a french garden


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Of cold days and Hellebores

Mid morning today the temperature was not above four degrees Centigrade.  Such a quiet garden.  The Viburnum tinus had no visitors.

At least the willow buds (Salix caprea) are protected from the cold by their white, silky fleece.  There is no urgency for them to open as the wild bees will be still safely tucked into their nests in hollow stems or tunnels in the ground or perhaps in our house walls.  The honey bees will be in their hives while the cold prevails.

I think of the nectar and pollen that the willow will provide but for the willow the season will arrive and its pollen will be dispersed and seed will be set irrespective of the bees and other pollinators because it is wind pollinated.  The bees can help a bit but they depend on the willow much more than the willow depends on them.

The Hellebore are providing colour in the cold weather, oblivious to the chill.

My mainstay Hellebore is a dark purple plant.  I inherited several seedlings of them from my sister’s garden in the U.K. and it has taken some years to establish clumps of them around the garden.

She has been generous with her seedlings and whereas I was hoping my deep purple might revert, I think it is relatively stable.  This spotty pink is probably another of her seedlings.

This one has green markings but but is more likely to have come from a later seedling of my sister’s than a natural hybrid.

The Hellebore self-seed so well I thought I might try my hand at pollinating a white Hellebore with a dark one and collecting the resulting seed.  I opened a white bud and liberally rubbed pollen from the dark red Hellebore, closed the bud and tied thick red wool around the flower head.  I get ten out of ten for enthusiasm and enterprise but the poor flower is brown and shows signs of a too rough treatment.  I’ll try again but more gently.

I did treat myself to a named variety last year in the U.K. –  Helleborus Harvington.  Unfortunately, I have just discovered this refers to the Hellebore bred by Hugh Nunn at Harvington and there are many varieties of beautiful Hellebore that he has bred.  So I still do not have a named variety.

Luckily, I love all my Hellebore.  I do not mind that for the most part they hang their heads and conceal the beautiful interiors.

The bees care little about the position of the flower heads either.

I took the photographs of the bees on the Hellebore on 2 February and you can see the ivory pollen she has gathered.   The Hellebore are generous to the bees and also provide them with nectar.  I, in my turn, am rewarded with lots of Hellebore seedlings that I lift and tend in seed trays over the summer until I find a suitable place for them.

I am finding them very useful in the garden as they can be put under the shade of deciduous trees and will take being baked in the summer when they are established.

Hey girls!  I really am trying to make sure there is enough for everyone.

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Slowly, slowly

Camelia

January is over and perhaps the worst of the winter is finished.  So many plants in the garden seem poised, waiting for the signal to flourish.

Daffodil

The daffodils have shown their colour but have remained tight closed.  Some snowdrops have appeared and the crocus are just starting to open.  So different from last January when the apricot tree was flowering on the 10 January 2014.

Skimmia

The Skimmia wisely keeps its buds tight closed.

Hellebore

The Hellebores are only starting to produce flowers but I am much happier to this slower awakening.  February can bring cold weather and frost.

End of garden

The two cotoneasters that were bright with red berries at the beginning of January, have been stripped bare by the birds.

Rudbeckia seedhead

Likewise, the seed heads of the Echinacea are all but bare of seeds.

Hard standing

Despite the heavy rain we have been having which leaves the ground sodden and encourages the weeds to grow, there has been work to do in the garden.  Work to clear the end part of the garden and remove some weedy trees continued.  We have inherited a fair selection of stones and flatter ones have been chosen to produce a handy hard standing area and some odd shaped ones will provide my husband’s next challenge of building a dry stone wall.  This will be for decorative purposes (cough, cough).  What else do you do with a lot of attractive limestone boulders?  (Hint, we already have two rockeries.)

Pussy willow

Nevertheless, the willow has decided it is time to start opening its buds.  If it does not open too quickly it should be O.K. for the bees.

 

 

bee on winter honeysuckle

Last week the bees on the winter honeysuckle were gathering pollen.

Bee and pollen

She was getting covered in pollen, obviously enjoying herself after being kept cooped up in a hive because of the rain.

v. tinus and bee

The Viburnum tinus was receiving attention, too.  Its pollen is much paler, almost white.  It’s not as popular with the bees when there are more flowers around but needs must in January.

Blue Tits

The fat balls are disappearing at an incredible rate and there is an increased chattering of birds in the garden.  The colours of male chaffinches are looking brighter.  The male turtle dove courts the female in the morning as she pecks the seed on the patio but she is not interested and he finally turns his interest to the seeds.

It’s all a bit too early in the garden at the moment.