a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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Rain refreshes May

We have had rain and the garden and trees are looking much fresher. We have not had heavy rain but sunshine and showers suit me fine.

Our tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is in flower. It is called Tulipier de Virginie in french so the name is a give away for its place of origin. Unfortunately, a lot of french people call Magnolia grandiflora a tulipier because of its big white flowers that look like over sized tulips and it causes a lot of confusion. We have both plants in the garden but now is the moment for Liriodondron.

It is not a flower that could easily be mistaken.

It was one of the first trees we planted because it had always fascinated me and I never expected it to get so big but it has plenty of space in the garden and I still appreciate its strange flowers.

This is one of our mullein plants (Verbascum thapsus), it is a common weed here and has grown spontaneously in the garden. However, we look out for the baby plants of this biennial in the autumn and transfer them to where we want them to flower the following summer. We try and fit in as many as we can because the plants will grow to be over one metre tall and are surmounted by a yellow flower head that is extremely attractive to bees and provides excellent pollen. The plants provide architectural interest and have long tap roots that allows them to easily survive dry summer conditions.

At the moment they are almost all being ravaged by the mullein moth (Cucullia verbasci). I could easily pick them off by hand but I am interested to see whether the mullein will recover, if left alone.

In addition, the redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) have started nesting under our carport, as they did last year.

That means a lot of mouths to feed for the parents and we see both parents entering the nest box with what looks like caterpillars. What kind of caterpillars they bring is impossible to tell.

We watch another bird from the utility and kitchen windows.

The hoopoe (Upupa epops) is a frequent visitor to the garden at the moment.

He drills into the soil with such energy that I sometimes wonder if he will come out with one of our moles at the end of his beak – not just a worm.

The redstarts keep a watchful eye on him when he gets too near their nest box and we have seen both parents mob him just to make the boundaries clear to all concerned.


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The October Garden

After months of drought now everything is wet!   The Nerine bowdenii has shot up with rain, totally unconcerned with the dry summer as it lay dormant underground.  But the petals are sodden.

The little cyclamen have pushed through undeterred by the dry summer.  Certainly autumn flowering bulbs and tubers are good drought resistant plants for the garden.

The bees go out for nectar and pollen when the rain stops but this poor bumble bee was quite soaked from the wet petals.

The Tulip tree or Liriodendron did not get watered during the summer but the autumn rains have been sufficient to allow it to put on its usual autumn show.

Since we have had rain the Chosia ternata “Sundance” has started flowering.  I find the Choisias do very well in the garden and as well as the C. ternata (basic?) I have a Choisia ternata “Aztec pearl”. which I prefer as I like the finer leaves.  Yesterday, I saw a Choisia ternata “White Dazler” in a nursery.  It was covered in white, very perfumed flowers that the bees seemed to be appreciating as much as I was appreciating the perfume.  I paused from purchasing as I do not have a place ready for it at the moment, and it was 35 euros.  Has anyone experience with this variety?

My Osmanthus heterophyllus “Goshiki” has also come through the summer to provide us with loads of perfumed flowers but it does live in a shady spot and did not have to withstand any scorching.

Today was sunny and in the low twenties Centigrade and it was so good to get into the garden after all the rain, even though the work to be done is a bit daunting.

The good thing about sunny days in the garden is that you are never alone.

Today a grasshopper joined us for morning coffee.

Then we were amused while we had lunch on the patio by the antics of another green insect.  This time better camouflaged, in amongst my potted Salvia uliginosa.

This is the Praying mantis doing her special photo pose, with me taking her from her best side.  They seem such clumsy creatures that do not seem to know quite what to do with such long legs.

Kourosh is a fan of Praying mantis and the insect did not object to being handled gently.  Some people keep them as pets.  I’m glad Kourosh seems to be satisfied with keeping his bees.


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A January day

Comma butterfly, (Polygonia c-album),10.1.13

Comma butterfly, (Polygonia c-album),10.1.13

Red Admiral,(Vanessa atlanta).10.1.14

Red Admiral,(Vanessa atlanta).10.1.14

Honey bee gathering pollen, 10.1.14

Honey bee gathering pollen, 10.1.14

These photographs bear witness to the strange weather we are having this January. The Red Admiral and the Comma are butterflies that over-winter here, and the honey bees don’t have to stay tucked up in their hives for too long but the weather is staying exceptionally mild.

Bumble bee on winter honeysuckle

It is so mild the queen bumble bees have stretched their wings and stirred from their winter torpor to gather some nectar.

Honey bee on tinus

The bees have been visiting the Viburnum tinus.  This is not the preferred winter flower for the bees so I presume the warmer temperatures have activated the plants nectar production.

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

The first winter aconite has opened in the garden.

Apricot flower 10.1.14

Apricot flower 10.1.14

The apricot flower, as beautiful as it is, must surely be too early.  You would think it could tell by the length of the short days that it is winter and it would not to be fooled by the mild temperatures.

Apricot tree shoots 10.1.14

Apricot tree shoots 10.1.14

The shoots are opening and the leaves unfurling.  I do not want to be pessimistic but I think my chances of apricots this year are low.

Garden in snow  25.2.13

Garden in snow 25.2.13

The cold winter weather is bound to arrive and trees, like my plum tree in flower in the picture above , will lose a lot of their fruit.   I try to recall that we had snow last February and that the winter is far from over.   I would have less to complain about if there were more frequent sunny days but in fact we are having a lot of rainy days.

Poppy seed germinating

Poppy seed germinating

On the wet days I am looking through my photographs of the bees I have seen and trying to identify them.  I have challenged myself to identify 20 before springtime.  I have featured five bees now on my blog Bees in a French Garden so that leaves quite a lot left!

I have been looking at my seeds but it much to early to plant anything as they will need to be kept outside.  So to amuse myself I have tried to grow some perennial poppies from a poppy left behind at my daughter’s old house.  O.K. they will not likely turn out like the parent plant but it lets me grow something indoors.

1-IMG_8883.mould

12.1.14

I just left them under cling film on some moist vermiculite and some have gone mouldy but I have selected a few healthy ones to put into small pots.

Poppy seed shooting

14.2.14

It is working for the moment, but who knows?  I enjoy watching them grow.

But now for an appeal!

Liriodendron tulipifera

Does anyone know if these could possibly be the dried remains of Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) flowers?  We only noticed them when we were pruning the Tulip tree.  I cannot think what else they could be but I had read that Tulip trees take about 20 years before they flower and as we have planted it less then six years ago I do not think it could be that age.