a french garden


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After the rain

These past few days we have had rain.  I’m happy, the garden is happy.

The garden smells so good too.  As I watch the bees on the Veilchenblau rose, I can smell an incredible mix of the rose, honeysuckle, Philadelphus and warm leaves.

The rain has been in such short supply this year that the flowers don’t mind getting wet and the poppy bends its top petals over its precious supply of pollen.

The bees are happy too and strip off the pollen before the petals have time to dry.

The warm weather tempted my peony Festiva Maxima to bloom for the first time.  It was a present from our daughter which we planted in 2008 but was in completely the wrong place, and there it remained until last year when I decided to move it (by this time I felt I had little to lose although I heard you could not move peonies.)

Five days later the petals were falling but it still looked beautiful like some ageing diva.

I believe this is Rigolotte, which was part of the same present and looking much happier in a sunny position.

Another first today was spotting a bee on the Erigeron.  The Erigeron self seeds in the cracks of the paths and at the base of the house walls but usually it does not attract the bees.

Nigella and Eschscholzia have self sown beside the patio, a bit gaudy but better than weeds.

The Eschscholzia is not as popular as the other poppies with the bees but it does provide them with a pretty colour of pollen.

I have been searching for my bee orchid that has been coming up every year in the front garden and was sad to find no trace of it, despite there having been two plants which produced seed.  But instead a new one has appeared in the back garden and has chosen to place itself beside the water tap, pushing its way through self seeded Centranthus.

Finally, I think the bees have been doing a bit of genetic engineering.  Above is my blue Cerinthe that has happily self seeded in the garden for many years.  It is beloved by the bumble bees and the Anthophora (the bee in the picture).

Today I found a Cerinthe with red flowers!  So I do not know what the bees were doing to the pollen that went on to produce this plant.  Maybe a little extra U.V. light onto the pollen, or an extra squeeze or nibble, surely not a virus?

I had to rescue it from a fair few encroaching heavy weeds and I will continue with the TLC to see what happens.


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June finishes

Potager

June began with unseasonal rain and showers which meant it was a perfect time to root out weeds from the soft ground and watch the plants grow.  The rain has stopped abruptly and it is amazing how quickly the ground dries up.  The vegetable garden now needs a daily watering.

Borlotti beans

We do not grow a lot of vegetables.  We do like to grow some Borlotti beans but we forgot to buy more beans on our last visit to the U.K.  Kourosh had already placed his Hazel poles before we found the seeds here.  We could only find dwarf Bolotti beans and as they have started to flower already I think the height of the poles will be more than generous, but we will see.

Fennel

I have left the Fennel that grew spontaneously from our compost in the flower borders.  It actually looks quite attractive adding height and colour and of course attracting the hover flies to help keep the flowers free from aphid attacks.

Poppies

It was time to say goodbye to the poppies as they had started to fall over and dry up.  I usually gather the seed from the prettiest poppies but after many years I noticed this year there was less variety and colours so I think I will have to invest in new seeds for next year.  Any suggestions of seed varieties would be welcome.

Philadelphus

The Philadelphus have just about finished but with the extra rain they had a particularly long and abundant season.  Their perfume makes them a must in a garden but it is only the odd bee that I catch in their flowers.

Geranium

On the other hand the geraniums are constantly visited by butterflies, solitary bees and honey bees.

Cotoneaster

The cotoneaster is almost finished.  I have different types of cotoneaster throughout the garden and the easiest way to find them is to listen for the bees.  If I could choose only one shrub for the garden it would be cotoneaster as it provides for the bees in summer and feeds the birds its red berries in the winter.

Lime tree

If I could choose only one tree it would be the lime tree (Tillia platyphyllos) for the heavenly perfume of its flowers.  Bees make delicious honey from the lime tree flowers and I have taken my share of the flowers to dry to make infusions in the winter.

Astrantia

The Astrantia is as popular as ever.

