a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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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.

 


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The garden versus the heat

bougainvillier

Perhaps it’s not so much the garden versus the heat but the plants staving off the lack of rain.  I have not watered the Bougainvillea, the Lavatera and the winter flowering honeysuckle at the front of the house.  They are not happy but surviving.

Wilting Hollyhocks

Strangely, the Hollyhocks, which I regard as reasonably drought tolerant do not have the same resistance.

Colutea pods.JPGThe heat has not bothered the Colutea and the seed pods are particularly pink this year.

Leeks chick peas and sprouts

I have to water the vegetable garden but I have covered the roots of the tomato plants with straw.

Strawberries, courgettesThe courgettes are indifferent to the heat as long as they are watered and my “Sungold” cherry tomatoes on the wigwam are already producing ripe tomatoes.  The strawberries, though, have given up producing any quantity of fruit.

First tomatoesThe little tomatoes are hidden by the French Marigolds which are considered over here to prevent any diseases in the tomatoes.  Interestingly, we call them French Marigolds and the French call them Indian Carnations (L’œillet d’Inde) and as they originate from South America… Anyway, a friend gave me the seedlings and they certainly look attractive but as to the therapeutic value, I am undecided.

TomatoesAnother winner on the heat front are the cucumber plants.  The seeds were given to us by a friend and they produce small, exceptionally tender cucumbers that Kourosh eats as a fruit, as well as allowing some to find there way into the salad bowl.  The small cucumbers are very refreshing in the heat.

Chick peas

The chick peas, too, have taken a leap forward with the heat.  This is the first time I have grown them.  I bought the seeds and I was bitterly disappointed when they did not survive as I had used the whole packet.  Not to be fazed, Kourosh put his hand in the cupboard and handed me my jar of dried chick peas.  Now I feel a little foolish for not having thought of that in the first place.

I was intending to cook them if I managed to produce any but a friend told me he used to buy them in the green and eat them.  So I have tried one and it is delicious!  A bit like peanuts!  I have not got a lot so I think I might just eat them raw.

Butternut.JPG

I do try to grow only things that I will eat and can either be consumed rapidly or support being frozen.  I love Butternut squash and they have proved very reliable to keep.  Last year they remained many months in a cool area without spoiling and if anything we were a bit short.

Raised bed

To extend our potential production of Butternut we tried a raised bed last year and again this year but, as you can see, the results are not convincing.  Perhaps raised beds are not a good choice for this area with low rainfall.

Gourds

We have planted some decorative gourds which is perhaps a bit frivolous.

All these pictures were taken at 8 o’clock at night because the temperature touched 40 degrees centigrade in the garden yesterday (Tuesday, 23 July) and it was too hot to take photographs during the day.

Borlotti beans

I know the Borlotti beans would like more water but it is difficult getting around everything and I feel so guilty as the dried grass crunches under my feet.

Hydrangea umbrella

The ornamental plants are on very reduced rations.  Basically, new plants and some favourite plants get watered sparingly.  I do not want my Hydrangea “Saville Gardens” to die so the parasol will at least prevent the leaves from being scorched.

Sleeping senna

I collected Senna seeds from a beautiful plant in Spain and the seedlings look very healthy and at home in the heat.  I love the way that they close their leaves at night as if they are sleeping.

Water

Water is such a precious and limited resource.  We have several containers for water throughout the garden.  The bees claim this as theirs but there are others for the birds to drink and wash in.  As I write temperatures remain high but a storm is forecast for Friday so hopefully it will bring rain and cooler temperatures.