a french garden


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Perfume and colour in the December garden

bee-on-mousmoula

When the sun plays on the Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) tree the perfume expands over the garden and the bees descend on the flowers.  The flowers are just starting to open and are only opening slowly.

loquat-flowers-dec

Have you ever been caught out by thinking an artificial plant was a real one?  There are some fake plants that, well placed in a shady corner of a restaurant or hotel, have had me deceived.  However, when I look at the Loquat I find that the fluffy stems that support the flowers look more as if they have been fabricated from a soft, synthetic velvet rather having grown in such perfection.  The leaves, on closer inspection, are a bit suspect too.  Rather too thick and shiny.

The most unusual is the perfume.  Extremely pleasant as it is, I find it reminds me of baby talcum powder and not of any other flower that I know!  It almost seems as if it is a real plant pretending to be artificial!

We are too far north for the tree to produce its delicious fruit but it is H3 hardy so suitable as decoration in areas with a mild winter.

elaeagnus-x-ebbingei

The Elaeagnus x ebbingei is still flowering.  I must try and note next year how long its perfumed season lasts. I am growing this as a screen between the us and the neighbouring garden.  It is very amenable to being cut and I like to let it have a free form to give access to the birds and bees but it takes well to being pruned.

bee-on-winter-honeysuckle

The winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is H6 so we are looking at a plant that will take very cold winters but reward you with flowers and perfume when there is some sunshine and warmth.

bombus-p

The honeysuckle is frequently visited throughout the winter by the buff tailed bumble bee (just to confuse me the buff tailed bumble bees have white tails in France) but I noticed this carder bee on the honeysuckle.  It interested me as it is a queen carder that I frequently see in springtime here.

bombus-brown-band

It has a thick brown band at the top of its thorax and I had straight away thought of the brown-banded bumble bee (Bombus humilis) however, it does not match the description of Steven Falk.  I then checked on Atlas Hymenoptera – Les bourdons de la Belgique and I think I have found my carder bee as one of the three types that used to be found in Belgium although now they have practically disappeared.

Perhaps I should post this on my other site Bees in a French Garden to see if anyone can help me here.  But whatever their names are it is nice to see them in December.

bumble-on-strawberry-tree

You can tell that the bumble bees are finding plenty of pollen and so must still have a nest with young that they are feeding.  The young queens only need nectar to survive until they decide to make a nest.  The strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) H5 is a real hardy tree and the flowers are very attractive, if low on the perfume stakes.

Osmanthus

Another white, perfumed flower still blossoming is the Osmanthus heterophyllus “Goshiki”, I should really take a cutting to see if I could start another plant but this one is shaded by a wall and I am not sure whether it would stand the summer sun.

honey-bee-on-mahonia

It seems that most of my very fragrant winter flowers are white but now I have the Mahonias I love the splashes of yellow that they are providing.  “Charity” is the most prolific but the two “Media” are close behind.

anisodontea-el-rayo

The Anisodontea el rayo continues to flower and attract the bees but now some of the leaves have taken on a copper tint.  When I first saw the colour change after some cold nights I thought that was the end of the flowering season but the buds were unaffected and went on to open and flower.

heather-1

I tend to forget the heather.  I am still surprised that it does so well as I had got it into my head that I would not be able to grow heather in my chalky soil.  However, the E. x darleyensis varieties that I have survive very well but I could use them more effectively but I am not sure how.  Any good placement ideas that have worked for you?

cotoneaster

For colour, if not for perfume, the cotoneasters brighten up the garden in all weathers.  A seasonal picture to wish everyone a happy Christmas.

primroses

Even if you feel more like these primroses that have popped up as if to say “Is it spring yet?”

 


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November finishes in the garden and December begins

willow-tree

November has been mild, not always sunny but mild.  The large willow at the bottom of the garden is still holding onto its leaves.

salix-alba-chermesina

I am starting to get the benefit from changes I have made in earlier years.  This year the four Salix alba Chermesina (or Scarlet Willow) that I planted in January of 2014 are just how I had imagined them.  Unfortunately, they have been so vigorous that they are covering the Mahonia “Soft Caress” that I planted in front of them.  I had not paid sufficient attention to the flowering period of this Mahonia which is much earlier than I had expected, about the beginning of October in my garden.  This does not qualify it as winter flowering, so I must find it a better place.

mahonia

Another 2014 addition was the Mahonia “Charity” which has put good growth on now and has lots shoots filled with flowers and buds.

bumble-bee-on-charity-2

The Mahonia is a magnet for bumble bees and it sounds like summer when I work nearby.

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I have a large patch of Phacelia not too far from the Mahonia but it does not have the same pulling power at the moment and the bees do not stay on the flowers so long.

anisodontea-in-bud

The star of the garden at the moment is the Anisodontea “El Rayo” ( I think the full name must be Anisdontea capensis “El Rayo”).  It was given to me by our friend Michel who could not remember the name and I understood it (wrongly!) to be a variation on Hibiscus syriacus which was attractive to bees.  As I have a lot of these Hibiscus I did not give it pride of place and it has only started flowering this autumn.

anisodontea-el-rayo-and-bee

It is well appreciated by the bees who go for the nectar and the pollen.

leycesteria-formosa

It is not only the flowers that provide colour in the garden now.  The berries of the Leycesteria formosa are a pink/purple turning almost black when ripe.  I don’t see a lot of ripe berries so the birds must be helping themselves.

vanessa-atalanta

On the 27 November it was warm enough for a Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) to stretch her wings and warm up on the house wall.

Cosmos November

I had not pulled out the old Cosmos to leave the seeds for the birds and to self sow but new flowers have appeared on the dried up brown stalks.

cosmos-sulphureus

Underneath, a Cosmos sulphureus had already decided to go for it and not bother waiting for spring to germinate.

wild-violet

Even a wild violet that had strayed into the garden had decided to flower.

