a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


Autumn has started


Autumn has started with temperatures of 27 degrees centigrade and sunshine.  We have had one heavy rainfall and I am pleased to see that most of the trees look like they have come through the dry summer.  I think the two consecutive wet winters and spring had filled up the ground water as I did not (could not) water the trees but only the vegetable garden and some of the young plants.


This is our Belle de Boskoop.  I like the large, crunchy apples of the Belle de Boskoop but even counting on our other three apple trees, we are going to have no storage problems for the apple harvest – there is just enough to keep us going for eating and a bit more for compote to freeze.


The pear harvest is also meagre but I am not complaining as I am only too happy that they have survived.


What did surprise me was that some cyclamen shot through the soil a few days after the rain.  The corms had lain in the baking soil until the rain and the season stimulated the flower production.  The leaves are appearing slowly like an afterthought.


Not all plants have such a good synchronisation with the seasons and this poppy that has self seeded from the spring ones has skipped a few months.


I thought this Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) caterpillar on my fennel stalks had missed the boat for this year but checking in Wiki I found out that the later broods can overwinter as pupae which is what I presume will happen to this one.


One of my great disappointments in the garden is the Heptacodium micanoides that I planted to replace the shrub I bought (and lost ) as Heptacodium jasminoides.  I raved about this shrub Heptacodium jasminoides, the bumble bee tree in 2012 and again The last days of September in 2013.  I have two healthy H. micanoides now but neither of them are perfumed.  Not surprising, you say, as they are different species but as far as I can understand the difference is only a name change, as there is only the one representative of the genus.  The second difference is that although the bumble bees are attracted to the shrub it is not pulling in the bees like my first Heptacodium.  Any ideas?


Last year I had a beautiful patch of Hibiscus trionum, or Flower of an hour.  I had hopes that here they might be perennial, or at least self-seed, but despite the mild winter I have found only one flower.  Never mind, I kept the seeds from last year so they can be sown again in the spring in the ground or in pots.


On the topic of puzzles – what is this honey bee doing?  I had cut the basil I grow in a pot on the patio about a week ago to dry the leaves but I left the stalks as they are quite happy to push out some more leaves.  While having our lunch we noticed bees around the pot and one bee in particular seemed to be treating a damaged leaf like an ice lolly.


The long tongue was slid over the back and then the front of the leaf.  It was just after midday and their was no obvious moisture on the leaf and I wonder if they can extract oils from the leaves?  No wonder their honey tastes so good!


The bees are also through the Cosmos sulphureus.  They must keep their options open as when we go walking we are greeted first by the smell of the ivy flowers and then the noise of the bees overhead.  The ivy is just opening here and the flowers that receive more sun, such as the ones on the tops of the trees, open first.  It is the last great feast for all the pollinators.


The male ivy bees (Colletes hedera) which nest in a dry path not far from the house are searching hopefully for females that are just starting to appear.


Back to the garden and another puzzle.  This is called “Linda’s pretty pink flower”.  We saw it in a friend’s garden and we were delighted to be given one for our own garden.  Linda had momentarily forgotten the name and I forget to ask her whenever I see her!  Can anyone help out here?



The end of September

Front garden

It’s the end of September and the garden is looking good after a week of really heavy rain in the first part of the month.  It was the rain that puts a smile on gardeners faces and it fell mostly at night time with the daytime temperatures staying pleasantly warm.

Cosmos and mega

Kourosh’s half price Maya the bee seeds are still attracting the bees.

Red Cosmos

In general the Cosmos are doing a lot to provide lots of colour at this time of year.

3 disappointments-001

I lost my Heptacodium jasminoides last year and was quite shocked that it could have left me as I had bought it in 2007.  However, last autumn I replaced it with the same species but called the alternative name Heptacodium micanioides.  It has flowered in its first year with me so I should be happy but it does not seem to be quite the magnet that the other one was for the bees.


It’s flowers are still as beautiful and perfumed – it just has a bit of growing up to do.

On the right of the Heptacodium is one of my Sedums.  I have several of these in the garden and they are excellent, colourful, easy plants to grow – only the bees are totally uninterested in them.  Would someone please recommend a large Sedum that will attract the bees?

My next disappointment is on the left of the Sedum – a red Gaura (Siskiyou Pink).  It just does not have the pull for the bees as my white ones.

Bee in red Gaura

Just comparative, the bees will still come and relieve the flowers of their pollen.

Flower of an hour

Enough complaining!  I am still enchanted with my Flower of an Hour (Hibiscus trionum).

Reverse Flower of an hour

It looks good whether you view it from the front or from the back!

Yankee Doodle Dandy

I don’t go too much for very fancy flowers and I think my sister notices this on her visits.  Her tastes are more flamboyant and she tries to spice up the garden by tempting me with a new seed or plant.  This Dahlia is from a packet of seeds she shared with me called “Yanky Doodle Dandy”.  Actually some of them are not bad and they leave the centre open for the pollinators so I cannot complain.

Fallgold raspberries

The rain brought on a new flush of raspberries.  I find these yellow Fallgold sweeter than the pink ones.

Red raspberries

But for decoration or desserts the pink ones do look better on a plate.

Raspberry flowers

The bees don’t seem to have a preference.  They must produce tasty nectar as the flowers are visited every morning.


Kourosh has moved two of the hives further back in an attempt to take them more out of the sun.  It is only a partial success as they are facing the morning sun.  As you can see, the net is still being well used to trap the hornets.  There is still no let up from their constant attack.

Ivy bee

The scent of ivy flowers is ever present when we walk around here but we do not notice a lot of ivy pollen going into the hives.  There is a lot of wild mustard flowers (Sinapis arvensis) around and some of the pollen matches that.  The Ivy bee (Colletes hedera) gathers almost solely the ivy pollen.  I saw this female at the same nest site as I had seen last year (https://beesinafrenchgarden.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/la-bourgade-revisited/).  It is just as extensive as it was but not as busy.  The whole area had been soaked by a week of heavy rain just at the time that the males would normally leaving the nests.

The heavy rain that brought relief to the garden and brought out the flowers in abundance was perhaps not so well timed for the Ivy bees.