a french garden


25 Comments

Fête des Abeilles

I promise; I promise, this will be my last post on behalf of Amelia who will return back home tomorrow.  However, I could not resist sharing with you all, my visit today to the Fête des Abeilles – The gathering of the members and the friends of the Association of Apiculture of the department of Charente Martitime, where we live.  By this time of the year, that is to say the summer solstice, we should have really nice weather, and we have had two or three days when the temperatures soared to about 30 C [that is about 86 F].  But sadly today was not one of those and although it was not cold at all, we had a drizzle most of the day.  But it did not deter the people and they came to see the main attraction which was the extraction of honey.  For me, however, the great excitement was something else that I had never seen at close quarters.

They had chosen an interesting location which is a center recently opened to study and shelter wild birds along a corridor of the busy motorway A10 which runs between Bordeaux and Paris.

The Bird Sanctuary

The Bird Sanctuary

On one side is a forest and the several acres of land was purchased partially because it has a lot of lime trees, in full flower at this time of the year.

Lime tree o "tilleul"

Lime tree flower or “tilleul”

Those perfumed flowers produce some of the best honey I have ever tasted.  For that reason, different members of the association of apiculture  have left some of their hives in that center.

IMG_0967

The extraction was demonstrated by one of the members who had opened one hive and had removed a few of the elements.  He first showed how with a special knife the waxy coating was to be removed.

IMG_1021

They were very keen to encourage and educate the participants, specially the curious young children.

IMG_1027

Several children participated in the preparation of the elements for extraction.  They even placed the elements in a transparent extractor and were in a practical manner taught how the centrifugal force works.

IMG_1036

But as I said for me the absolute excitement was being able to see her majesty the queen bee in her court. She is not normally removed from her hive, but this day when Michel had removed one of the element for transport in a glass hive, he had not noticed that he had also transported the queen.  She is in the middle, larger than the others with a prominent back – may be it is there she wears her crown!

Her majesty the queen bee

Her majesty the queen bee

Michel assured me that a separation of a day should not disrupt the harmony of the hive.    I was so absorbed by the events of the day that I did not notice until I was  leaving that there was another queen bee amongst us.

IMG_1039

And so, or as they say here “et voilà”,  I  thank you for all the encouraging comments that you wrote for the last few blogs and I leave you in the good hands of Amelia.  Au revoir    – K


30 Comments

Pressing on

It may not be the New Year, there are still few days left of 2012 but it is not too early for me to have started my reflections on the past year with WordPress.

Early in 2012 my son suggested I started a blog as a way to create a journal of the garden and to reach out to other interested gardeners to share experiences, hopes, successes and disappointments that only other gardeners would appreciate.  It seemed a reasonable proposition but it soon took on a life of its own.

Cherry blosssom

Cherry blosssom

I realised that a picture was worth a thousand words, so my interest in photography which had languished for many years was rekindled.

Pear blossom

Pear blossom

I enjoyed taking pictures of my flowers but as I looked for photo opportunities, I started to see more than flowers.

Meloe violaceus in the pansies

Meloe violaceus in the pansies

I came across strange things when weeding, Tricked Again

Chafer in the cherry blossom

Chafer in the cherry blossom

Some creatures were strange and hairy.

Azuritis reducta

Azuritis reducta, Southern White Admiral, on Philadelphus

Others elegant and attractive.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea)

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea)

I started to see things I had never seen before.  Dragonfly pond update

White and blue wood anemones

White and blue wood anemones

I saw things I used to walk past. What colour is a white wood anemone?

White-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lucorum) in Spanish beans

White-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lucorum) in Spanish beans

I always loved my bumble bees but I paid more attention to them the more I photographed them.

Red-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius)

Red-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius)

I enjoyed noting the different species that visited the garden and was delighted when I found two bumble bee nests in the garden.

Tiny grey bee in Lavatera

Tiny grey bee in Lavatera

I noticed lots of solitary bees in the garden as well as the honey bees and started to follow some of the amazingly interesting and informative “bee blogs” on WordPress such as Aventures in beeland, Miss Apis Mellifera and Beelievable to name only a few.  I have to admit this has sparked another interest and I would love to be brave enough to embark on keeping bees myself.

Carder bumble bee (Bombus pascuorum) in quince

Carder bumble bee (Bombus pascuorum) in quince tree

They keep me company in the garden and in my walks in the surrounding countryside.

Carder bumblebee with pollinaria

Carder bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum) with pollinaria

It is often only when I review my photographs that I see something I had not noticed when I took the picture.  This bumble bee seemed to be carrying a lump of pollen stuck to its head.  I had seen them dusted over with loose pollen but never with such a strange package attached to them.

Bombus pascuorum with pollinaria

Bombus pascuorum with pollinaria

I discovered that this bumble bee was on a  special  pollination mission and had been selected by an orchid to carry its pollen to another orchid.

Orchids have evolved a special method of transporting pollen for cross fertilisation between plants by insect vectors.  Instead of releasing their pollen to the four winds like say the grasses, orchids have compressed bundles of pollen that will stick to the insect pollinators who will pass it onto another orchid that they visit.

This I would never have known, nor recognised on my bumble bee if it were not for WordPress fanning my interest in bees and bumblebees and the Bumblebee Conservation Organisation for supplying me with the information.

