a french garden


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The heat goes on

I took this photograph from underneath our lime tree (Tilia cordata).  There cannot be a better place to be on a hot June day.  It is too hot to sit under a parasol but the branches of the tree stop the heat of the sun and the air is full of the perfume of the flowers.  If you want to grow a tree to give shade in the summer then I cannot think of a better choice.

This carder bumble bee would be the first to agree.  The lime tree provides nectar and pollen for the honey bees as well as other bees.

The olive tree is drawing in all the bees at the moment, too.

The main feature at the moment in the garden are still the poppies.

A lot are setting seed now and I go around putting bag ties on the plants with the colours that I like most so that I can have a good variety next year.

The Fallgold rasberries are producing well and are very sweet.  They taste too good to cook with.

The blackcurrants are ripening and will probably be prepared for making sorbet later in the year.

This year has been a bumper year for cherries here (but not in our garden)We have fortunately very generous friends and have not missed out on the cherry bounty.  Last Sunday we picked sour cherries which have made compote, jam and sorbet for us (we picked more than that basket!)

The borlotti beans are managing to hold their own against the poppies and large mullein (this is a type of Verbascum, I think thapsus).

I’ve let this plant seed around the garden because it is so attractive to the bees.  It is also reputed to be a medicinal plant but I have not tried it myself.

The vegetable garden has had extra stakes added for the tomatoes we have been given and could not bear to waste.  If it is a good year there will be plenty to make into puree.

Yesterday I saw that the sweet chestnut trees were flowering nearby and filling the air with their overpowering perfume.  It struck me that this year I seem to have been running to keep up with the seasons and when I checked with my blog mentioning the sweet chestnuts last year it was the beginning of July (The bees and Sweet Chestnuts).

The little pineapple shaped buds in the photograph are the female flowers of the sweet chestnut.  Sweet chestnut is often wind pollinated, for although it produces both male and female flowers on the same tree, flowers are successfully pollinated by the pollen from another tree.  I found it fascinating when I discovered that the nectaries producing the nectar that attracts pollinators are at the base of the male flowers which are held on the long catkins.  Bees and other pollinators can be useful to increase pollination when the pollen becomes damp in humid conditions as the grains become sticky and less easily carried by the wind.

There were a lot of galls on the chestnuts this year.  I picked one of the tree and found a tiny black insect inside.  It looks like the gall could be the oriental chestnut gall (Dryocosmus kuriphilus).  This is another exotic pest which first hit France in 2007.

Kourosh had put up a nest box under the carport this year, it can just be seen vaguely at the top left hand side of the photograph.  It was a brand new Christmas present and we were delighted that a pair of Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) inaugurated it.  This is the male and both male and female birds feed the young.

Kourosh could not resist taking a quick shot of the young birds just before they left the nest.  It was lovely to watch the parents flying to and from the nest but we did not see much of the babies.  It was all over so quickly but we can still hear them in the nearby bushes.


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Not your usual garden flowers

pulicaria dysenterica

Pulicaria dysenterica, or Fleabane, is not your usual garden flower and I can just imagine you thinking – “That figures!”  I thought hard about bringing it into the garden as I was worried that it might be difficult to control as it seems to pop up on the roadside here in the summer time without any problem.  Actually it has grown taller and more shrub like in the garden and is quite attractive in the wilder part.  Time will tell if I have difficulty in controlling it.

Green eyed bee

This is the reason I have it in the garden.  I love this green-eyed bee, which in turn loves the Fleabane.  However, this is my first picture of it this year but having the Fleabane in the garden may have saved me from heatstroke if I had been searching for it, as usual, outside.  July has been very hot and sunny.

Megachilae

There are lots of other bees that come along, like this little Megachilae which I can recognise from a distance as it bobs its tail up and down on the flower to pick up the pollen on the hairs under her abdomen.  I think this is a very efficient method to gather pollen but this is the only time I’ve seen it used.

Halictes

The different Halictes come in droves but my green-eyed bee remains elusive.

