1-That was good

It gave me time to admire her pollen load.  She had carefully packed the pollen down from the flowers she was gathering from.  There were two shades of yellow pollen but I cannot say where the yellow pollen came from as there is so much around just now.

1-Red poppies

I’ve no problem in guessing where the black pollen comes from.  Most of the poppies have coal black pollen.

1-Last of the blackcurrants

I have gathered in the last of the blackcurrants and the sorbet is made and waiting for the arrival of the grandchildren.

1-Stork and tractor

Outside the garden nobody is thinking of holidays.

1-Stork 1

As the tractor breaks up the rough ground the stork is finding food in the uprooted grasses, perhaps frogs and lizards.

1-Wee mousie

Birds of prey are interested in the disturbance that will make mice and voles run for cover but this one has not run fast enough.

1-Black kite

I think they might be black kites but I am not a bird person so I cannot be sure.

Garden in the evening light

Now that summer is here I look forward to holidays and uh oh, those summer nights.