a french garden


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Old favourites and new arrivals

Poppy and 2 beesMme Isaac Péreire in front

 

Mme Isaac Péreire started her first flush of perfumed roses about a week ago.  She will continue to flower for months but this first flowering is the most dense and the most welcome and the perfume drifts over the patio to be enjoyed with cups of coffee in the sun.

Mme Isaac Péreire covers down pipe

She is being trained round the corner and with the help of the white jasmine does her best to conceal the down pipe.

Mme Isaac Péreire and bee

She is also appreciated by the bumble bees who disappear inside.  The buzz of the bumble bees reverberates through the flower until they once more reappear and fly off.  This is an early bumble bee (Bombus pratorum).  I have seen a lot of them this year but it must be about the end of their season now.

Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera

This week I noticed another old favourite, the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) while I was removing the faded forget-me-nots.  In fact I was lucky I spotted it.  I managed to rescue another one which had been weighed down by the forget-me-nots but that had got quite bent.

Close bee orchid

They are not dependant on bees for pollination but I would love to get a photograph with a bee, nevertheless.  This one is not in the same place as the one that had appeared last year, so they are perhaps seeding themselves.

Purple Ancolie Aquilegia

I had given up growing Aquilegia from seed this year.

Pale Ancolie

I had taken seed from friends’ gardens, I had been given a presents of packet seeds and I only managed a few pathetic specimens.

Magpie Ancolie

Those pathetic specimens must have taken things into their own hands and re-seeded in places of their own choice and I have some decent plants for the first time.

New Peony

A new Peony bought on a whim and without a name has flowered and produced three flowers that open and close at night time.

New Pivoine

They will not re-flower like roses but I have no objection to just having their flowers for a short time every year.

First flower Vibernum

Another first this week is the first flower on a Viburnum I bought while on holiday is Gascony a few years ago.  It was supposedly an unusual Viburnum but I could not find the name on the web and I have now lost it completely.  It will have to remain my no-name Viburnum.

Neflier flower and bee

One of the last fruit trees to flower is the Medlar which has an attractive white blossom.

Olive flowers

The Medlar flowers faithfully every year and gives us fruit but our Olive tree has surprised us by producing flowers for the first time.  I presume the mild winter has coaxed it into trying but I am not sure whether we could ever have proper fruit here.

first flower Acacia

Another first flowering this year is an Acacia tree grown from seed by my husband from a beautifully perfumed tree growing in a multi-storey car park in Guildford!  The flowers were highly perfumed which attracted him but we are also surrounded by Acacias in the woods around here.  Still this is a very special hand-grown one!

Fremontodendron

I bought this Fremontodendron as a tiny plant on a love at first sight basis.  It has grown and produces flowers every year but it does not seem to fit in.  It is a plant in the wrong place but I don’t know what the correct place might be.

Halictid in Fremontodendron

At least it provides succour for the wild bees as this little Halictid bears witness.  I must promise not to buy any more plants without first thinking about where they are to go.Poppy and 2 bees

The double orange poppies are the first to appear in the garden and are highly appreciated by bees and bumble bees alike.  They are not aggressive creatures and ignore any other foragers on the flowers.

Hoopoe in vine

You need to peer to find the Hoopoe but he appeared in the garden three days ago and is a herald of summer to me.  He walked out of the garden closely followed by me and my camera but he never let me get close enough for a good photograph.

Hoopoe on roof 26.3.14

My husband had spotted him at the end of March on the roof but I was trying for a closer shot.

The cuckoo heralds the spring but by May his call is starting to get monotonous and I begin to harbour uncharitable thoughts about his contribution to the sounds of nature.

Roll on summer!

 

 


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All’s well in the garden

View from upstairs window

View from upstairs window

The first flush of the spring bulbs is well past and the old faithfuls are shooting through.

Pulsatilla

Pulsatilla

Some things don’t come up as you expect them to.  I bought a beautiful pale blue Pulsatilla a few years ago as I was so taken by its ephemeral lightness. I propagated its seeds but only to find that it must have been a hybrid.  I have grown its ugly sister, a much darker harsher coloured flower but as it now has appeared yet again this year I think I am softening to it and I can’t resist its fluffy buds and leaves.

Forsythia, hellebores and tulips

Forsythia, hellebores and tulip

The wet, cooler spring has kept the Hellebores going for longer just until the tulips can take over.

Bumble in Hellebore

Bumble in Hellebore

This longer season is appreciated by the bumble bees.

