a french garden


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Is It Spring yet?

Recently we have had a few rainy days and the mornings were misty.  I have, therefore, been a the little late feeding our visitors with whom we share our garden.  I was not talking about the bees for once, but the birds.  Before Amelia and I even finish our breakfast, they gather outside our dining room hoping that I would hurry up and feed them.

sparrows waiting for breakfast

Eventually, I tell Amelia, I will go and feed the birds before I have my second cup of tea.

Sparrows

The blue tits are my favourite – but don’t tell that to the sparrows; they might get jealous!  The blue tit waits in the olive tree for her chance.

Blue tit in the olive tree

Lately we have another little visitor, but that one can not fly.  He also comes to take his share of the breakfast.

little mouse

Amelia is always telling me off for leaving too much seed on the ground.  But honestly, it is not my fault.  You might not believe that these little birds eat five kilos (over 11 pounds!) of seeds each week.  If I forget they literally tap on the window or sit outside the French windows begging!

I know that this is not a brilliant picture, but the wren – another of my favourite birds – has found a little hollow in the ash tree outside the study.

Wren

Forgive me for another poor quality photo, but recently each time we have entered the so-called atelier, Amelia and I have heard more noise coming from the barn owl house.  So, my curiosity got better of me and I climbed the ladder and stuck my camera rapidly in the entrance and had a quick shot.  There you are.  Our owl visitor has brought his girl friend to share his studio flat.

pair of Barn owls in the barn

I had been warned and I withdrew my hand rapidly just as the male flew out touching my sleeve.  As at that time I was not sure what picture, if any, I had managed to take, I had another sneaky shot. The female was there giving me a cold shoulder and hopefully guarding her precious eggs.

Barn owl (female)

So, the bees and the birds are all getting ready for the new season.  Our plum tree started to blossom just as February commenced.

Plum tree in blossom

I know it is too early, but often I like to walk to the bottom of our garden, beyond the beehives, in the woodland walk along the river Seudre, and I imagine that the winter is over.  The river bank under the canopy of trees reminds me of Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I dreamed that, as I wandered by the way,

Bare Winter suddenly was changed to Spring,

And gentle odours led my steps astray,

Mixed with a sound of waters murmuring

Along a shelving bank of turf, which lay

Under a copse, and hardly dared to fling

Its green arms round the bosom of the stream,

But kissed it and then fled, as thou mightest in dream.

– Kourosh

 

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It’s been hot!

Laurier rose

I have found the high temperatures of this summer difficult in the garden but there are some things that do well in the heat,  like this white oleander outside the house.  It was a mild winter and it was not frozen so it is looking its best ever.  I would have never have planted it if I had known that it really needs to be protected in the winter here.  However, I coddled it and wrapped it while it was little.  Now if it freezes I will just cut of the damaged parts and trust that it will survive.

Hydrangea

The Hydrangea has lapped up the sun and temperatures in the high 30’s centigrade (we managed to get to 40 degrees centigrade one day).

Baby Hydrangea

Even its little cuttings that are going into their second summer in a rough, dry spot beside a wall are surviving well.

Hydrangea Savill gardens

Not all the plants get such a tough treatment.  I bought this Hydrangea, called “Savill Garden”, at Savill Gardens last October when they still had a lovely show of Hydrangeas.  It is in my new “stick border” where I have to mark the new plants with a stick to make sure they don’t get lost in the weeds and I am watering these until they get established.

Canna

The Canna has done a grand job in providing a screen where trees have either fallen down or been removed along my “stick border”.

Choisia Aztec pearl

My lovely Choisia “Aztec Pearl” was moved last autumn to provide hedging but was not such a good choice as the Canna.  It may well succumb to heat stroke despite my improvised parasol.

Lupin

I only managed to raise five plants out of a whole packet of lupin seed I started inside in the autumn.  They are supposed to flower in the first year but I’ll be lucky if they survive to next year.

Hibiscus tronum

A happier outcome of my seed sowing are these Hibiscus tronium.  I saw these during my visit to the Savill Garden last October.  They are also called “Flower of an Hour” as the flowers do not last longer than a day.  They were growing and flowering in a shady part of the garden in October although they are supposed to like hot, sunny spots.  These are in a pot in full sun but I have others in the ground and I am looking forward to seeing where they will grow over here.

Stick garden

At least the middle part of the “stick garden” is starting to take shape.

Willows

It now completes the circle started by the willows (Salix alba Chermesima) I planted in January of 2014.

Thyme

The thyme and ..Chaomille

the chamomile planted under the willows have provided a good ground cover.

First squash

Our first butternut squash has appeared as have the tomatoes and courgettes.

bee in pumpkin

The squash and courgettes provide good early morning entertainment watching the bees hunt for the nectar at the base of their flowers then struggling out covered with the pollen.

Gourd 2

My husband planted some decorative gourd seed this year and I am looking forward to seeing the different shapes.  He also bought a half price packet of wild flower seed at the supermarket check out – lured by the reduction and the picture of Maya the Bee on the front of the packet.  The seeds have been planted at the bottom of the garden as a special patch for the bees.   We will see how it turns out.

