a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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Dry garden

Yesterday the temperature was 38 degrees Centigrade (100.4 F.) and it was not only the plants that were suffering from the heat.  The vegetable patch gets watered daily as we have had no rain for such a long time.  I also water some of my favourite plants but the trees have to make do and the apples are dropping.

One of my favourite shrubs is my Eucryphia nymanensis.  the flowers are lightly scented and moderately attractive to pollinators.  I planted mine in November of 2015 and it can grow to 8 or even 15 metres, according to some sources, if it is happy in its position.  Mine is only surviving as it does not get the moist, rich, slightly acid soil that it is said to enjoy.

Still it is giving me plenty of lovely flowers and I do not really want such a big tree anyway.

Another plant that gets tough love from me is my Thalictrum delavayi.  It had been completely overshadowed by the olive tree, so although it likes some shade, I moved it so that it at least could have some light.  That was last year and it seems to be thriving.

The flowers are delicate and attract the bees.

In fact, everything is delicate about this plant – even the leaves.

I spotted one of my favourite bees on the lavender this week.  It is a Tetralonia (3 submarginal cells, for those that care) probably a male Tetralonia dentata.

I’ve never seen him on the lavender before but his huge green eyes and long antenna make him very appealing to me.

Our honey bees are doing well and appear very busy.  This sunflower field is not long from the garden and I am amazed that the sunflowers can grow with so little rain.  There has only been 2 m.m. of rain in total this July.

I can see the bees on the flowers but I wonder how much nectar they can find in plants so starved of moisture.

We have to have patience until we do our honey harvest in the second half of August.


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Lavatera in the garden

Lavatera front of house

I have Lavatera at the front of the house.

Lavatera bottom of garden

I have Lavatera at the bottom of the garden.  In fact, it is an ideal plant for this area and I will have one anywhere I have a space in the garden.  The grey green leaves give a clue and it is indeed a well suited plant to withstand hot, dry summers.

It can get a bit untidy as its fast growth can take you by surprise.  It is not a long-lived shrub and we have already got a small shrub in waiting and some cuttings – just in case they are needed.  They root very easily and are not difficult to find homes for if you end up with an extra pot or two.

Lavatera Carpenter

Mine is a Tree Mallow but I have no idea of the species.  In French it is called Lavatère en Arbre or Mauve en Arbre – a very appropriate name as they are mostly this mauve colour.

They attract all sorts of pollinators, it is a Carpenter bee in the above picture.

Tetralonia from distance.JPG

However, it is at this time of year I love to check out the flowers in the morning and I often find what I think is a Tetralonia malvae bee still asleep in the flowers.

Tetralonia close.JPG

What surprises me is that she is not an early riser.  I took this photograph at 9.44 a.m.

Tetralonia v.close

You do not often get the time to get close up and photograph bees.  What appeals to me is that she is such a fluffy bee.  Her long feathery hairs on her hind legs look so silky but are perfect to transport caches of pollen to her nest.

Tetralonia with pollen

Once she starts collecting pollen the hairs are covered and take the colour of whatever pollen she might be gathering.  She is pretty faithful to the Malvaceae family but the pollen colours do vary.

Tetralonia in Guimauve

This is what she looks like gathering pollen from the Marsh Mallow.

Tetralonia in lavatera

So many reasons for growing Lavatera.

 

 


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The heat goes on

The Chitalpa is still flowering and despite the heat and lack of rain the trees are bearing up.

I actually saw a bee venture into one of the Catalpa flowers but they are not really bee friendly flowers.

The Oregano has taken over a much too large part of the vegetable garden but I am in no mood to tame it, especially as its flowers attract the bees.  The garden has been neglected lately as the afternoon is my preferred time to wander around and work in the garden but most days it is too hot for me for the sun here is very strong.

The Oregano attracts butterflies as well.  I think this is a Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) but not so scarce here as the name might suggest.

I could not resist another shot of her fine tails.

The butterflies are not put off by the heat and there are Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui)  in the garden, this one here taking nectar from the lavender.

I’ve noticed more Skippers (this one probably Ochlodes sylvanus) which makes me think the butterflies are doing better than the bees this year.

You may find this caterpillar cute, it always reminds me of a “Push me pull me” from Doctor Doolittle as it is hard to know which end is which (the black pair of tufts on the RHS are at the front!).  It is a Vapourer Moth caterpillar and was not welcome on our Lagerstroemia.  It was carefully removed (the hairs can cause skin irritations) and placed where any damage it can cause would not be noticeable.

In the evening I used to see more Tetralonia bees in the Lavatera flowers, like this one settling down for the night.  Sometimes three or four would share the same flower – either a Lavatera or Hollyhock.  My Hollyhocks have not done well this year.  They do not get watered or receive special treatment and yet they are usually stars at this time of the year but this year they have been smaller and several sorry specimens have had to be cut down.

The Dasypoda with their huge bundles of pollen have been in the Cats’ears at the bottom of the garden but not with the same vigour.

It does look like it is going to be a bumper year for tomatoes this year and we have already had to reduce our four courgette plants to two.

So, walks are best taken in the evening, when there are no bees to be seen but being entertained by the hares that are leaping around at the moment.