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Friday, 29 June 2012

French Friday - up the coast at Port Mer

This week we've had a mini heatwave which lasted all of three days. But three days of heat was enough for us to down tools and head for the coast, as the forecast looked like it was going to change 'back to normal' (whatever that is this year) again so hardly beachy weather. It was cloudy at home on Wednesday and slightly misty by the sea, but it was cooler and it was just great to get up the coast at long last - summer has seemed such a long time coming.

Port Mer is just north of Cancale and south of Pointe du Grouin and is the first sandy beach that you come to on this strip of coast coming from the direction of Mont St Michel. After that going west the rest of Brittany is full of sandy beaches but the bay of Mont St Michel is a big tidal mud flat full of oyster and mussel beds.

Naturally seafood figures high on the menus in all these coastal places with moules frites being a cheap and popular dish, but just to be contrary we both had something different!

I'm not going to waffle on any more; I'll just post photos with captions.

He had: duck breast and frites
I had: cassolette of moules and prawns in a creamy saffron sauce
Excuse my franglais

He had: fromage blanc with coulis de fruits rouges
I had: tarte au citron renverse, which intrigued me.
Was it going to be like tarte tatin or pineapple upside down cake?
It was a sort of upside down tarte - that was bits of sweet pastry
sticking into the lemon mixture, with little meringues.

This is what Port Mer looks like on a sunny day. It has 3 restaurant/cafe/bars and that's it.

I've had that ruddy Mull of Kintyre song stuck in my head since I saw this.
The mist did come and go and wasn't as bad as it looks. It was just over the big
posh house on the green hill you see above on the left. Serves them right for
having a big posh house overlooking a beautiful beach.

So after lunch we went for a walk and admired all the floral displays.
I'm just amazed by all the tender plants which grow happily here that would be
frosted in an instant chez moi. What a difference one hour north makes!

This looks like two different kinds of what Mum and I call "the Greek plant".
They are fleshy type plants which grow all over seaside places with
bright daisy like flowers. I think one of them may be Delosperma which they
sell in all the garden centres here, but which won't survive in my garden.

There was Agapanthus galore

It's such a pretty plant, but oh so tender!

I loved all the red here with the balcony geraniums and what I think is a sage beneath.

Now I can grow house leeks and ivy, but the spiky thing probably
wouldn't like it inland, and I did have a hebe once which my mum gave me.
That didn't survive winter!

Whilst walking along the coastal path we saw a Little Egret
wading around in the seaweed, which was rather fun.

I have these at home too and they are just coming into flower for the first time.
It's a sedum (stonecrop) of some sort.  
(I don't have to be all knowledgeable and look up names when it's not my garden!!)
Edit: Sedum reflexum

This one goes into the "I haven't got a clue" category. I don't know if it is a garden escapee,
but it was growing wild all over the place, very pretty and the bugs liked it.
Edit: thanks to Miss M it is Jasione, either montana or maritima

Why bother having a lawn when you can have this instead?

I ought to know what these are but I don't. I recognise them though.
Edit: It's Sea Campion

Looking back towards the beach through a forest of Mimosa trees.
Quite common inland but anyone following my blog will know that my tree
is no more, after being frosted 3 out of the last 4 years :-(

Very common around all these coastal parts and all through Normandy,
a WWII German concrete gun emplacement.

Someone had added some very colourful graffiti! No idea what it means but I think
it looks really cool!

Less cool with manky white legs and feet out. My OH gets annoyed
when I want to check the photos he's taken of me and get him to do it
again, and again, until one passes muster. So this time I accepted whatever
rubbish came off the camera. Don't click on me.

This is coming up the hill from the beach to the car parking area (but looking down. Obviously).
Have you ever seen such a perfectly clipped hedge before?!!

That's all folks. Bon weekend!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

June flowers

Another month has flown by and whereas it seemed a bit of a joke in December to do a round up of what was flowering that month (should have been nothing!), now it's as much a joke because it's practically everything! I have already shown quite a few flowers this month which I won't repeat, so hopefully this won't bore you to tears as I show a few more that have come into bloom later this month and a few more views around the garden.

Please click on the photos to view them full size, as I hate the way Blogger and Picasa show my large size photos as blurs :-( I can't go through them all resizing manually or I wouldn't even bother doing a blog! Picasaweb does automatic resizing of the uncropped photos from over 5000 pixels wide to approx 2000 pixels but it just doesn't show right on Blogger. They are all Google owned so it should. Rant over!

