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Tuesday, 30 March 2021

I've spent a fortune in the garden centre!

The great thing about this garden is that we are spending a lot less on it than we did on our last garden - however I did go mad last week! I've always wanted some citrus fruits and an olive tree, and they are all very expensive. I also ordered an arch to go over our bench out in the front garden, and that arrived last week. Keith erected the whole thing himself, with me checking with the spirit level then basically just looking and doing it by eye, as it's practically imposible to get the posts in perfectly straight, especially when you have stony soil! He also gave most of it a darker stain as it was supposed to be dark brown (to match the bench and shutters etc), only it wasn't anything like the colour of the online picture. Never mind, hopefully in a few years it will be covered with climbers and not very noticeable.




The next photos are once it was in its permanent position with the wooden legs inside the metal booties (or whatever they are called) which are hammered into the ground. I chose a light blue clematis for one side (couldn't find a dark blue, annoyingly) and a bignone (Campsis radicans) for the other side. That is an orange, trumpet like vine which is quite vigorous, so I might be having to keep it well pruned! We also planted a buddleia between the last bambooey thing and the hedge. This will be my third attempt at growing buddleia. So far out of two shrubs I have had one white butterfly on one and a moth on the other, and not that many flowers either. So much for calling them butterfly bushes! But I will not be put off..... πŸ˜€

The really good news is that the soil was much better here than where I made my herb bed. I think because that was beside a wall next to the house, where the ground had been levelled with machinery, it's possible that clay subsoil got dumped there. A shame for the herbs, but they are all growing well now and every one got a good inch or two of gravel underneath them for drainage.


Part of the view from the bench:


I hadn't noticed that you can see the old windmill from the bench - this is a zoomed in pic from my phone so not very good quality (all the pics are phone ones) - originally in the 19th century there were three windmills on that bit of hill but this is the only one that remains. We can't go in it as there is an old millkeepers house next to it which presumably belongs to someone as it isn't derelict.


Here is my new olive tree - it has been pruned in a pompom fashion (that's what it said on the label). I guess it is the beginning of cloud pruning, although I don't want to keep it so clipped as that, but as I'm planting it in the back garden I do want the size constrained a bit, so think this is a good shape.


Do you like my rusty ornaments? I wish I had bought a couple more now! I got them from a Xmas market we went to soon after moving here.


I bought a Meyer lemon which you can see in the background, that tiny tree cost about 40 euros. However I was so chuffed to find out that I could buy a "Lime Leaf plant"! This is the kind of lime that we use in Thai cooking, mostly for the leaves. I haven't ever used the lime fruit before but they are supposed to add an interesting flavour to Asian dishes, so can't wait to get some fruit on it. The lime tree is much bigger than the lemon and cost a whopping 80 euros!!! The olive was 80 euros too, but I was expecting to pay more, to be honest. Add in the shrubs and climbers that I bought, plus some lavenders and an oregano, and you will understand the title of this post!


The tulips are flowering now and I'm really pleased that the colour goes so well with the pansies.


I have been learning decoupage from the many tutorials online. It's not easy doing it with napkin paper as it's so thin (you only use the ply with the printing on it), but doing this kind of decoupage where you cut out the paper in shapes is a lot easier than trying to put whole napkins on the bottom of a tray, which I have also done. That one is not photo worthy πŸ˜€, well it's not finished yet anyway. But you have to practice to gain experience.


This one below was originally a green and white striped planter, but I don't like green in my house unless it's a plant!


I meant to take photos of the cherry and plum trees which are covered in blossom but that will have to wait until the next post, as I want to get this published. We are going out tomorrow to the coast, to an area we went to with the birding group last year. First an area of old salt pans which had waders, then a disused quarry that had resident Blue Rock Thrushes, then up the hill to a big area of garrigue. I hope there will be some interesting wild flowers blooming. 

President Macron is due to discuss the virus/lockdown with his cronies tomorrow, and we fear another lockdown on the cards, as the Kent variant is on the spread. Paris and north east France are already in lockdown. Anyhow, I am very pleased for you lot in the UK now you have semi freedom after your awful three month long lockdown. I have felt for you, what a bloody nightmare that must have been.

Take care xx

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

The Sentier Botanique, Montreal

Montreal is a nearby hilltop village that we can see from our house, on the edge of the Malepere range of hills. This botanical walk is an easy 3.5km round walk, with a further loop to extend it by several more kms if wanted. Plenty more paths lead off in various directions but the one we are interested in here is the main, botanical trail, which has many boards giving information on the varied plants and trees growing in this forest. 

We went here first at the end of July last year when it was drying out so there were few flowers out - even so, there were plenty of butterflies about. We wanted to see what it was like here through the spring so we set off one day last week when the weather was fine and mild, and had a lovely few hours. I took tons of photos of course, so I will just mostly caption them and try not to type too much blurb! πŸ˜€


It was lovely to see the swathes of low growing early spring flowers; above Lesser Celandine gives a lovely sunny glow to the sides of the path.


What's so interesting for us around here is the mixture of plants that we are familiar with, and ones which are more Mediterranean such as this Tree Heather. There are also a mix of four species of native oaks in this forest, plus the introduced American Red Oak. At the very beginning of the walk, where it is quite open and sunny, there is a little patch of typical garrigue plants - Kermes Oak, which is a short, shrub like ivy-looking evergreen oak, and some Cistus Rock Roses, amongst others.