Hydrangea

And the flat flowers of the Hydrangea give an easy access for foraging bees.

hawkmoth

The hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) is a common visitor once the warm weather arrives.  His eye with the dark spot like a pupil is unusual for an insect’s eye and gives him a knowing expression.

Bee fly

The bee fly (Bombylius sp.) has also appeared with the warm weather and its high-pitched buzz is ever present around the Nepeta and Lavander.  It is a parasite of solitary bees laying its eggs near their nest entrances so I cannot warm to it but it is also an efficient pollinator.

Unknown

I often find that I cosset plants only to find I have been mistaken and what I have been rearing with care turns out to be a weed.  These appeared in my stone trough so I decided to let them flower as I would be then able to identify them from their flowers.  Only, I have still no idea.

Yellow flower

They are about one metre tall and have pretty yellow flowers.  Has anyone any idea of what they might be?


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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…

 

 


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Summer visitors

Snake

We were having a coffee on the patio when my husband glanced up and said “What’s that on the rose branch?”  I did not immediately see anything but then I noticed our couleuvre (Hierophis viridiflavus) draped over the branch, so I ran inside for the camera before she could slide of.  I think it must be the same one as we saw in 2013 when she was still tiny, see Lodgers.

Snake slides down to hole

The rapid departure did not take place and I was given the task of gently prodding her with a stick.  She did not budge, she was really enjoying her sunny bask.  However, I persisted and eventually managed to get her to budge and she slid following the line of Madame Isaac Pereire’s branch to near the ground where she slid into a hole in the wall.

Bumble in home

I was a bit concerned as it was the same hole being used by red tailed bumble bees (Bombus lapidarius) as a nest site.  I have been keeping an eye on the nest since I saw the queen coming and going earlier in the year.

In and out bumble

After the snake’s visit I set up my camera to watch the nest but the bees and the snake must be quite happy to share the same neighbourhood.  There was plenty of coming and going with a bit of congestion at times.

Bumble with pollen 2

It was nice to see the bumbles arriving with lots of pollen for the queen.  The queen will not leave the nest now as she has hatched sufficient workers to keep her and her brood supplied with nectar and pollen to feed the new larval bees.  I think the the hole must lead to the interior space between the thick old walls and provide plenty of room for all comers.

Bumble bee on Phacelia

Talking about pollen – I have now forgiven the Phacelia for disappointing me with the lack of variety of pollinators compared to other flowers.  Look at the colour of the pollen on the bumble bees legs!

Honey bee lilac polen

This honey bee is going to be able to brighten up the stocks of pollen in her hive with lilac pollen too.

Fritillary

To be fair I do see some butterflies too, I think this one is probably a heath fritillary.

Pink poppy

For me though, it is the poppies in the garden that steal the show these days.

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I like to play “What’s your favourite poppy”.  This game can be played on your own but it is better with other players.  You have to decide on which poppy you think is the best.  The poppy game can be continued by tying markers around your chosen poppies because after the flower passes one poppy seed head looks very much like another but with the markers the flower stems can be traced back so that you are certain to take only the seed from your chosen plant.

The “Choose the poppy” game continues on to the next year when you sow the seed and all the flowers that come up are nothing like the ones you chose the previous year.  So the poppies get the last laugh, but the ones that do come up are just as astonishing and the game can be repeated for another year.

Partridge and chicks

Ending on a happy note, on Wednesday we had a visit from a proud partridge.  The partridges had been visiting us since last December (see Winter begins ) but recently only one of them had been coming into the garden to steal the bird food.  This made us think that either one had had an accident or else might be sitting on eggs.

Partridge and chicks

The chicks are very active and they were difficult to count but they have managed to raise eight although there was only one bird with them.  I don’t know whether that means that the male has now left the female or if they take turns with the baby sitting.