The poor honeysuckle that blew off the wall, trellis and all, during violent wind which had to be hacked back has flowered, albeit not in a huge show of colour and perfume as it usually does. However it's grown back really quickly and I note some flowers forming on new growth already!

My front bed goes through many colour changes and has been at its most vibrant this month with reddy pink Valerian and fuchsia pink Lychnis coronaria, along with the white Zantedeschia lily and cooler notes of pale blue love in a mist. Behind the lilies is my bronze fennel which was just a small plant last year and has grown enormously and is about to burst into flower.

White Astrantia (major, I think) has self seeded all over the garden and likes the shadier spots. It's been hard to photograph and is always covered in little bugs. I liked the effect that the yellow day lilies behind this plant had!

The roses which border the veg patch under the greengage tree have never looked so good in years - they've really loved all the moisture this year.

The poppies in the raspberry bed go over very quickly but are replaced by almost as attractive seed heads. Unfortunately a few plants have been blown over by recent wind, but I do need to get in there now to pick the raspberries so it makes it easier for me, as I can't bear to pull out something which is flowering beautifully!

This Lavatera is just amazing. I was given it last year as an 18" high specimen, and now it's about 6 foot or more in all directions and flowering its face off! It's a messy old plant though, flopping out all over the grass so it has to be photographed either from afar or very close up.

Back wall of the cellar. I have a horrible feeling that I forgot to prune this rose as it's flowering too high up; either that or I meant to try to train it outwards along the wall like a climber and forgot to do that too. Oh well!

My hydrangeas underneath are looking bigger and better than ever and neither got frosted so I already have some blooms on the pink one in the foreground (had none at all last year) and the other one is just showing a tinge of blue.

Sweet williams, foxgloves and Campanula poscharskyana are flowering all around them. This campanula is beautiful close up and always covered in bees.

On the hot south west facing wall of the house are two roses whose names I don't know, but they have a lovely perfume which takes me back years and reminds me of my grandmother's garden. They are extremely vigorous and I'm not sure if they are supposed to be shrub roses, planted in the wrong place! I have to prune these back severely every year. 

This view is looking towards the front gate and my little purple Prunus tree (which is another thing which has grown enormously this spring, probably due to both rain and the hacking back of the honeysuckle behind it, allowing more light in).

Under the tree and dotted about many parts of the garden are the sweet williams which I sowed last year. They've proven to be really good value plants whose flowers just seem to go on forever, so I will be checking for self seeders and replanting if necessary.

Looking back from that direction towards the pond, lost behind the darkness of the trees which just keep on growing. Sadly we've barely sat out here yet and only had one barbecue, and this is quite a wind tunnel here hence the chairs all stacked to stop them blowing around the garden. The blue planters and trellis were a new addition a couple of years ago to brighten up this area because on the left side out of the photo is a boring Leylandii hedge. Here's where we planted the rose 'Gertrude Jekyll' which has a lovely scent and a couple of clematis. There's also white ivy leaved geraniums in the planters but they are being slow to grow with the general lack of heat and sunshine (although it has been rather hot the last few days).

At the top of the wall in pots are my house leeks (Sempervivum) - I have various varieties and colours and if you look closely you can see that bits which have dropped off them have self seeded in the gravel and are flowering. They like it much better there than in the pots (which could all really do with repotting and starting all over again because they are congested, but I'm lazy!). 

I love them when they are in flower - they are so pretty.

Late spring and early summer are certainly for the most part the 'pink phase' in my garden but just to show I have some other colours, this is over the other side of the house where I have a bit of a wild patch for annuals. I can't grow perennials in this particular spot as it's next to the ugly propane tank and the delivery people need access to refill the tank from time to time, so a few squashed poppies aren't a big deal (although they are actually very careful). 

There's also self seeded pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis) here and some hot orangey red Crocosmia, all clashing horrendously with variegated Photinia 'Pink Marble', which unlike the really common Photinia 'Red Robin' which has red and green leaves, has pretty pinky white markings on the leaves! I 'bunged' the Crocosmia here last year as I was given a load of tubers and at the time it was just a spare space to put them temporarily....still don't know where to put them.... :-)

Self seeded from last year - Californian poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and wild red poppies behind, although I think the red ones are just out of the photo.