WordPress has stimulated my interests in photography, bees and nature but none of this would have been so enjoyable without all my gentle WordPress friends whose interesting blogs and helpful comments lighten and brighten the year.


22 Comments

Barcelona visit

I live in the country, not too remote but very quiet.  I reap the benefits of this situation by enjoying a large garden, having my choice of a multitude of walks or cycle rides straight from my door and the sound of silence of the countryside.

Last weekend it was time to appreciate civilisation, to explore by metro, to soak in some culture – to see crowds of people!

Crowds at the Magic Fountain

There were certainly plenty of people;

Entrance of Guell Park

so many people wanting to see the same thing.

The house in Guell Park which Gaudi designed and lived in.

Many of the people, like me, go to Barcelona as they are attracted by Gaudi’s style and architecture.  His distinctive style of Catalan architecture and his love of nature has produced remarkable buildings and influenced the architecture of Barcelona.

Art nouveau leterbox

Designs from nature are used by other architects such as this art nouveau letterbox by Lluís Domènech i Montaner; an example of catalan Modernisme on an originally 15th. century palace, Casa de l’Ardiaca.

Some of the 13 white geese (I did not do a roll count)

Across the road in the cathedral I was surprised to see white geese in their special courtyard.  They are kept in honour of the cathedral’s patron St. Eulalia.  One goose for each year of the virgin martyr’s short life.

Coffee after visiting the Pedera

There are always plenty of refreshments available in Barcelone, the coffee and pastries are excellent.

Lunch and dinner can still be eaten al fresco

A little away from the main tourist sites I enjoyed an excellent three course Catalan meal for 9 euros 50.

Casa Batllo by night

The evenings can be as full as the days.

Casa Terrades

There is so much to see walking in the streets, like these beautiful balconies on the Casa Terrades.

Urban parrot

Green parrots nest in the palm trees, they were the only birds I saw except for pigeons.

Fountain in Ciutadella Park

Walking in Ciutadella Park I noticed there were very few flowers in bloom at this time of year in Barcelona.  I had hoped I might see some different bees and butterflies but I did not see any.  I imagine that Barcelona does not have sufficient water to support the size of the population that it shelters and to water flowers.

I had a marvellous time, I love Barcellona – the architecture, the people, the atmosphere – but I had never realised how we appreciate nature in words and culture but in truth we marginalise it and exclude it.  We profess to love and admire nature.  Artists glorify it in their paintings and sculptures,  but we cannot coexist side by side.  The city, so full of life and bustle from the human point of view, seemed so barren and empty.


10 Comments

To a Squirrel

Being a practical sort of person I have tried to  acquire plants that have more than one virtue.  By that I mean if I would like a beautiful flower I try to choose a perfumed variety.

I decided to plant a green hazelnut on the road side of the garden as they grow quickly to provide screening and also produce hazelnuts.

Promising green hazelnuts in July

I decided a purple hazelnut would also work well to give some different foliage colour in spring time.

Purple hazel tree at the end of April

They are not such abundant nut producers but given I had the other trees I felt I would be amply provided for.

Purple hazel nut in July

This year the crop has not been plentiful and I have worked out why.

Hazel nut shells in my plum tree

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

With apologies to Rabbie Burns

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_a_Mouse for the full version and translation, if need be.


15 Comments

It is a matter of perspective

It is all a matter of perspective.

A glow in the night

Viewed on the computer this is a remarkably bad photograph.

Viewed in reality on a warm August evening it is a little marvel of nature.

Viewed scientifically it is a bioluminescence released when the enzyme luciferase interacts with the luciferin naturally produced by the glow-worm, releasing energy in the form of light.

Viewed from the point of view of a male Lampyris noctiluca it is an irresistible attraction.  The female glow worm is attracting her winged mate.

Glow worm in strawberry patch

Viewed with the aid of flash, the beetle Lampyris noctiluca can be seen more clearly.

A closer look

From my point of view I love to see these points of light that make summer evenings so special.

Glow baby, glow!

From the point of view of a gardener, I was even more delighted to discover that the larvae eat snails.  I just hope they have been able to find sufficient this year as it has been so dry.

It is nice to think that there may be a group of glow worms protecting my strawberries while I sleep!


6 Comments

Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite them

Check out the red mite or tick on the side of the fly!

The vermin only teaze and pinch

Their foes superior by an inch.

So, naturalists observe, a flea

Has smaller fleas that on him prey;

And these have smaller still to bite ’em,

And so proceed ad infinitum.

Taken from “On Poetry: a Rhapsody“, Jonathon Swift (1733)

I was taken aback when I saw this robber fly on my hydrangea about to tuck into a smaller fly while he himself was being made a meal of by a red tick or mite on his side.

So what’s inside the mite – bacteria, ‘phages, viruses, prions?  Mmm, first poetry, next philosophy, I think I prefer to keep to observation.


3 Comments

Among the fields of barley

We walk most days in the countryside around the house and each day we see something new and different.  Watching the trees and the fields you see the seasons change and it leads you through the year.  We often pass this field and watch the barley growing.  I took my first shot at the end of April and yesterday was a hot, sunny day and the barley was mown.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.