a french garden


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Autumn discoveries

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki'

Some plants just seem to work harder than others.  My Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’ is full of flowers and these tiny flowers emit a heady perfume.

Osmanthus heterophyllus

I wish it could be near a door but it sits in the shade of the wall to the back of the front garden, its glossy leaves providing a year long green backdrop.  The RHS suggests it should be pruned in April or May or after flowering.  We pruned it last spring and I think this is the reason for our heavy crop of flowers this year.

Persimmon

The Persimmon tree is holding on to a heavy crop of fruit this year.  I suspect some will soon be ripe enough for the birds to start to peck but the tree is too big to net.

Medlar

The Medlar tree is heavy with fruit too this year but they will not be ripe enough to eat for a while yet.

Nerine bowdenii early bumble bee

I have made some discoveries about bumble bees.  The first is that they like Nerine bowdenii but the second is an identification that has been puzzling me for some time.  I am now sure that the bee above is an early bumble bee.  How come early in October you say?  Checking with BWARS they note for the U.K. the early bumble bee is  “bivoltine in the south, with a smaller late-summer generation”.

Saffron bombus pratorum

These must be Bombus pratorum queens, like the one in my saffron, but I have never seen any males or workers at this time of year and I wonder if some queens might come out of hibernation for a top-up of nectar before the final last months of hibernation.

I also decided to try and and find out the meaning of pratorum (I erroneously guessed spring but Latin was always my worse subject).  It appears that pratum is a meadow or hayfield so these are the bumble bees of the meadows.  May there be many meadows for all the bumble bees.

Mahonia eurybracteata

My Mahonia eurybracteata “Soft Caress” that I planted last year is just starting to flower.  I had not realised it flowered so early but that is fine, I have other ones that will come on later too.  I am just looking forward to see which of the bees find it first – my bet is the bumble bees.

Apple cider vinegar

Another “discovery” or surprise was that I was able to make apple cider vinegar from our glut of apples this year.  I love apples and we have been eating them raw, stewed and baked.  They have also gone into jams, jellies and chutney but the vinegar is a new product for 2015.  We can now take jars of our honey as well as apple cider to my daughter in the UK – sweet as well as sour.

 


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End of September in the garden

It has rained at last.  It has been such a dry year that it is time to rethink strategies.  The potager gets watered within reason but during a prolonged dry spell it is like watering a patch on top of a sponge.  I sowed dill twice and each time it came up and flowered almost instantly.  There was no glut of courgettes but just sufficient salad stuff to keep us going.

There is a hazel tree just beside the potager.  We have pruned it over the years and it has given us some excellent straight poles but its nut production has not increased and it is now over-shadowing an old peach tree and I feel it may be taking water away from the vegetables.

The hazel tree’s days are numbered

All that is left is a stump

No more hazel tree

Now the hazel tree has gone I may have another victim in my sights!  The Christmas tree was left by the previous owners and has grown so large in such a short time.  I do not know how much taller it will grow and if it too is draining too much water and nutrients from the garden.  I must admit that I do not have a master plan for the garden from the design point of view and I would be interested in any comments from experienced gardeners.

Quince tree

On a more upbeat note the quince tree has come through the drought with no visible sign of stress and the quinces are already ripening.  I have already been enjoying the quince stewed and have bottled some but I will wait until the main crop ripens to get on with the jelly, jam and chutney.

Medlar fruit

Likewise the medlar tree has plenty of fruit but that will not be ready for another month or so.

Kaki fruit ripening

The persimmons or kaki are just starting to show a little colour but it will be probably Christmas before they will be ripe.  It is nice to have some more fruit to look forward to when the pears and apples will be finished.

The apples and pears ripened early and the harvest was on the low side.  There is always fallen fruit and the good advice is to clear it away to reduce infection from pests that may use it as a food source.

Comma, Polygonia c-album on the apple tree trunk

There is an advantage in not clearing the fallen fruit away immediately as the  butterflies are attracted by the fallen fruit and I presume feed on the fermenting juices.

Comma showing the “C” underside

This Comma is kindly showing the white “C” mark, like a comma on the underside of the wing.

Speckled Wood butterfly, Parage aegeria

The Speckled Wood butterfly is a common visitor to the garden and is also enjoying the fallen apples.

Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas

The Small Copper seems also interested so perhaps an extra tidy garden is not always so good for for attracting the wildlife, it certainly is a good excuse for not being too tidy.

The Praying Mantis looks disdainfully at my attempts to take a photograph

The butterflies are common visitors but the Praying Mantis is less visible and remains well camouflaged while it stalks its prey.

Praying Mantis

It preys on a variety of insects, it would be nice to think it was the ones that could cause me trouble but unfortunately it will eat anything that it can lay its long hands on.  This one had a relatively friendly disposition until it got bored and headed back into the apple tree.

A flight too fast to capture well.

During the long dry spell I did not forget the birds and I have had various containers of water around the garden.  These containers take various forms including old pots, frying pans and gravel trays.  Not a very ornamental collection but very appreciated by the birds, among others.

After a recent visit to a brocante (explanation – a notch lower than an antique shop in France) I was tempted by an old pan for seven euros which seemed just the right size to add to the collection.  (I try to avoid going into brocantes as they have such interesting things and even if you do not find what you are looking for you find something you did not know you needed, but at least at seven euros I got off lightly this time.)

The house belonged to a builder at one time and we have inherited a good deal of his stones which have come in very handy.  A quick hunt at the bottom of the garden in the secret store and the right base was found.

In place beside the rose arch

As the stone is old and the pan is old it seems to have always been there.

Ready for the birds

I could not do a post about the garden without mentioning the bumble bees.  They are still active although I have not seen any red-tailed or garden bumble bees for a while.  The dahlias are still very popular with the white-tailed and the carder bees.

Carder bee heads to the fuschia

The fuschia is still flowering and is well-visited by the bees.

Now that it has rained there is so much to do in the garden and plants that have outgrown their space must be moved.  Autumn is a busy time.