 

 

 


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More bees in the garden

Swarm 2 6.00 pm

This week has been a busy “bee” week.  We had been sure that the bees had intended to swarm into the ruchette before we left on holiday but they obviously delayed their arrival until we were back home.  This time we missed the exciting arrival as we were working in the backgarden during the afternoon and it was not until 6.00 p.m. that we realised what was happening.  Just over an hour later all looked quiet so perhaps it is a smaller swarm than the first.  We have left them in peace but whatever the size it is an extremely active swarm and was happy to join the first one at the bottom of the garden.

Carboard hive

When the last swarm was moved to the bottom of the garden some stragglers kept returning to the spot on the roof where it had been.  They looked very pathetic huddled together in a ball at night time and we tried to brush them off into a box and release them near the new emplacement.  As they seemed so reluctant to move the last time, Kourosh constructed a mini cardboard hive and put it on the roof where the ruchette had been.

Carboard door

We put some hastily made hard sugar and water mix (faux candy) to keep them going and the next night they were swept into their box and unceremoniously united with their swarm at the bottom of the garden.  So we did not have to endure watching any homeless bees passing and re-passing over the roof.

Extension board

It is not that Kourosh is over anxious but he has put an extension board in front of the hive because he noticed that some of his girls were so heavy with pollen when they returned to the hive in the morning that they missed the entrance and landed on the stone underneath.  He is a lot happier now that they have a longer runway.

Phacelia patch

My Phacelia patch is in full flower now but I am disappointed with its pulling power.

Bumble on phacelia

I am getting a reasonable number of bumble bees but not more than I get on borage or nepeta or a lot of other flowers.  I have not seen any other bees but I have been busy.  Perhaps this gives me an excuse to stand and stare for longer, just to make sure.  I would love to hear about other peoples’ experience with Phacelia.

Amelanchier fruit

These are the last berries growing in my Amelachier.  I had read in a post of New Hampshire Garden Solutions earlier in the year that the berries were edible and was looking forward to trying them.  I tried the first few berries that ripened and found them sweet and delicious.  My intention was to harvest them all but the birds stripped the tree before I got the chance – they went the same way as our cherries go every year.

Linden tree

The Linden tree (Tilia platyphyllos) has started to flower.  I love its perfume and I also love the tea made with the flowers so I must remember to collect some before the flowers are over or spoilt b the rain as we have been having some thundery episodes.

Food shelter bumble

After a night of particularly heavy rain I was surprised to see the poppies being worked early in the morning while still wet.

Food shelter bee

The bumbles are hardy bees and fly in much cooler and inclement weather than many bees.  However, these poppies must provide very valuable pollen to make it worthwhile for the honeybees too.  The poppies higher petals bend over like an umbrella keeping bee and pollen dry.

Wet pink poppies

The double pink poppies alongside the red poppies were not being visited by the bees as their petals turned outwards and the pollen had soaked up the rain making it far too heavy for the bees to carry.

Bee diamond

Talking about bees – and I know I tend to a lot – one has left what looks like a diamond in the bamboo sections.  I can’t take a better photograph but it actually sparkles and appears to have facets.  I would love to know what it is.  I have seen the bamboo being closed with a substance that reflects like a mirror but it has a flat appearance and I thought that those could be possibly made by Hyaeus bee species.

Shaved verge

This week the powers that bee (sorry be!) have mowed or rather shaved all the roads around us making the place look extremely sterile.  This is where I see so many wild bees on the wild flowers in springtime.  Some more will push through but in the meantime?

shaved verge 2

It seems practical steps in helping pollinators is taking a long time to arrive at grass root level.  Jeff Ollerton explains how important a later mowing of these verges could be in his Biodiversity Blog.

Hare

It’s not often a cute furry mammal makes its way into my blog.

Hare 2

Actually, the photographs were taken by Kourosh as he watched the hare (Lepus europaeus) from the kitchen window.  We often see hares in the nearby fields but we have had no trouble from them in the vegetable garden.

Hare 3

We have no problem with this one either as it is heading straight to the neighbours garden!