a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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November flowers and fruit

We have been confined now for one week in the new second general confinement in France. We are allowed to go food shopping and attend medical appointments. Travelling to work is permitted when it is impossible to fulfill the job by staying connected on the Internet at home. When you do leave home, even for a walk of no longer than 1 kilometer, you should have an “attestation” indicating when you left home and for what reason.

As the cafes and restaurants are closed and visiting is not allowed, it only leaves me gardening and walking.

I have started weeding the front gardens and mulching with the fallen leaves from the garden.

The Persimmon tree leaves are a beautiful colour for the mulch but I have brought barrow loads of leaves from the Liriodendron and other trees in the back garden to fill up the border.

The Ash tree leaves are not so pretty and go in the back borders or the compost.

My three small heathers that I potted up for some winter colour on the patio have already started flowering.

As soon as the flowers open the bees find them. It looks like being a good investment for colour and entertainment.

The Carpenter bees visit the potted lemon tree on the patio and

also visit the Salvia uliginosa which has just about finished flowering in a nearby pot.

The Salvia leucantha has just started opening its white flowers in a big pot on the patio and also in the front garden. Its country of origin is Mexico and I have read that it is not frost hardy but it has survived in the pot that I brought indoors last winter. It has also survived outdoors in the front border where it is flowering now. I gave a division of my plant last autumn to my neighbour Annie, who planted it in her garden in a sunny spot and hers is a now a much larger specimen and is full of flowers.

My yellow buddeleia is still flowering. Attracting butterflies like this Peacock.

And this rather old Red Admiral.

I was given the original cutting by a beekeeper friend who assured me that the bees would be attracted to it. He was right! I prefer it to the lilac buddeleia.

This is what the Kaki or Persimmon flowers look like in May. They are very discrete flowers and you really have to look for them.

It is difficult to imagine that large red or yellow fruit the size of large tomatoes could be difficult to see in a tree – but it is true! Kourosh started his Kaki predictions this year by saying that he was surprised that it was going to be such a poor year as the summer had been warm. Later he changed his mind and announced we would be having enough to have a taste. Then he decided that there was more than he thought.

To cut a long story short, we have been collecting boxes of them. They have been being handed out to friends as they have been gradually harvested and I only wish we had weighed how much the tree has given us this year. Everytime more leaves fell we saw more fruit. Now the tree is bare except for some that we have left for the birds share.

They do not ripen all at once and ripen more slowly in a cool place. This year I have frozen some of the ripe flesh without the skin. I have never done this before but seemingly it is possible.

Our other November fruit is the olives. They can be left for a few days yet but then it will be up to Kourosh to prepare them.


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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.

 


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Persimmon Sorbet

Persimmon flowers

The persimmon fruit starts its life as very discrete white flower about the beginning of June.

persimmons and asian hornet

By the middle of November some are starting to ripen and being burst open by birds, and in 2015 being feasted on by the glut of Asian hornets (Vespa velutina).

Persimmon and Great Tit

This poses a problem as the Persimmon ripen slowly and if left on the tree very little whole fruit will be left to harvest.

At first we were reluctant to gather unripe fruit but we have since discovered that they will happily ripen indoors and maintain their flavour.

The Kaki or Persimmon is not well known in this area but we have now successfully converted a couple of friends who, much to their surprise, discovered that they too enjoyed this sweet winter fruit.  Nevertheless, this year we had an exceptionally large crop and had to leave a box of unripe fruit while we visited the U.K. at Christmas.  I quite expected to return to a box of mushy rotten fruit but all the Persimmon had ripened with no spoiled exceptions.  However, there were too many to deal with in the immediate so I decided to experiment.  I gave them a wash and then packed them individually into the freezer.

defrosting Persimmon

The frozen Persimmon retain their shape as they defrost and the frozen flesh, though slightly softer than the fresh, is almost the same texture and just as sweet.  We can enjoy our defrosted Persimmon as a fruit on its own or add it to yoghurt as a dessert.

Persimmon sorbet

Flush with the success of my freezing experiment, I decide to try for a sorbet.  I treated three Persimmon to a mix with the hand blender and poured the result into the ice cream maker.  The resulting sorbet has a beautiful colour and was ready to eat.  I do not have a very sweet tooth as far as desserts are concerned, so for those that like something sweeter I would recommend the addition of a sugar syrup which would also keep the sorbet softer if re-freezing.

However, for me I was pleased to have discovered another way to use the fruit of the garden without adding additional sugar.


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Last persimmons of the season

Khormolu side

The fruits of my labour in the garden are an incentive whether they are a vase of flowers or new potatoes from the potager.  They also maintain a connection with the changing seasons.

Today I noticed I was down to my last eight persimmons.  These amazing fruits ripen as winter is coming on and in our area of the Charente Maritime there are huge trees in gardens that look as if they are decorated with red Christmas baubles.  Many local people are completely unaware that they are edible and are highly suspicious of these beautiful red fruits.

I had a good crop that I took in before Christmas –still largely unripe- and kept in my unheated utility room.  They had the convenient ability to ripen at different speeds and could be sorted, the ripe ones being eaten and the others left for later.  My fruit has lasted until February, as long as my Golden Delicious apples – but that is another story.
Kaki leaves  30 Oct 2011

In addition to the crop of delicious fruit in the winter my kaki tree decorates the front garden giving us shade in the summer.The leaves change into varying hues of red and soft orange in the autumn as can be seen from the picture taken at the end of October.

Kaki 1 Nov 2011

By 1 November the fruits are yellow and will take another month to turn red attracting the attention of the local birds.