a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


21 Comments

Signs of autumn

Some of the leaves on the trees are turning golden and a few are scattered on the ground yet at the same time the bees can still find some flowerlets on the last of the lavender bushes to flower.

The quince tree has produced enough fruit for us but as usual they are not perfect and the worm eaten parts have to be cut out before they are used.

The sedum is just starting to colour and already the bumble bees come for the early open flowers.

The second crop of raspberries is doing well, thanks to recent rain and of course the bumble bees that assiduously visit their insignificant flowers.  It always seem to be the carder bumble bees that visit the raspberries at this time of year.

The Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) or pourpier is happy to see the rain.  This one is growing in my vegetable garden and trying its best to impersonate parsley, but I was not to be fooled.

I get large patches of this and it can be quite invasive.  It can be eaten as a salad vegetable but I confess I have never got passed the “having a nibble” stage.  It is O.K. and I should really pick some and try and make a real salad of it.

I was reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and she writes that one evening Thomas Cromwell had a salad of purslane.  It was a popular dish in Tudor times so I should not ignore it.  Does anyone else eat it?

This year we have had a lot of apples from our four apple trees.  We have given them away, I have made apple jelly and will later make chutney and Kourosh has taken charge of bottling them as compote.

Our favourite for eating is the Reine de Reinettes which is a sweet crisp apple that also is very good to cook.  It reminds me a bit of Cox’s Orange Pippin.  August seems so early to have so many apples.

At least the tomatoes have decided to ripen but I think I will have plenty of green ones this year for chutney.

In the meantime the extra tomatoes go in the pot for coulis to be frozen for the winter.

Will my butternut squash ripen before the winter?

Will this be a cold winter, for there seems to be more rose hips on the roses?

Hiding under a pot of geraniums this baby mouse was too young to run away.  Instead he rolled over to try and shelter under the leaves.  With all the fallen apples around I expect he will find plenty of food to grow up with and store away for the winter. whatever the weather throws at us.

 


35 Comments

It’s still summer in September

1-The potager

Back from a week in the UK it was straight out into the garden to see how the vegetable garden had survived in our absence.  The tomatoes were the losers this year.  The leaves had gone a crinkled brown but there were plenty of good red tomatoes for me to gather them all up and make enough tomato purée for our needs plus a few green tomatoes that I’ve put aside for chutney.

1-Borlotti

The Borlotti beans grow very well here and the first pods are all ready to be picked.

1-Coriander

Unfortunately, my coriander shot up and flowered whilst I was away but I’ve had a good crop from it and I still was able to cut down, chop and freeze the good leaves.

1-Coriander difference

The same day I had sown my Sutton coriander seed, on the right of the picture, I had sown some coriander seed that had been given to me by a friend who had assured me it was excellent.  The difference was marked between the two varieties and although my friend’s variety had some very pretty flowers it had very little leaf.  I am wondering now if she grew it for the seed.

1-Apples

The apples and pears have not been plentiful this year but last year was a bumper year and I am just finishing last year’s apple compote now!

1-Medlar

The medlar tree on the other hand is full of fruit but it will not be ripe for a while yet.  It flowers later so was probably not so affected by our hot/cold spring.

1-Pumpkins

The pumpkins were put down to the bottom of the garden this year and seem to be thriving there and do not get in the way.

1-Pumkins close

Once again some plants flourish like the “Rouge vif d’Etampes”, on the left, whereas the Giraumon Turban on the right is my sole success from this sowing.  I had really only wanted some Turban pumpkins for decoration but one single pumpkin will have to be supplemented with some supermarket bought gourds this year.  I find the gourds a bit messy to grow myself, I must try to find a spot for them for next year but where they cannot strangle anything precious.

1-Butternut squash

We brought some butternut squash seeds home from an excellent butternut squash we had eaten at Christmas in the UK last year and much to my surprise, the plants have prospered over here.  There’s not to reason why, there’s but to plant and try!

1-Saffron patch

Last autumn I rescued my saffron bulbs from a border patch that was becoming increasingly shady.  I gave them their own private area, well apart from the tuft of chive seeds that I had hoped would have flowered by now (for the bees).  Now I wait and watch.  I was told by a saffron producer in the area that this year, with so much rain, any saffron bulbs left in the soil would rot.  😦

1-New tubes for bees

Of course, one of the first things I checked in the garden was my bee hotels.  Before I left for the UK I had put up some emergency housing in the form of a bundle of dried stems tied with string and attached to the Wisteria so that it touched the bee hotel.  In my last post I had described the pilfering behaviour of the Heriades bees and I thought it could be caused by an accommodation crisis.  During the week I was away two of the stems had been filled and there is interest in the remaining empty ones.

1-Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa)

This is where I got my tubes from.  It is Himalayan honeysuckle, Leycesteria formosa, also known as Pheasant Berry and Himalayan Nutmeg. I pruned it severely last winter although it should be pruned in the spring.  I, thus, provided myself with some excellent hollow tubes for bee hotels that are much easier to cut than bamboo and provide a good variation in diameter which is to the taste of the discerning mix of visitors that I cater for.  The plus side of these tubes is that they are easy renewable, if you have the shrub, and so can be opened easily to obtain the cocoons for those who like to clean their hotels.  The downside is that they are more fragile and possibly allow parasitic wasps to lay their eggs through the tube although I have not seen this type of parasite around my hotels.

1-Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa) close

I just wanted a close-up of the flowers and berries as I do not think the previous photograph does justice to this shrub.  I was photo bombed by that carder bee.  Honest!  The bumble bees do love the flowers and it is such an easy shrub to grow.  Mine is grown from a cutting from my sister’s garden and I believe it even seeds easily.

1-Garden bumble bee in Delphineum

Talking of bumble bees…they are getting some extra treats from my Delphineums this autumn.  Usually I have one or two re-flowering in the autumn but this year the spring display was so low that I thought the plants were perhaps on the way out and now there are more flowers than there were in the spring.  Completely the opposite!

1-Honey bee on Sedum

The sedums have loved all the late summer sun and providing lots of colour and attracting lots of honey bees with their nectar.  I am still somewhat surprised that I have not seen more butterflies or other bees taking advantage of the sedums.

1-Honey bee on wild mint

The honey bees are taking advantage of the wild mint that is flowering in the patch of grass we have left uncut at the bottom of the garden.  This is the first time I have seen the wild mint in the garden flower but as you walk through the garden in the summer the mint leaves are bruised and release a lovely minty perfume that follows you.  In fact, after a week away I realised that it was the smell of the garden that I missed as much as all the plants and flowers.