Spring 2023

Spring continues to be a much cooler and grayer time than we are used to.

The plants follow the season despite the clouds and our little flowering cherry “Accolade” has delighted us again this year.

Her flowers attract the female Osmia cornuta that are now busy filling up the holes in my bee houses.

Some prefer to be far from the madding crowds of the bee boxes and chose more select accommodation – like the drainage hole in my wooden window sill. The window is well inset into the house so her eggs will be safe until next year and she has made a beautiful job of filling the hole so that it is difficult to notice.

The Camelias have done well this year.

More than being just beautiful, they provide a sought after pollen for the bees.

The colour in the garden is being provided more by the tulips now, as the daffodils are fading.

I just have to pay tribute to the primula which light up the garden just now and self seed to appear in early spring. Granted, they do not appear in the most convenient places but they accept harsh treatment by being separated and replanted where they are required.

It is a time to wander in the garden and meet old friends.

It is a time to discover new shoots on plants that had been feared dead. My Salvia leucantha has survived its first year in the soil (protected by a fleece).

Fruit tree flowers are being examined for signs of fruit. I think this yellow plum is producing fruit this year but it is early days.

We made a discovery that although we have had our Ash-leaved Maple for many years, it was only this year we noticed the flowers full of buzzing bees gathering pollen.

Leaving the best news to last – a friend has brought us two loads of horse manure courtesy of his horses. The first load is already on the vegetable garden awaiting spreading and re-positioning and this is the second load placed strategically at the bottom of the back garden. I shall use it wisely.

Rain

From the middle of November we have been having rain, at last. That means less days sitting watching the garden in the sun and more time viewing it from the inside.

At least the Lagerstroemia is getting enough rain to drain the leaves of their precious nutrients and allow the dry shells to fall. Gradually the bark is becoming mature and starting to peel.

The Salvia leucantha is still going strong, and with the bees and its long stems in constant motion, it draws your attention as soon as you look outside.

The saffron has been harvested and although I did not think it was as plentiful as last year my harvest was 5.5 grams against 3.8 grams of last year.

We had an unexpected harvest from our Acca sellowiana or feijoa bush this year. Perhaps it was just the very hot summer but it was the first time that our plants had given fruit. We had planted them as the pretty flowers attract the bees and had not really expected them to give fruit and we were surprised at how good they tasted.

Our Eriobotrya japonica is in full flower at the moment but I can only smell the lovely perfume when I go to the bottom of our garden which has not been so frequent in this rainy period.

The flowers attract a lot of pollinators including the Asian hornet. I just hope the fruits will manage to set before we get really cold weather as we had no fruit last year.

Although this year we had hardly any apples or pears, at least our Malus has given fruit for the birds.

The birds come to have a bath even in the rain, so this is something else that we can watch from the window. I think this is a female black cap (Sylvia atricapilla).

Autumn Salvias

In the back garden the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) has changed to its autumn colour and today the leaves are falling waiting to be gathered in for composting.

My Hydrangea from the Savill Gardens in the U.K. is keeping dusty pink flower heads, the soft colours in keeping with the autumn tones.

In the front garden I am still enjoying sitting outside and eating lunch on a small portable table as the big one has been stored away as we felt the warm weather could not last – but it has.

Our Salvia leucantha growing in a pot in the patio supplies us with plenty to watch as the bumble bees love it.

The carder bumble bees are Kourosh’s favourite.

The hummingbird hawk moth is a constant visitor and has the right equipment to get to the nectar of these salvias.

This bright blue salvia is in a pot too but will get put into the garden as soon as it has finished flowering.

This salvia has a beautiful flower.

I find it grows too tall. The wall is about two and a half metres. I thought it might grow less when I moved it to the front garden last year as it gets a lot of sun here. It has grown just as tall in its new position and I just think it looks leggy. Any suggestions?

We are still waiting for proper rain to give the garden a good soak after this hot, dry summer.

Nothing is the same this year and now our spring flowering Prunus “Accolade” has started flowering.

Sunflowers in October

The rape crop for next year has already been planted in fields nearby but the weather is so mild that the sunflower seeds that have fallen from the plants harvested in the summer have now started to grow and bloom in between the rape plants.

This must be an unexpected treat for the bees.

Elsewhere in the garden, Kourosh’s lemon tree is enjoying the exceptionally warm and sunny days and it looks as if we will be able to take all the lemons off the tree before it needs to be taken indoors. There is a crop of about fifty lemons which is not bad for such a small tree.