Plum tree

The plum tree provides a deep shade and a pleasant resting place for the blackbirds and other birds who do not share the sweet plums 50:50 with us.  The chairs have to be upended and the table well washed before using it at this time of year.  A radio placed in the branches playing France Inter will keep the birds at bay long enough to set the table.

Baby wren

This is the time to watch the antics of the baby birds in the garden.  This baby wren was quite happy to stay in my gardening shoes on the patio.  It is embarrassing to post a photograph showing the state of my gardening shoes but it could have been worse – it might have been a photograph showing the state of my gardening trousers.


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A week of hard work

Before fire

It’s been a week of hard work in the garden.

Bonfire

We have at last been able to burn the branches torn down from the trees during the storm on 26 July this year.  We need to get authorisation from the Mairie (our local authority) to burn the branches in the garden so we were all set for this Friday.

Fire from side

Of course, all the larger wood was cut up and we first brought it up in barrow loads for storing.  A huge pile of small branches had been left on the grass and even more was distributed under the trees.

Near end of fire

All it needs now is a cut with the mower and I will be very happy to forget about the mound of branches at the bottom of the garden.  I did notice it was the favourite haunt of a wren who used to fly out of it when I passed by.

Wren in arriere cuisine

I don’t know if it is the same one that paid us a visit.

wren in arriere cuisine 2

She came into the utility room.

wren on door

I can’t say I blame her as it was a very cold day.

wren on doorstep

She did no seem in the least perturbed by her visit to the house but I do not know why she was picking up dried leaves to fly off with.  It is not nesting time unless they make a place to roost when it is cold.

Ring dove in Kaki

Our resident ring dove is keeping watch over the Kaki fruit as they ripen.  There is not much fruit this year, perhaps due to the late spring.  It looks as if it is going to be a race between us and the dove to see who’s going to be the first to get them when they are ripe.

There used to be a Forsythia beside the Kaki tree but this has been removed to allow more sun on the border for flowers.

Toadstools

As I cleared the border I lifted a stone from the stump of an old Hibiscus to reveal the little toadstools hidden underneath.  I was struck by the symmetry and force of their growth.

Tremella mesenterica

I noticed another fungus when I was gathering the wood at the bottom of the garden.  It is an attractively coloured fungus that I have seen before on the dead wood in the garden.  I think it may be Tremella mesenterica.

Cotoneaster berries

On a brighter note our cotoneasters are full of bright red berries and are doing their bit to brighten up the garden.  They seem to thrive here on minimal water and care.

Pear tree in ground

Crazed with our success at replanting our cherry tree last year, we decided to move a pear tree this week.  It has not thrived well in the front garden and its removal will give more light to the border behind it.

pear tree in barrow

Its roots were not too big and it was a one man job to get it into the barrow.  No need to get the car involved this time, which is just as well as it would have been difficult to manoeuvre it into the front garden.

Pear tree replanted

It looks much happier in the back garden.  It has not given us large crops of pears (Williams) but I valued it more for the beautiful blossom that it gives us every spring.

1-Pear & bee 2

Gosh!  That was a near thing, I nearly posted a blog without a picture of a bee!


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Wren rescue

Last night my husband opened the patio windows at 8 p.m. to clean and upturn the wild birds’ water container so that it would be ready for a re-fill in the morning.  He nearly stood on something cowering on the window step.  It moved slightly and he thought firstly of a mouse but on further examination it turned out to be a very small bird.  Temperatures were under zero and dropping to a forecast -15C.

He brought it inside and it appeared to be a very unhappy wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) with no visible injuries.  We could not tell if it was weak because of the extreme weather conditions we have been having or if it had hit the window and was concussed.  As an aside the wren is called a Troglodyte mignon in France and I can attest that this one was certainly very mignon.

 

In any event we could not leave it to be frozen to death.  We are particularly fond of our wrens that live in the undergrowth in the border that separates us from our next door neighbour.  They usually stay in the back garden but we have seen them visit our feeding station on the front patio outside our dining room window but only on rare occasions.

A rescue box was prepared rapidly.  The box is plastic and was lined with newspaper and some softer kitchen paper which could be used as nesting (?) material.  I added a little milk bottle top of water and a fat ball.  I also soaked some dry puppy food and added that later when it was re-hydrated.  We left it alone and heard some movement and taking this as a good sign we put the box in a cool, dark place and hoped for the best.

I could not resist a peek later but could see nothing; it was under the kitchen paper and was either dead or asleep as it was not moving.

In the morning I jumped out of bed (a rare feat these days) and rushed to check on the wren.  It was already up and fluttering.   The thermometer read -6C outside but it was light and the other birds were cheeping and flying.  The sun was coming up and it was going to be a sunny day so it was time to see if the wren could make it on its own.

I lifted the lid and after a few flaps he managed it over the side of the box and made straight for the undergrowth which I had suspected was home to him.

I hope he is all right.  He certainly has more chance than being left to be frozen to death or be eaten by a rat.

I checked the empty box.  He had not touched the puppy food which had worked well with the injured woodpecker last year but I could not be sure if he had snacked on the fat ball or not.  I suppose a wren’s breakfast would not made great inroads into a fat ball.

A happy ending I think!