a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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Garden visitors

The Hollyhocks are providing a lot of colour in the garden just now.  On the right of the Hollyhock is a Mullein or Verbascum.  Both plants self seed and we try to replant the seedlings in autumn where we feel they will best thrive.

This Lavatera was just a cutting potted up in the autumn.  So you can see how quickly it grows.

The flowers are beautiful and the leaves are a soft green.

The flowers attract all sorts of bees and pollinators for nectar.

The pollen is also sought after and I love to see the bees with this unusual colour of pollen.

The Hollyhocks are very popular with the bumble bees for nectar and pollen.

The bumble bees are the most amusing bees to watch.  They seem much more independent and get right in there if there is pollen to be collected.

Yellow Buddleia

I prefer this yellow buddleia to the more common variety with the lilac flowers.  This yellow buddleia attracts bees and other pollinators whereas I have only seen butterflies on the other one.

The blue perennial geranium is always covered with bees.  This is where we eat outside so all the potted plants provide us with plenty of visitors to watch.

The Liatris does not care whether it is in a pot or in the ground.

I think the most important item we provide in the garden, especially at the moment, is the water.  We have several dishes of water around the garden.

The birds drink the water and bathe in it and bring in their young.  We have been enjoying watching this young robin on a daily basis.

These boxes have been left in the hope that we might be able to use them to gather fruit in the autumn but when Kourosh attempted to tidy the outhouse, he found they had been put to good use.

When he lifted off the top box it revealed a perfect little nest, carefully lined with feathers.  It was a very tidy construction and perhaps it might even be the nest where our baby robin was raised.

It is good to see nature being renewed.

This young marbled newt (Triturus marmoratus) was happy under some tiles until Kourosh found him.  He still has his crest from the aquatic stage as he is born in the water.  Now he has come onto land and will eat most of the things you would expect to find under tiles, like slugs, snails, earthworms and any insect that might pass by.  They are very gentle creatures and do not move rapidly on land.  It is nice to think that they help to keep the garden free of the things gardeners do not want.

Another gardener’s friend crept up behind Kourosh when he was painting the garden gate the other day.

Kourosh was a bit concerned to find him near a road and brought him into the garden to check him out as it was surprising to find a hedgehog in the day time.

I think it may be a young one just starting out in life.  I just hope he remembers the garden and stays here or at least visits frequently.

We do try and look out for all the animals that pass through our garden but this tree frog had a bit of bad luck.  We usually cover our wooden table in the evening with a plastic cover.  The other day we bundled it up quickly in the morning at breakfast time and put it inside.

It was not until the evening that we found we had bundled up our tree frog inside the cover.

“Not good enough!” is what that face says.

 

 


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The well in winter

Grid lifted off well top

Grid lifted off well top

It has been a wet January with little respite or sunshine to work in the garden or to go on long walks.  However, the river at the bottom of the garden is now full of water for the first time in two years and there is actually water at the bottom of the old well shaft showing that the water table level is returning to normal!

The well shaft was completely covered when we bought the house and it was not until about five years ago that were able to have a grid made that was secure and yet allowed light into the well.  The ferns duly arrived of their own volition.  There are at least four different kinds and possible more.

Well bottom

Well bottom

Looking down into the well, the bottom can be clearly seen covered with water but not much more is visible – until you look closely!

Marbled Newts, Triturus marmoratus

Marbled Newts, Triturus marmoratus

The Marbled Newts are enjoying their wetter environment.  The female is probably the one on the left as it has a brighter orange dorsal crest.  These gentle creatures are omnipresent in the garden under stones or anywhere they can keep moist.  They can be handled and do not object – it is the price they have to pay for living in our garden.

Toad and marbled newts

Toad and marbled newts

The newts appear to be content enough to share the well with a toad.  This looks like the same toad which was living in the well when my husband actually went into it with a ladder – see  The Old Well.  But one toad looks much like another to me.

Common toad, Bufo bufo

Common toad, Bufo bufo

There is not quite enough water at the bottom of the well for the toad to swim, so it is more of an aquatic waddle.

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)

At the bottom of the well I spotted a frog that I had never seen before.  The agile frog is skinny with long legs (according to Reptiles and Amphibians of France) – which looked correct but the size – 6.5 centimetres for the male and up to 8 centimetres for the female was too difficult for me to estimate from the top of the well.  Then I saw the Ash key which had conveniently positioned itself beside him and I guess to be about 4 centimetres long, so I am in the right size range.

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) tail view

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) tail view

I think he could have chosen a better hiding place but it gives a good view of the stripy hind quarters.

Agile frog with newts

Agile frog with newts

This shot with the newts gives a better idea of his size.  Note the circles on the water as a fine drizzle was peppering the surface.

Frog and newt

Frog and newt

The other frog in the well is, I think, the common frog, Rana temporaria, note difference in size with the toad in the foreground of the picture.  Also the larger frog appears comfortable on top of the newt.

That was what was happening at the bottom of the pond, but the old broken pipe half way up was also occupied.

2 frogs metal pipe

2 frogs metal pipe

I really can’t say what is happening here as I think it is too early for the breeding season.

3 frogs on metal post

3 frogs on metal post

Sorry about the poor image but with three of them I have even less of an idea what is going on here.  It doesn’t look a prime spot but maybe it is just the place to be to catch the unsuspecting flying things that were passing through the well.  If anyone knows any more about these frogs I’d love to hear about it.