I will be gathering in my peppers “Havana Gold” in a day or two. I have two pots and I find them very decorative, especially at this time of year. They are just right for me as they provide a good flavour in sauces and soup without being too hot. I just wash and deseed them before freezing them to store.

The Asters are just about finishing so I will have to say goodbye to my little blue butterflies that come into the garden for the nectar from the asters. I have been so pleased with them that we are going to enlarge the border to provide more space for them for next year.

The Salvia leucantha steals the show in the garden just now. It is delicate but I am going to try again this winter to see if I can over winter it in the soil. I did not succeed last year so I must increase the protection.

This is another of the Salvias that has been flowering throughout the summer and is still going strong.

I noticed that whereas the bumblebees push straight into the Nerine Bowdenii flowers that the honey bees take a more indirect route and find nectar by prospecting around the outside base of the flowers. I find these flowers very rewarding. Once you take the trouble to plant the bulbs, they pop up to brighten the garden when other flowers are fading.

My Cosmos is overgrown and falling but I cannot tidy it up as the Goldfinches have it marked and return faithfully as they seem determined to have every last seed.

This morning on my way to take the photographs of the sunflowers, I spotted a “sanglier” (Sus scrofa) running across the vines into a wood. These wild pigs live in the woods in France and can cause damage if they root around in the garden, or if they run in front of a car because they can be very large.

Sunny November

We are still in autumn. The Koelreuteria tree in the front garden has lost its leaves but other trees are still holding onto theirs. When a breeze disturbs them, a snow of dead leaves floats down.

The weather has been fine with plenty of opportunities for walking.

We keep waiting for winter to set in and on Wednesday we had lunch outside on the terrace of our favourite restaurant by the sea. The sun was shining and people were sitting in the sun in T-shirts. We have had several “last” lunches outside this year!

Wednesday brought so much sunshine that this small copper butterfly settled on our Mme. Isaac Pereire rose in complete denial of the calendar date.

During the day the blue skies warm up the garden with strong sunshine.

However, the nights with clear skies bring low temperatures and we have found ice on the birds’ water dish in the morning.

I have decided to coddle my abutilons this year. I swore I would never keep fragile plants in the garden. The abutilons have been with us for years, their leaves freezing in winter and then shooting again in late spring. Now I feel they have been so courageous to survive that they are going to get some help.

We have also got a Salvia leucantha that will need protection soon.

I just cannot manage to do justice to this beautiful flower when I take a photograph. It too will get special attention.

The lemon tree is still outside. It will go into the spare bedroom with gro-lights during the day but I could not deprive it of the beautiful sunshine we have been having lately. We do protect it with a fleece at night if the skies are clear.

Today is cloudy and more autumnal.

I hope nevertheless to be able to still enjoy some more days sitting in the garden drinking our tisane, See who joined us on Wednesday morning.

An exceptional November

The Liquidambar’s autumn colours say autumn.

I actually enjoy raking the colourful leaves and continue to mulch my front borders as I weed them and make plans for autumn replantings.

I am spending even more time in the garden as we are still confined to the house except for essential limited cases.

So things are different this year. The garden is different. It is warm and sunny here. The Cosmos sulphureus which have been wilting towards winter have started to reflower.

The coloured Cosmos which have finished weeks ago have started to grow from the seeds set this year and are now flowering.

The Salvia “Hot lips” is still going strong.

The Fuschia has fewer flowers but still putting on a good show.

My Abutilon are in their element and I am glad I attempted these plants that will not survive severe winters.

So we are still enjoying our coffee on the patio beside the Salvia leucantha in the sunshine.

The pollen sac on the white tailed bumble bee tells me she has decided to have a brood at the end of November. I hope her optimism is well founded.

After all the raspberries are still producing fruit.

The Mahonia bushes are full of bumble bees.

The Wall butterfly (Lasiommata megera) suns itself in the garden.

Our little green tree frog enjoys the sunshine behind the shutter. She appreciates the sunshine – confinment or conditions or covid – do not concern her.

Is she saying “Du calme, mes amis.” ?

November flowers and fruit

We have been confined now for one week in the new second general confinement in France. We are allowed to go food shopping and attend medical appointments. Travelling to work is permitted when it is impossible to fulfill the job by staying connected on the Internet at home. When you do leave home, even for a walk of no longer than 1 kilometer, you should have an “attestation” indicating when you left home and for what reason.

As the cafes and restaurants are closed and visiting is not allowed, it only leaves me gardening and walking.