Whilst I'm talking about this side of the house, I don't think I've updated on the blog about the bee hotel. It's sitting on the outside windowsill of the garage and the poppies above are right in front of it. For quite a while I was despairing thinking that the only two holes that had been laid in were going to be the two bunged up holes that you can see on the bottom strip of wood. These are most likely the mason bees who block up their holes with mud.

This morning though I see a couple more holes blocked up, this time they are medium sized holes in the square block of wood. And even more exciting - whilst I was looking I saw an absolutely tiny black thing (a tiny black bee I presume, lol) go inside one of the pinprick sized holes on the left hand vertical strip of wood. It went in and came out several times. The highlight of my day and just goes to show how different sizes are important!

This isn't an updated photo so just shows the two mason bee holes
at the bottom which are blocked up

Monday, 25 June 2012

I itch! (Buggy photos 3)

No sooner than summer is officially here, and I'm a complete itchy mess due to my 'friends', the harvest mites (aoutats, chiggers) coming out to play. I hate the bloody things with a vengeance as it doesn't matter how many layers of clothing I wear, they will still get me. They are not flying insects and you can't see them with the naked eye. They don't even suck blood or inject venom into you. Oh no, these little lovelies feed on your flesh by sticking a feeding tube into you, injecting you with a flesh dissolving enzyme and then schlurping bits of you up like soup, leaving you with a lovely itchy red scabby mark. They also have a tendancy to go for your sweaty bits, so inside your bra strap (if you wear one that is) or knicker elastic. Lovely isn't it? If you've just moved to Brittany, or France, or even anywhere in the countryside and you've suddenly been scratching like mad and blaming the poor dog or cat, or even wondering if you've got an infestation of bed bugs, I suggest you read up about this horrible creature here, before you start DDTing the dog or your house, rather like I did my first summer here.

I am of course liberally slathered in insect repellant, but having forgotten our long daylight hours and the fact that regular strength Jungle Formula only lasts about 6 hours, the buggers have got me. It doesn't help that whilst taking photos I have been stalking through long grass and doing a lot of kneeling down or sitting in it. Oh how I suffer for my art.

So it seems only fitting to make another buggy post of some of the more pleasant insects I've been coming across. Of course, some of them are not particularly nice to the creatures that they or their own larvae eat - but so long as they leave me alone, quite frankly I don't care!

(All these photos are much better viewed when clicked on and seen full screen size. Unless you are looking through a mobile phone sized screen!)

Hawthorn shield bug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale)
(Is it just me, or did anyone else do a double take at that second word and think hemorrhoids?)

(Probably) Red Tailed bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius) on coriander flowers

Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus), Female,
on a cranesbill geranium flower

Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus), Male,
on a foxglove

The larvae of the Marmalade hoverfly feed on aphids, and the adult is a pollinator, so they are very welcome beneficial insects in the garden.

I think this is a Drone fly, Eristalis tenax, which is a hoverfly, on Verbena bonariensis

Ichneumon wasp, a parasitic wasp. Harmless to humans, not so nice to the insects
whose homes it lays its eggs in.

Ichneumon wasp

Mating Gendarmes, as they are known in France, or Firebugs
(Pyrrhocoris apterus)

Common yellow dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria) again (it's everywhere!)

A Moth! No butterflies around at the moment so much excitement
was had seeing this in the woodland.
It's a Yellow Shell moth (Camptogramma bilineata)

You probably think I've become an entomologist overnight, with all those latin names and stuff. Actually I've either googled the ID if it is simple, or been helped by other people far more knowledgeable than me. If it's just plain, haven't got a clue then I'll tell you!

Haven't got a clue, on an Oxeye Daisy

Haven't got a clue, on an Erigeron flower (the size of
a lawn daisy, so you see how small these beetles are)

Very probably the Varied Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus verbasci). I mentioned them in
an earlier Buggy Photos post. You DON'T want them in your house. Outside they are happy pollinators though.

Little hoverfly (probably Syritta pipiens) on Erigeron.

This next one has to be one of my favourites, because I thought I was taking a nice photo of a pretty Zantedeschia (arum lily) flower and hadn't noticed what was lurking in it until I zoomed in on it. Gave me quite a shock!


That's all for now folks. Believe me, I am actually doing some gardening, not just stalking wee things around it. I'll do an update on the veg patch early next month, cos there really isn't a huge amount to say about it right now. It's not like it changes much week to week, or that I've got a red tomato to brag about. Fat chance!