Common blue butterfly

As I wait I get restless and snap at the butterflies that visit.  It is a very useful plant if you are keen to have a focal point to watch a lot of the pollinators around your garden.  As for herbal uses, it would seem to have been effective as a treatment against dysentery and the dried plants were among those used for strewing on the floors to deter fleas.  Perhaps not as useful nowadays, when we are not looking for a cure for cholera or something to control the fleas from a garden plant.

Lettuce flowers

This year again I have decided to let some lettuce flower.  Last year I let lettuce flower to see what bees were attracted to it and again this year I found only some tiny bees bothered to visit the flowers, although it is hardly surprising as they are competing with the lavender and origano flowers.  This year I have let the lettuce flower because I want to collect the seeds.

Lettuce flower closed

The lettuce flowers only last for one morning and then close in the afternoon.

Lettuce seeds

The seed heads are like little dandelion clocks and I pinch the seed heads off each day.  I decided to collect the seeds of our red and green leaf lettuce as lovely plants appeared in the front garden in the spring, obviously arriving with the garden compost.  However, we have had difficulty in getting the bought seeds to germinate so I am going to try DIY lettuce seeds.

Mullein garden

I have had several Mullein plants (Verbascum thapsis) self seed in the garden this year and I have found that they fit in very well and I like their tall candelabra shape.  This picture was taken in July.

Mullein garden august

Now in August, most of the flowers are finished but I have decided to let it go to seed.  It is a biannual and is very easy to remove by cutting it at the base.  It has a tap root and its roots do not wander through the garden.  Its seeds do like some open ground and it prefers an open spot with plenty of sun.  I can think of a few suitable spots if I can harvest the seeds.

It is also regarded as a medicinal plant and the flowers can be added to tisanes.  The young leaves can also be used if taken before the flowering but in any case the tisanes should be well strained to remove and tiny leaf hairs which could cause irritation.

Mullein honey bee

The reason I want to have a steady supply of the Mullein is to be able to watch all the different kind of bees that come each morning to gather the bright orange pollen.

As I take note of the flowers that attract the bees I notice how many of these flowers have been regarded as medicinal herbs in the past.

 

 

 


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Reflections towards the end of July

 

White bougainvillia-001

It was after I read Sue’s post “White is cool” that I remembered that white was our favourite colour for flowers too.  The white oleander was planted in front of the house shortly after we bought it and years before we moved here.  I too loved the idea of a white area.  Crathes Castle garden, near Aberdeen, had a beautiful white border and I intended to find a place in the garden for a display of stunning white flowers.

However, my initial design of my white summer hedge has now the addition of an untidy but profusely flowering lilac Lavatera and hidden from view underneath is a winter flowering honeysuckle.

Gaura nectar bee-001

We meticulously selected the seed from the whitest Gaura, but then gave up as it self-seeded over the garden and we were happy to replant whatever turned up as the bees did not mind either pale pink or pure white.

Molene honey bee-001

And then there are the plants that take up residence of their own volition.

Molene syrphe-001

The wild Verbascum has been flowering non-stop since June welcoming the hover flies and

Molene wild bee-001

bees of all kinds which gather large quantities of the bright orange pollen early in the morning leaving the yellow petals strewn around the plant like confetti.

Acc. sej.-001

Then there are the plants that suddenly beg attention.  Some years ago Kourosh “acquired” a couple of seeds of Feijoa sellowiana.  The seeds germinated and lived in pots that I tended until I was able to get rid of them into a new border.  This year they have shot up to more than a metre in height and flowered for the first time.

Feijoa sellowiana-001

The flowers are extremely attractive and as they belong to the myrtle they should also be attractive to bees.  I will have to wait until autumn to see if any fruit is formed, another extra as the fruits are edible.

Vegetable garden-001

Another additional problem with planning a garden can be illustrated by our vegetable garden.  Planning must be done in advance and, as can be seen, we have our long, sturdy tomato stakes in place but very weak, short tomato plants.  The cooler, wet June was not to their liking and now the high temperatures that are soaring now in July are drying them out before they have time to grow.