Broad bean flowers

Broad bean flowers

The mild wet winter has favoured the growth of the broad beans that I sow in the autumn.  Last year they got frozen but this year has been good for the vegetable garden and the early peas are growing well too.

Back garden

Back garden

One by one the trees begin to flower.  The Amelanchier doesn’t flower for long and isn’t perfumed but its flower are so delicate that I forgive it its short comings.

Amelanchier blossom

Amelanchier blossom

I have never noticed any bees on the Amelanchier blossom which surprises me.

Quince and carder bee

Quince and carder bee

The quince tree is a mass of pale pink blossom which welcome bees and bumble bees alike throughout the day.

Cherry blossom  moved tree

Cherry blossom moved tree

The apricot trees are finished flowering and we were happy to see the cherry tree that we roughly transplanted has survived and is full of flowers on its foreshortened branches.  The plum trees are in flower and with the apple trees coming into flower all the trees are at their best.

I have noticed one very strange phenomenon this year.

Pear tree and Osmia cornuta

Pear tree and Osmia cornuta

About a week ago my pear tree flowers gave off a foetid odour of fish!  I have never noticed this before and believe me you couldn’t miss it.  I have a William variety in the front so I checked with the Conference in the back; same thing but somewhat less strong.  I decided to check out the neighbours so I asked Yvon and Annie if their pear trees smelled of fish.  After they had ascertained I was serious we all went off for a sniff.

Yvon decided it was sardines.  I think it was worse than that.  We all retreated to their cherry tree and took deep breaths of the fresh cherry blossom to purge our lungs.

The pear blossom is just about finished and the odour passed too.  Has anyone else noticed this?

Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

We get more and more birds in the garden now, the Hoopoe is a summer visitor.

Hoopoe with worm

Hoopoe with worm

He digs deep into the ground with his beak and is a successful worm catcher.  His visits would be great to aerate a lawn, if you had one.

Andrena cineraria in hole

Andrena cineraria in hole

Of all my visitors to the garden it is the bees that excite me the most and the garden is full of them at the moment.  I have so many to identify but I am overjoyed as I now have a book to try and get my mind round.  It is called the ” Bees of Surrey” by David W. Baldock.  You may wonder if this is what I really need as I live in France.  It is certainly the best thing I have read so far and I have learnt such a lot although I have not had time to fully use it.  It was advice I received from an excellent blog http://www.edphillipswildlife.com/news.html that put me onto the book.  The author of “Bees of Surrey” suggests that to begin identifying bees you should try and identify twenty (with the help of a local bee expert if possible 😦 ) and then you can identify a few new ones each year.  He says it is difficult advice to follow but you will be hooked for life if you take it.  Well, I have set myself the challenge to identify twenty bees by photographing them.

I’ve got a lot of photographs and some tentative identifications in mind and I’ll post some of my identifications and observations and I’d be very grateful for any comments.

When it is sunny here it seems it is not only the bees that are happy.

1-P1110012

It seems to put everyone in a good mood.


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Hoopoe rescue

My solitary lapwing is still visiting.  He has now trained me to re-hydrate dry puppy  food and put this outside the living room door.  I hope he appreciates them as much as the other birds do.

The glacial weather continues in this normally clement area of France, it was -13 C this morning at 8 a.m.  I am spending more time beside our log burning “insert” – a closed log fire that in addition warms the air by a heat exchange system. I am wondering if it is our house in particular or if all houses have their share of unexpected visitors.

My lapwing makes me think of a summer visitor to the garden who also has an elegant crest – the hoopoe (Upupa epops) or huppe.  One in particular, paid us a visit last year – entering via the insert.  This is in itself quite a feat as the insert is not open like a normal fireplace but blocked by a heavy metal plate.  Returning home one afternoon at the end of April last year we were alerted by a scuttling noise emanating from the insert.  When we opened the glass door a hoopoe was perched in the far corner on top of the cinders which luckily dated from some days earlier!

He looked amazingly smart for something that had just come down a chimney.  My husband happily took up the challenge to retrieve him and enjoy the rare opportunity to have a hoopoe in his hand.

 

The hoopoe looks such an exotic bird with its colourful markings and retractable crown feathers.  We had often seen them from afar and we were even more impressed with its markings and regal composure when we had the opportunity to view it so closely.  Not wishing to cause it distress we quickly released it into the front garden.

He took flight and shook off the inconveniences and affronts of falling down a chimney and being handled by a human with regal aplomb and looked down at us from the telephone wire with the hauteur of regard suitable for such a magnificent bird towards mere earthlings.