a french garden


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A rainy day story

After a spell of sunny, mild weather that made gardening a delight, we are experiencing some rain.  Now, I am always happy to see the rain, and it is so important for the fast growing plants in spring, but it does not take the edge of the spring fever encountered by gardening addicts who are confined indoors.

Their enthusiasm has to find another outlet.

Well, we had just cut the willows and I know they should be dried and re-soaked but…

Beginning (1)

We decided to start off by bringing our aluminium planter indoor.  It is still holding the remains of dead basil plants and the re-surging shoots of Melissa officianalis (makes excellent herbal tea!).

We stuck seven sturdy cut willow stems around the planter to provide the correct diameter of base for the structure.

1st row (1)

We had to move it to give us more room for the weaving and we started to make a woven base and then tied the top of the wigwam.

Second band

There had been no design plan so the second row was added “by eye”.

3rd row

Then the kitchen steps were called into play and the last two woven layers added.

End

It popped easily out of the planter and is completely self-supporting and two and a half metres tall.

We were rather surprised that we have managed our first attempt and we have more supports planned.  We don’t really need such tall ones it just seemed a shame to waste such tall willow.

One precaution we have taken is to store our wigwam inside the atelier for the moment as we are pretty sure that if we stuck it in the ground just now it would probably start growing – and that is not the objective.

 

 

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Gardening is patience

Distant willows

One of the brightest sights in the back garden in the winter is the morning sun shining on the willows, about half way down the back garden.  They light up the garden when there is very little else but it is now time for their annual haircut and I was reflecting on how long it can take to get the required effect in a garden.

Salix alba January 2014

This was what they looked like in January 2014 in my blog https://afrenchgarden.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/onward-in-january/

willows up close

This is what they look like in February 2019.

The garden takes time to take form.

Comma butterfly.JPG

It takes time for the winter flowering honeysuckle to get to a size to attract the butterflies like this Comma,

Clouded yellow butterfly.JPG

and the Clouded Yellow butterfly (Sorry, Brimstone, thanks to my sharp readers)

Bombus pratorum queen

and the bumble bees, even in February.

Male Osmia cornuta 22.2.19

I saw our first Osmia cornuta on the 22 February.

Osmia cornuta 23.2.19

Now the bee boxes are patiently searched every day, waiting for the females to emerge.

2 male Osma cornuta 23.2.19

Sometimes hope turns to disappointment when the emerging bee turns out to be just another male emerging.

They will need plenty of patience to keep up their enthusiasm until the females will eventually emerge, often in mid-March.

hazelnut flowers

There are signs of good things to come.

Hazelnut flowers close

This year there are a lot of flowers on the hazelnut tree but whether we will eat many or not remains to be seen.  The red squirrels around here keep to the areas with pine trees.  We are not in these areas but I have a feeling some of them spend an autumn break in our garden when the hazelnuts ripen as the hazelnuts disappear, shells and all, every year.

Wild bee 23.218

We have plenty of wild bees in the garden too this spring.

Sharing dandelion.JPG

It is not just the garden plants that give plenty of nectar.  The dandelions are great for all the bees and this one is also being shared with a clouded yellow butterfly.

Nomada

But already the mining bee nests are being patrolled by the Nomada bees that are “cuckoo bees” and will lay their eggs in the mining bees’ nests so that their eggs are provisioned by other bees just as the cuckoo is brought up by other birds.

N0 2 arrives.JPG

But patience can be rewarded as the sheep in our neighbour’s field has discovered.  Number two lamb took time in coming and was a bit smaller.

It was worth it.JPG

But the tired face says that it was all worth it.

 

 

 

 

 


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Willows in the winter

One of my better ideas in the garden are my willows which provide a welcome touch of orange and red at this time of year (November 2017).

We planted 5 Salix alba “Chermesina) in January of 2014 to encircle a favourite sitting spot.  A large fir tree had been taken down just behind them and the area felt rather naked.  We also planted a little Mahonia and quite a few spring bulbs.

Despite their stick-like beginning the willows had already taken on form by July of 2015

.