1-frost-violet

But December brought our first frosts and cold weather turning the violet into an iced decoration.

1-branch-anisodentea

My new Anisodentea was completely frosted.

1-single-anisodentea

It looked completely charming.

1-frosted-mahonia

As did my Mahonia “Charity” with its delicate ice spikes attached to the flowers.  I had no doubt which of these flowers would survive the frosts as Mahonia is a well known winter flowering shrub but I was wrong!

After three continuous nights of frost the older flowers on the Mahonia have given up and turned white but the Anisodontea looks virtually untouched.  Today the honey bees were back on the flowers and a queen Bombus terrestris was availing herself of the nectar.

I have no idea how long the Anisodontea will continue flowering but today the temperatures were rising again and the forecast is good for next week.

 

 


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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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The Savill Garden visit October 2014

IMG_4874

I was very fortunate on my last trip back to the U.K. to be able to visit the Savill Garden on a beautiful sunny day.  In addition, they are exhibiting sculpture in the garden between the 1st. September and 31st October 2014 and I was interested to see how I felt about sculpture in gardens.

Bronze pheasant

There is a bronze pheasant running across the grass in the first picture which is quite in keeping with the garden as there are real ones here too.

Flora

The next sculpture I passed was “Flora” who was beautifully set against the background of the autumn woods.  She is much too grand for my garden but the sculptures are for sale.  I am not sure how I stand here as I am not wanting to advertise them but if you visit the garden you can see how many copies are available and what the price is as they are labelled.  You would need more than two thousand pounds if she is just the perfect addition to a corner of your garden.

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This cheetah, made out of bronze/iron resin, is almost half the price and perfect for the garden with an African savannah feel.

Hibiscus trionum

I was more interested in these Hibiscus trionum which were flowering profusely in a rather shady part of the garden.  They are also called Flower of an Hour as the flowers only last a day but the abundant flowers also leave attractive seed heads.  I would have thought they would have preferred a sunnier spot and I want to try them in my garden next year.  They are annuals or short-lived perennials and best sown annually from seed.

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Not all the sculptures were over a thousand pounds and these black wire mesh crows could be bought singly or as a set of three.

Roe buck

The Roe Buck and fawn in bronze resin did not have me fooled as they rested near a screen of greenery.

Owl

I do not have an artistic nature but I was surprised at the pose of some of the statues.  This little owl in bronze resin had been placed in a beautiful old tree but perched on a piece of wood totally foreign to its environment.

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I have my favourite plants in the garden now and I was heading for the temperate house and the Mahonia X Media “Charity”.

Carder bumble bee in mahonia

I was not disappointed as this beautiful plant was in flower and full of honey bees and bumble bees enjoying the nectar in the sunshine.

Magnolia seed pod

Close beside the Mahonia there is a Magnolia tree with surprisingly rose red seed pods, much different from the seed pods I get on my Magnolia so I checked out its label.

Champion Tree

I mentioned to my husband that I never knew that another name for Magnolia was Champion tree.  It was not until I got home and looked into it further that I discovered that it is this particular Magnolia that is designated a Champion Tree because it is a registered tree.  As you can see it has been recorded and measured in 2010 and you can follow the link to learn more.

Juglans nigra

We were very taken by the beautiful walnut tree that was dropping its ripe fruit, but when my husband accidentally stepped on one we noticed the different odour given off by the green case around the nut.  Checking on the label we noted that this is a Juglans nigra, or Eastern Black Walnut which is native to eastern North America and not the Juglans regia that I am more familiar with.

Juglans nigra

The fruit looks just the same from the outside but the shells are harder and more difficult to crack than the European walnut.  I would imagine the flavour would be slightly different too but I have never tasted one.

Arbetus arachnoides

Close by is another favourite tree, Arbutus arachnoides.  I find its peeling bark more attractive than Arbutus unedo , the strawberry tree that is native to France, but I have never seen the arachnoides variety on sale.

bumble on Arbutus arachnoides

The flowers look exactly the same and the bees were feasting on them gratefully.

Persicaria

Another flower attracting a lot of attention from the bees was the Persicaria vacciniifolia.  I would like to have a bank of low flowers giving colour in the autumn in my garden,so I treated myself to a Persicaria to take back with me, but it was the Darjeeling Red variety that I found.

Shaggy dog

This “Shaggy Dog Story” in bronze resin is the ideal solution for the gardener with allergies and at just over a thousand pounds must work out a lot cheaper than the real thing counting food and vet bills.

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Some of the sculptures were in metal.

dragonfly

A metal dragonfly hovered over the waterlillies.

dragonfly on pond

This picture gives an idea of the scale and positioning of the dragonfly.

Savill Garden

With gardens like this I would not feel the need of any man made enhancements.

Pouncer

But perhaps this “Pouncer” would add some drama.

Self contained man

Or the “Self contained Man” might provide a centre point, although I find his positioning here beside the metal railings far from sympathetic.

Ligularia fischeri

I preferred discovering flowers and plants in the garden that are new to me like these tall yellow Ligularia fischeri, “Cheju Charmer”.

bumble on Ligularia

And it is not just because the bees liked the flowers but I think they would appreciate growing in a garden with moister soil than I could offer them.

Cardriandra

It is just sheer coincidence that this photograph of Cardiandra formosana “Crug’s Abundance” happens to have a carder bumble bee in it.  I was taken by its colours which are so different from the usual autumn colours.  Another plant for my wish list.

Acer

It was such a beautiful visit and perfect timing to see what can be done in a garden in the autumn.