I have started weeding the front gardens and mulching with the fallen leaves from the garden.

The Persimmon tree leaves are a beautiful colour for the mulch but I have brought barrow loads of leaves from the Liriodendron and other trees in the back garden to fill up the border.

The Ash tree leaves are not so pretty and go in the back borders or the compost.

My three small heathers that I potted up for some winter colour on the patio have already started flowering.

As soon as the flowers open the bees find them. It looks like being a good investment for colour and entertainment.

The Carpenter bees visit the potted lemon tree on the patio and

also visit the Salvia uliginosa which has just about finished flowering in a nearby pot.

The Salvia leucantha has just started opening its white flowers in a big pot on the patio and also in the front garden. Its country of origin is Mexico and I have read that it is not frost hardy but it has survived in the pot that I brought indoors last winter. It has also survived outdoors in the front border where it is flowering now. I gave a division of my plant last autumn to my neighbour Annie, who planted it in her garden in a sunny spot and hers is a now a much larger specimen and is full of flowers.

My yellow buddeleia is still flowering. Attracting butterflies like this Peacock.

And this rather old Red Admiral.

I was given the original cutting by a beekeeper friend who assured me that the bees would be attracted to it. He was right! I prefer it to the lilac buddeleia.

This is what the Kaki or Persimmon flowers look like in May. They are very discrete flowers and you really have to look for them.

It is difficult to imagine that large red or yellow fruit the size of large tomatoes could be difficult to see in a tree – but it is true! Kourosh started his Kaki predictions this year by saying that he was surprised that it was going to be such a poor year as the summer had been warm. Later he changed his mind and announced we would be having enough to have a taste. Then he decided that there was more than he thought.

To cut a long story short, we have been collecting boxes of them. They have been being handed out to friends as they have been gradually harvested and I only wish we had weighed how much the tree has given us this year. Everytime more leaves fell we saw more fruit. Now the tree is bare except for some that we have left for the birds share.

They do not ripen all at once and ripen more slowly in a cool place. This year I have frozen some of the ripe flesh without the skin. I have never done this before but seemingly it is possible.

Our other November fruit is the olives. They can be left for a few days yet but then it will be up to Kourosh to prepare them.

The flowers in November

The rain still continues and everything in the garden is wet.

It does not stop the bees and other insects flying in between the downpours.

The low light makes it difficult to take sharp photographs.

Everything is getting sodden.   Luckily, I have already gathered plenty of Cosmos and other seeds.  These are French Marigold (Tagetes erecta), that are late in setting seed and have stated germinating still attached to the flower heads.

I grew these flowers near my tomatoes this year.  They provided lots of colour in the vegetable garden and are reputed to attract beneficial insect such as hoverflies and at the same time the roots secrete a substance to repel certain nematodes.  I cannot affirm that they make a considerable difference but they are held in high esteem in this area.

There is still plenty of Borage left in the vegetable garden, and elsewhere, and that is a magnet for all pollinators.  It is also so handy for decoration of salads and drinks.

We always have a clutter of pots at our front coffee spot.  This allows us to keep an eye on the fragile and admire our favourite flowers of the moment.

The Salvias are in their glory at the moment, especially the Salvia leucantha.  We have one in a pot on the patio and another in the garden but they do not photograph well and you need to see a close up photograph to see what the eye actually sees.  The flowers look as if they have been fashioned from velvet.  They are constantly visited by the bees.  This carder bumble bee is piercing a hole in the flower to “steal” the nectar.

Another flower we are monitoring in a pot on the patio is the Ajania.  This is new to us this year and I am waiting impatiently to see if the flowers will open fully.  It has grown well and I am thinking of trying it as ground cover next year as it has grown well in the pot.

Some flowers get attention and care yet this Alyssum grows on its own every year, seeding into the cracks in the front path and the base of the wall.  It completely looks after itself and releases its own special honey scent in the warm evenings and is still flowering.

Perhaps tough love can work as I have succeeded in keeping two Abutilon plants.  They die completely from the surface in winter and reappear in late spring.  They are not too tall yet, but I have my hopes, and it is nice to have their flowers so late in the year.

The bees still manage to get out to forage for nectar and pollen despite the rain.  They have to “faire avec” as we all have to during these rainy days.

Thus saying, I was surprised to see a cricket perched on top of my pink rose in the front garden.  It does not seem a good place to be camouflaged from hungry birds. In addition, it is not very far away from our bird feeder.

More surprisingly it was still there the next day!  Is it the same one or is it cricket time?