By July of 2016 they had made a very respectable screen but the bulbs had lost the battle along the way.  2017 tested their drought tolerance and it is important for us that they can survive dry summers.

The Mahonia that I had chosen is Mahonia eurybracteata “Soft Caress”.  It was “Plant of the Year” at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2013.  I’m afraid that I was not very kind to it, planting it at the foot of such vigorous willows.  The idea was that the willows would shelter it from the strong sunshine but I think I misjudged the space it would need.  I find space very difficult to judge when you are planting small plants and not too sure of their growth patterns.  As the photo shows the flowers are not too impressive so I have decided to move it this year once we get some rain.

We will be cutting the willows back severely at the end of winter, as we have done each year, so that they produce the fine branches from the base.  They shoot up four metres high branches over the year.

It is good when at least some things go the way you intend them in the garden.


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It’s been hot!

Laurier rose

I have found the high temperatures of this summer difficult in the garden but there are some things that do well in the heat,  like this white oleander outside the house.  It was a mild winter and it was not frozen so it is looking its best ever.  I would have never have planted it if I had known that it really needs to be protected in the winter here.  However, I coddled it and wrapped it while it was little.  Now if it freezes I will just cut of the damaged parts and trust that it will survive.

Hydrangea

The Hydrangea has lapped up the sun and temperatures in the high 30’s centigrade (we managed to get to 40 degrees centigrade one day).

Baby Hydrangea

Even its little cuttings that are going into their second summer in a rough, dry spot beside a wall are surviving well.

Hydrangea Savill gardens

Not all the plants get such a tough treatment.  I bought this Hydrangea, called “Savill Garden”, at Savill Gardens last October when they still had a lovely show of Hydrangeas.  It is in my new “stick border” where I have to mark the new plants with a stick to make sure they don’t get lost in the weeds and I am watering these until they get established.

Canna

The Canna has done a grand job in providing a screen where trees have either fallen down or been removed along my “stick border”.

Choisia Aztec pearl

My lovely Choisia “Aztec Pearl” was moved last autumn to provide hedging but was not such a good choice as the Canna.  It may well succumb to heat stroke despite my improvised parasol.

Lupin

I only managed to raise five plants out of a whole packet of lupin seed I started inside in the autumn.  They are supposed to flower in the first year but I’ll be lucky if they survive to next year.

Hibiscus tronum

A happier outcome of my seed sowing are these Hibiscus tronium.  I saw these during my visit to the Savill Garden last October.  They are also called “Flower of an Hour” as the flowers do not last longer than a day.  They were growing and flowering in a shady part of the garden in October although they are supposed to like hot, sunny spots.  These are in a pot in full sun but I have others in the ground and I am looking forward to seeing where they will grow over here.

Stick garden

At least the middle part of the “stick garden” is starting to take shape.

Willows

It now completes the circle started by the willows (Salix alba Chermesima) I planted in January of 2014.

Thyme

The thyme and ..Chaomille

the chamomile planted under the willows have provided a good ground cover.

First squash

Our first butternut squash has appeared as have the tomatoes and courgettes.

bee in pumpkin

The squash and courgettes provide good early morning entertainment watching the bees hunt for the nectar at the base of their flowers then struggling out covered with the pollen.

Gourd 2

My husband planted some decorative gourd seed this year and I am looking forward to seeing the different shapes.  He also bought a half price packet of wild flower seed at the supermarket check out – lured by the reduction and the picture of Maya the Bee on the front of the packet.  The seeds have been planted at the bottom of the garden as a special patch for the bees.   We will see how it turns out.

Plum tree

The plum tree provides a deep shade and a pleasant resting place for the blackbirds and other birds who do not share the sweet plums 50:50 with us.  The chairs have to be upended and the table well washed before using it at this time of year.  A radio placed in the branches playing France Inter will keep the birds at bay long enough to set the table.

Baby wren

This is the time to watch the antics of the baby birds in the garden.  This baby wren was quite happy to stay in my gardening shoes on the patio.  It is embarrassing to post a photograph showing the state of my gardening shoes but it could have been worse – it might have been a photograph showing the state of my gardening trousers.