a french garden


17 Comments

Lavatera in the garden

Lavatera front of house

I have Lavatera at the front of the house.

Lavatera bottom of garden

I have Lavatera at the bottom of the garden.  In fact, it is an ideal plant for this area and I will have one anywhere I have a space in the garden.  The grey green leaves give a clue and it is indeed a well suited plant to withstand hot, dry summers.

It can get a bit untidy as its fast growth can take you by surprise.  It is not a long-lived shrub and we have already got a small shrub in waiting and some cuttings – just in case they are needed.  They root very easily and are not difficult to find homes for if you end up with an extra pot or two.

Lavatera Carpenter

Mine is a Tree Mallow but I have no idea of the species.  In French it is called Lavatère en Arbre or Mauve en Arbre – a very appropriate name as they are mostly this mauve colour.

They attract all sorts of pollinators, it is a Carpenter bee in the above picture.

Tetralonia from distance.JPG

However, it is at this time of year I love to check out the flowers in the morning and I often find what I think is a Tetralonia malvae bee still asleep in the flowers.

Tetralonia close.JPG

What surprises me is that she is not an early riser.  I took this photograph at 9.44 a.m.

Tetralonia v.close

You do not often get the time to get close up and photograph bees.  What appeals to me is that she is such a fluffy bee.  Her long feathery hairs on her hind legs look so silky but are perfect to transport caches of pollen to her nest.

Tetralonia with pollen

Once she starts collecting pollen the hairs are covered and take the colour of whatever pollen she might be gathering.  She is pretty faithful to the Malvaceae family but the pollen colours do vary.

Tetralonia in Guimauve

This is what she looks like gathering pollen from the Marsh Mallow.

Tetralonia in lavatera

So many reasons for growing Lavatera.

 

 


18 Comments

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.


25 Comments

Cognac Jardin Public revisited

water-jets

It was a beautiful day in October, when mellow from a very enjoyable lunch we decided to enjoy the sunshine and walk through the park in Cognac.  It was many years since we had visited the garden but although I noticed improvements, the structures that had delighted me years ago had been left intact (or preserved).

bridge-moulded-logs

Water plays a major role in the garden which extends over 7 hectares (17 acres).  The town bought the first part of the gardens (including the building now used as the Town Hall) from the Otard family.  This family bought the close-by Chateau of Cognac (birthplace of Francis I) in 1796 and the same family are still producing Cognac and storing it in the cellars of the chateau.

I like the moulded tree struts of the bridge which is quite in keeping with the grotto in the distance.

grotto-distance

The design of the gardens was the work of the landscape gardener Edouard André who started of life as a gardener at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris and was given the task of remodelling these gardens in 1892.  He specialised in fountains and grottoes and worked internationally, including in Sefton in the U.K.

grotto-waterfall

I love the mystery of grottos and the sound of running water.

grotto

We have a fair number of stones in our garden and Kourosh has produced some rockeries and dry stone walls; I wonder if I would be pushing it to suggest he try for a grotto?

folly

The folly would be one step too far for our garden but looks perfect in Cognac.  Otherwise called the neo-Gothic tower it was built in 1835 and is octagonal in shape.  It is having work done on it at the moment and I believe it will have a moat surrounding it in the future.

arbotus-unedo-butterfly

I had seen all of the park before but what I noticed this time was the number of plants providing nectar for pollinators.

arbutus-unedo

The arbutus unedo or Strawberry trees were full of this year’s blossom and last year’s fruit.  I’ve read that honey from the Strawberry trees has a rich chocolatey/coffee flavour which I would like to try.

johnsons-blue

This honeybee is on a Johnson’s blue geranium and was spoiled for choice on the bee friendly flowers in the borders.

lonicera-maachii

My only small complaint was that the labelling of the plants was variable but I suppose the gardeners are working towards the upkeep and beauty of the gardens – not trying to sell the plants.  However, at the base of this tree was a large plaque announcing that it was a Sophora japonica. I was initially extremely surprised as I had never heard of the Sophora producing beautiful red berries.

sophora-japonica

However, taking a step to the rear I realised I had got a little too close and the real Sophora was hiding behind.  A Google search at home indicates that it is Lonicera Maackii or Amur honeysuckle which produces these attractive red berries.  This is an Asian species which has become invasive in some parts of the U.S.A.  I found the berries very beautiful and the flowers are rich in nectar.

black-walnuts

You could not miss the enormous American Black Walnut tree at this time of year as it was impossible to walk near it without sliding on the walnuts.  I noticed that the fruits were smaller than our walnuts and the outer coatings were more yellow.

statue

In December 1999 France was hit by a catastrophic storm which caused immense damage and 288 trees were lost in the garden.  This statue called “Instinct” was carved from a fallen green oak tree that had lived for two hundred years.  A fitting tribute to the memory of the trees lost in the storm.

salvia

I was so pleased to see the garden planted with such thought for the pollinators but it also gave me pause for thought.

topside

There were lots of little blue butterflies on the Erigeron.

img_7192

I think they may have been Lang’s short tailed blue butterflies ( Leptotes pirithous) but I am not sure.  What I do know is that I have masses of Erigeron that self seeds in every nook and cranny in my garden and although it looks pretty I have never seen a bee or butterfly on the flowers.  I wonder if it is the sole butterfly that likes Erigeron?

park-activities

I will make a point of returning in the spring as many of the bedding plants were perennial and it was too late in the season to see them all to their advantage.

Cognac’s park provides ample room for everyone to enjoy the usual space for playing, running and other activities so well provided for in parks.