The following plants are ones that are common in northern Europe, notably - Pulmonaria:


Vinca mixed in with the Lesser Celandine:


and Cuckoo Flower/Lady's Smock (Cardamine pratensis):


It was a day of firsts - the first Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps heard singing, and then the first Orange Tip butterfly spotted. I was a fair distance from it but was using my Lumix bridge camera zoomed in rather than my SX50 which I use for macro. I stood around focussing on the flowers as the butterfly kept coming back so was able to get several shots in flight - not as sharp as I would have liked but I didn't want to change the settings for a faster speed and miss out on shooting the butterfly!






I managed the same with this male Brimstone - in the second picture it is just coming into land. You don't normally see their wings open as they always hold them closed when not in flight.






If I'd been on my own I would have spent more time trying to shoot the many Bee Flies buzzing around, but K was always 20 paces ahead of me waiting for me. πŸ˜‚ You can just see one resting in the middle of the leaf and another half hidden behind grass on the left of the leaf.


Part way around the track swathes of Wood Anemones appeared in amongst the Celandine.


There was tons of Lady's Smock/Cuckoo Flower as well, but we didn't hear any Cuckoos!




One of the many information boards giving info about the plants found in the forest.


At this point we took a detour way down to the valley floor to the tiny stream and even tinier 'waterfall', which was only about 10 foot high and even after a winter's worth of rain, still only a trickle. Barely worth taking a photo of! Nice to see some streams flowing though as so many of them are dried out in summer. Down near the stream where it was damper and darker there were a few different plants, notably this parasitic plant called Purple Toothwort. It's very funky!


Cowslip:


Anemone hepatica:




On the loop coming back there were the first Merisier (Wild Cherry) trees flowering. The lower growing saplings always start flowering first.




Back at the car park there is a wealth of information given about this area. This is a photo I took last summer, but I wanted to show the info given for anyone reading this who might be wanting to do the walk. The other day these bugs in the next photo were all over the wood!


These are Lygaeus equestris, a species of ground bug, commonly known as - wait for it - Black-and-Red Bugs. What, really? I wonder why? πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚


I hope to visit at least once more during the springtime to record the flora and butterflies in this little patch of paradise.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

We have a pet Hoopoe!

How would you feel if you saw a Hoopoe on your front lawn just as you were turning into your driveway? You'd be excited and amazed - and that even in summer. Now imagine you saw that Hoopoe in your garden in January, when they are supposed to be overwintering in Africa ........ 😍

Luckily it was spotted again in a neighbouring garden that afternoon so K was able to post a few distant pics of it on facebook, and learned that some Hoopoes do indeed stay around their breeding grounds all year round. I've heard some of them hang around the Med area during winter but we are an hour inland, so it's less likely here. We imagined that first bird was a one off, until last week when I spotted one sitting on our wall beside my herb bed looking somewhat dejected in the drizzle on a miserable day. K got some great shots through the kitchen window, and I got to see it raise its crest when a sparrow landed beside it! Unfortunately, that time K was not there with his camera. (I'm being lazy, as his camera is better than my SX50, and anyway, my camera wasn't to hand at the time).






We were very lucky as a couple of days later it was back again, in the same spot, on a sunny day. This time K got lucky with the camera and captured it raising its crest!








Doesn't its tail look fabulous all splayed out like that - I've not seen that before. Unfortunately when they raise their crests, it's all too brief so of course the only thing you notice is their amazing crest! We haven't seen it again, but even if we don't see one again until the summer, what luck to see one at this time of year, so close by! They aren't exactly common birds - I have only seen about 10 in total, ever. Most of those were in Greece or Spain.

Another exciting bird we saw this winter, funnily enough in almost the same place, was a Sardinian Warbler. Now they do overwinter here, but like the Hoopoe, we aren't seeing them commonly. We didn't get a photo of it as, being a typical Warbler, it was flitting about between the wall and the hedge, and searching around in amongst my parsley. So the photo below is one that K took some years back at a campsite where we were treated to a lovely open view of one, pretty close up.


Aren't they stunning?! The good thing about that red eye is that it is easy to ID them in the field even if they are distant.

In other news, I have received my vaccination! Our doctor seems to have classed me amongst the over 50s with an underlying health condition due to my past cancer. I am not complaining! Unfortunately I got the last dose in the bottle, so K, who was expecting to get his jab as well, will have to wait, although he should get it pretty soon.

PS. Lockdown hair! I did actually cut it twice last summer, with K's help. Then it grew again and I didn't want to go to a hairdresser and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my hair, so I just let it grow. Now I can get it in a pony tail! Still unsure what to do. I'll probably get it all cut off again when Covid is a distant memory.


I have some more posts to come (in the mood now!) but will leave you with this slightly shorter than usual post. πŸ˜€

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Honey Bee on Sedum

Honey Bee on Sedum

Dewy Web

Dewy Web

Coneflowers

Coneflowers

Broad Bodied Chaser

Broad Bodied Chaser

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

Cats past and present

Cats past and present

Cats Past and Present

Cats Past and Present

Holly Blue Butterfly

Holly Blue Butterfly

Swallowtail Butterfly

Swallowtail Butterfly

Nuthatch

Nuthatch

Cricket

Cricket

Dahlia

Dahlia

Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Swallowtail Caterpillar

Swallowtail Caterpillar