a french garden


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Getting used to November in the garden

At this stage in the year it is usual to accept that winter has come.  I just want to know where autumn went to.  We did go back to the U.K. for a couple of weeks late in October, coming back early November.  We came back to sunshine and tales of summer-like temperatures whilst we were away.

Mahonia Charity and queen bumble bee

Arriving back I checked out the garden before I went inside the house  and went straight to the Mahonia “Charity” that was planted last year.  The Mahonia was already nourishing a queen bumble bee.  “Charity” is a big variety and has put on quite a bit of growth since last year.  I had also planted two “Winter Sun” Mahonia which flowered in October.  I felt that was a bit early but they were mostly in the sun this year.  Perhaps when they get more shade they will do better.

Worker bumble bee on Mahonia

As well as the queen, there was a worker bumble bee on the Mahonia but she did not get that purple pollen from the Mahonia!

bumble bee on Phacelia

She had been working the Phacelia only a few metres away.

Barn owl in roosting box

As I was checking out my flowers and bumble bees, Kourosh had noticed a lot of white splashes on the floor of our outbuilding and set up a ladder to check for occupants of his barn owl nest box.  The owl does not look overjoyed to see us but we are happy he has returned to use the nest as a roost, if not to nest.

persimmons and asian hornet

We are not  so happy to see the Asian hornets much in evidence in the garden.  The persimmons were ready to harvest when we returned and we are content to share some with the birds but not so pleased to see them being enjoyed by the Asian hornets.

Magnolia Grandiflora seeds

The seed pods of the Magnolia Grandiflora are literally bursting at the seams.  I wander whether this increased fertility could be due to the pollination by our honey bees.  They seemed to be much more attracted to the flowers than the solitary bees.  It is only thirteen seconds long but the video shows you how much fun the bees were having in the flowers during the summer.

I managed to buy some some bee friendly plants in the U.K.  I bought Monarda “Jacob Cline” and an Eucryphia nymensis.  My friend Linda had been busy growing lots of Knautia so I now have a good size patch that should be a magnet for bees next year.

sedum

I am also replacing my sedum with varieties I which I know will attract bees.  Even though it was not the right time I did find a Sedum “Autumn Joy” and a small variety “Dragon’s blood” whilst I was in the U.K.  There are lots of little changes to be done and some bulbs yet to be planted but each change adds and an extra for the new year.

Willows

I planted the willows (Salix alba “Chermesina”)in January 2014 and now they are starting to fill out and add colour to the winter garden.   Although I am already looking forward to the spring when their task is to form a screen around a seating area.

 

 

 

 


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Magnolia grandiflora, a survivor

Last winter was unusually harsh in the Charente –Maritime.  In February the temperatures were under zero for about two weeks and fell as low minus 17 degrees centigrade.

I was resigned to the fact that I would lose a large number of plants unaccustomed to this severe weather.  One of the plants that I had little hope would survive was my Magnolia grandiflora.

9th. February 2012

As the temperature rose I ventured into the garden for damage assessment.  There was ice on the surface of the magnolia leaves which was being rapidly melted by the bright sun.  Not good!  A plant has difficulty accommodating such rapid changes in temperature.

July 2012

To my surprise it has survived unharmed and I have been able to take these photographs  over the last few days.

My Magnolia grandiflora was an early edition to the garden.  I felt it would be an appropriate tree to have in a French garden as I had seen magnificent specimens of old large Magnolias in France.  However, I have now discovered that Magnolias are not natives of Europe but of the southern states of the United States, the only French connection is that they have been named in honour of the French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715)

Opening Magnolia flower

The obvious attraction of the Magnolia grandiflora is its flowers.

The flower opens to release its perfume

An even greater attraction for me is their perfume.

The flower opens revealing the heavy stamens

The perfume is distinctive with a slight citrus hint and appears perfect to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies.  Another false assumption!  The genus Magnolia evolved long before bees and butterflies had made their appearance and the Magnolia had already forged its pollinator relationship with beetles.  This has never changed over the ensuing millions of years so it is not a tree to attract bees and butterflies into the garden.

Magnolia at the end of the day

The Magnolia flower is short lived and only lasts for a day.  The tree will produce several blossoms at one time, replacing the faded blossoms on a daily basis and the number of flowers produced will depend on the size of the tree.

Fertilised flower forming fruit

The flowers are followed by a candle-shaped seed head but if I see them I snap them off to encourage the tree to produce more flowers and avoid a waste of resources on the part of the tree.

So for me the Magnolia is a very valuable ornamental tree in the garden giving me beautiful perfumed flowers and leaves that stay green and glossy even in the heat of summer.  An addition benefit of Magnolia grandiflora is that it is evergreen and in winter it continues to ornament the garden with its glossy green leaves

Last year was the first year my Magnolia flowered and I was overjoyed with my two blossoms.  This year I have had many more flowers despite the small size of the tree and its trial by ice in the winter.