a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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Rain refreshes May

We have had rain and the garden and trees are looking much fresher. We have not had heavy rain but sunshine and showers suit me fine.

Our tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is in flower. It is called Tulipier de Virginie in french so the name is a give away for its place of origin. Unfortunately, a lot of french people call Magnolia grandiflora a tulipier because of its big white flowers that look like over sized tulips and it causes a lot of confusion. We have both plants in the garden but now is the moment for Liriodondron.

It is not a flower that could easily be mistaken.

It was one of the first trees we planted because it had always fascinated me and I never expected it to get so big but it has plenty of space in the garden and I still appreciate its strange flowers.

This is one of our mullein plants (Verbascum thapsus), it is a common weed here and has grown spontaneously in the garden. However, we look out for the baby plants of this biennial in the autumn and transfer them to where we want them to flower the following summer. We try and fit in as many as we can because the plants will grow to be over one metre tall and are surmounted by a yellow flower head that is extremely attractive to bees and provides excellent pollen. The plants provide architectural interest and have long tap roots that allows them to easily survive dry summer conditions.

At the moment they are almost all being ravaged by the mullein moth (Cucullia verbasci). I could easily pick them off by hand but I am interested to see whether the mullein will recover, if left alone.

In addition, the redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) have started nesting under our carport, as they did last year.

That means a lot of mouths to feed for the parents and we see both parents entering the nest box with what looks like caterpillars. What kind of caterpillars they bring is impossible to tell.

We watch another bird from the utility and kitchen windows.

The hoopoe (Upupa epops) is a frequent visitor to the garden at the moment.

He drills into the soil with such energy that I sometimes wonder if he will come out with one of our moles at the end of his beak – not just a worm.

The redstarts keep a watchful eye on him when he gets too near their nest box and we have seen both parents mob him just to make the boundaries clear to all concerned.


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Hoopoe rescue

My solitary lapwing is still visiting.  He has now trained me to re-hydrate dry puppy  food and put this outside the living room door.  I hope he appreciates them as much as the other birds do.

The glacial weather continues in this normally clement area of France, it was -13 C this morning at 8 a.m.  I am spending more time beside our log burning “insert” – a closed log fire that in addition warms the air by a heat exchange system. I am wondering if it is our house in particular or if all houses have their share of unexpected visitors.

My lapwing makes me think of a summer visitor to the garden who also has an elegant crest – the hoopoe (Upupa epops) or huppe.  One in particular, paid us a visit last year – entering via the insert.  This is in itself quite a feat as the insert is not open like a normal fireplace but blocked by a heavy metal plate.  Returning home one afternoon at the end of April last year we were alerted by a scuttling noise emanating from the insert.  When we opened the glass door a hoopoe was perched in the far corner on top of the cinders which luckily dated from some days earlier!

He looked amazingly smart for something that had just come down a chimney.  My husband happily took up the challenge to retrieve him and enjoy the rare opportunity to have a hoopoe in his hand.

 

The hoopoe looks such an exotic bird with its colourful markings and retractable crown feathers.  We had often seen them from afar and we were even more impressed with its markings and regal composure when we had the opportunity to view it so closely.  Not wishing to cause it distress we quickly released it into the front garden.

He took flight and shook off the inconveniences and affronts of falling down a chimney and being handled by a human with regal aplomb and looked down at us from the telephone wire with the hauteur of regard suitable for such a magnificent bird towards mere earthlings.