a french garden


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Flowers of the moment

panorama back garden

The garden is still relatively green despite our higher than average temperatures and lack of rain.

Perennial sweetpeas-001

I have managed to have sweet peas for the second year, much to my surprise.  They are the perennial variety and have self seeded and caught me unaware, so I will just have to sort things out after they have finished flowering.  Perhaps next year I will be able to help them put on a better show.

Second flower Wisteria-001

The Wisteria is flowering for the second time and has had a sever trimming since this photograph was taken.

Hydrangia (2)-001

The mophead Hydrangea has supported the heat, up till now, although it looks a little sad in the evenings.

Hydrangia-001

Although the flowers of the Lacecap Hydrangea are pretty close-up, I think they are more difficult to appreciate from a distance as the flowers face skyward.  The mophead Hydrangea may be more common but I feel our mophead has more impact.

Foxgloves-001

The Foxgloves are mainly over but I will be collecting the seed and trying to increase them as they seem very happy in the garden and have put up a fine show this year.Larkspur 1-001The other star of our June/July garden is the Larkspur (Delphinium consolida).  I have found these grow best here if left to self-seed or sown in the autumn straight into the soil.

Larkspur (2)-001

They attract all sorts of pollinators and require no special care.  I get beautiful pale shades of pink and lilac but I have found that I must select the seeds of the white and the pale flowers or else it is mainly the dark blue flowers that take over.

Geranium-001

My geraniums have made themselves at home all over the garden and are quite happy in drier, shadier areas.  They are also a big favourite of the bumble bees.

Lavendar-001

The lavender is growing well and enjoying the hot sun we are experiencing at the moment.

Humming bird hawk moth-001

The hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) has been around for a while now and he visits the garden from early in the morning until the light is going.

Anthidium on Stachys-002

It is good to see the season visitors in the garden like the Anthidium manicatum bee on the Stachys.  Growing Stachys is a sure method to attract this bee to the garden.

Bottle brush-001

On the other hand the bottle brush (a Callistimon species) has not been the bee magnet that we had expected.

Magnolia-001

At the moment it is the Magnolia grandiflora that is the star of the garden.  It looks beautiful and smells divine.

…and of course the bees love it!  Have a look at this short video (30 seconds) to see the bees collecting pollen from the flowers.


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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.


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Magnolia in winter

The cold snap is continuing and as the sub-zero days increase in number I am becoming anxious as to the eventual effect on the plants.  They have never been subjected to such a continual cold period which is, as far as the forecasts lead us to believe, to continue.

Some of the plants seem to be resisting the cold well and I impressed by my young magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ).  I knew the thick, tough leaves allowed it to take the hot summer sun and could stand a good measure of drought but they appear to be comfortably accepting the sub-zero temperatures as well.

Looking at the photo taken today the leaves seem to be coping well with their first period of prolonged cold.

Last July my little tree produced its first two flowers which surprised me as I had been warned that they took years to flower and I had bought a very young plant.

I checked on Wikipedia and Magnolias are native of the south eastern United States and are not known to be hardy plants, however, the varieties with leaves which are brown coloured underneath are hardier than varieties with light coloured undersides.  As there are huge magnolia trees in this region I hope that my little one will not suffer to much damage.