Leek flower-001

At least the couple of leeks I have left to flower from last year provide me with some amusement as I ponder on the likelihood of  making homemade tomato sauce this year.

Pot-001

Kourosh spotted this beautifully fashioned “pot” in the house wall.

Polistes dominula European paper wasp-001

I thought it might belong to these wasps that are using the bird bath.  However, I think these are European paper wasps (Polistes dominula) and I have seen their nests around in previous years.

Polistes sparkle-001

I noticed they gather the water differently.  You get the careful type that holds onto the side and gently laps from the edge of the water.

Sparkle wasp-001

Then you get the cool guys who do a full belly-flop onto the water, maintaining themselves by surface tension and float while taking their fill.

Origano-001

The success of the large oregano clump in attracting the bees has also made me think of modifying my planting.

Lavendar clump-001 The large clumps of flowers, like the lavender and nepeta, attract more bees, so I am going to try to spread my plants less in the future.  However, the garden will have the last word.  The yellow haze of cat’s ears (Hypochaeris radicata), visible in the background, has developed on its own.

Dasypoda (1)-001

Without them, we would miss watching the Dasypoda bees bouncing from flower to flower at this time of year.

 

 


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A wet June in the garden

Sedum border

This year the garden has had more rain than I have ever experienced here.  I noticed the yellow sedum had dropped its seeds and new plants were growing in the hollow of the next door stone.  By this time of the year moss would usually have turned to a crispy brown but it has inspired me to put some more sedum into a little pot because if it can survive on a stone it will survive in a little pot without much care from me.

Tilia platyphyllos

Everywhere is green and the trees are doing well with the extra rain.  The Linden or Lime tree (Tilia platyphyllos) is in flower and I will be taking its flowers to dry for making tea.

Linden

Of course, I won’t take all the flowers.  The bees have to have their share.  I once tasted monofloral lime honey.  It tasted like eating the wonderful perfume of the flowers, marvellous.  I usually take my tea without sugar but when I infuse the Lime tree flowers I always take it sweetened with honey.

New Dawn

The roses seem happy with the extra rain.  New Dawn is the best it has ever been, especially as some trees were removed from the neighbouring garden two years ago and she now has more light.  Still she always did well in the comparable shade and her shiny leaves keep healthier than a lot of roses.

Bobby James far-001

Bobby James has adapted well to a position under a tree.

Bobby James

The bees appreciate Bobby James too.  The pollen is taken by all the bees.

veilchenblau

Veichenblau is almost finished flowering but is another rose that attracts the bees in quantity.  However, both these roses usually only have the one abundant flowering.

Bundle

The poppies seem to have difficulty opening with the lack of the usual sunshine.  The bees became impatient with this opening poppy and five of them forced their way inside!  The pollen must taste very good or have other properties to make them want to compete in such a bundle for the pollen.

Hover fly

I have become more appreciative of the hover flies since I have learnt that, in addition to being good pollinators, their larvae are voracious consumers of aphids.  In a publication backed by the French Ministry of Agriculture it states that female syrphid or hover flies can lay between 500 and 1000 eggs and that each larva can consume between 250 to 400 aphids over its life.

Verbascum

I am rather pleased that this Verbascum chose a convenient spot to put down roots.  I usually have one or two in the garden as the seeds get blown in from outside.  I don’t know what species it is but I think the wild carder bees will love the down on the leaves.

Verbascum-001

The honey bees seem to collect nectar from the pretty yellow flowers but the lower leaves are usually eaten.  Until today I suspected slugs and snails.

Perhaps Mullein moth

I would never have noticed this fat caterpillar if I had not been watching the bees.  I am not sure what it is but as it is on a Mullein and looks very similar to a Mullein moth caterpillar…

Birdsfoot trefoil

Outside the garden the wild flowers are benefiting from the extra rain.  I have never seen as much birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) on the verges as there is this year.   I should use the past tense as all the verges on the little roads around us have all been cut.  France – terre de pollinisateurs mmn…