Photo Project 2017: A Year in Flowers

Welcome to my 2017 Photo Project which this year is going to be a weekly picture of a single flowering plant found in the garden - no cheating by photographing wildflowers when we are out walking!

You can read about my inspiration for this idea Here

Week One January 2nd

Japanese or Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles

Week Two January 9th

Winter flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera Fragrantissima. 
We planted this outside our bedroom window to enjoy the winter scent, although it has been too cold at night to open the window for the last few weeks! The bees love it, although it has been too cold for them as well.

Week Three January 16th

A very sad and rain-battered bunch of primroses. There is an ever growing collection of these in the grass, escapees from my neighbour's garden. By March this patch of the garden will be full of their purple, white and pale lemon flowers. Today, they are the only flowers in the garden; even the dandelions have closed up tight.

Week Four January 23rd

Euphorbia helioscopia, Sun Spurge or L'euphorbe réveille-matin. There are no insects around at the moment, thanks to hard frosts at night and cold days. A proper winter for the first time in a few years. I have used as much wild bird feed already this winter as in the whole of the winter of 2015-16.

Week Five January 31st

The first sign of spring - this tiny dwarf narcissus in the herb garden appears to have almost been and gone in the blink of an eye.

Week Six February 6th

Apologies for another daffodil, but after a weekend of storms this was just about the only thing not battered to the ground! Over the years I've planted between two and three hundred bulbs along the drive and over the years the voles have eaten all but three small clumps.

Week Seven February 13th

A really dull day today, so the crocuses are only just open. I am pretty certain that I planted classic purple bulbs ...  It feels warm and very spring-like in the garden with the birds in full voice.

Week Ten March 7th

We have been away for two weeks and in that time the garden has come alive with a choice of flowers - the odd primroses have become great clumps, the scent from the winter flowering honeysuckle carries far and the lesser celandine has erupted throughout the grass (and vegetable garden). And to think I tried to eradicate this little gem from my Oxford garden!

But nothing brightens up this dull day like the first marsh marigold or king cup flowering in the pond.

Week Eleven 13th March

The first flushes of Blackthorn blooms have appeared on our south facing hill slopes and by the end of the week the north facing hedgerows and woodland will be lit up by the intense white. We'll make a note of where the most accessible patches are in preparation for harvesting the sloes in August and September. They are one of the wild things that the French don't seem to forage for around here - no history of gin drinking, perhaps?

Week Twelve 20th March

Cowslips (primula veris) or Fleur de Coucou - these were a gift from friends who live twenty minutes or so away but while they thrive there they have struggled to establish on my solid cold wet clay. They are flowers I associate with the chalk lands of southern England; they were certainly (and hopefully still are) a joy to behold on our local stamping ground of Totternhoe Nature Reserve.

Week Thirteen 27th March

Borage (Borago Officinalis) or Bourrache

One of my favourite flowers; in a mild winter the plants will continue growing and it will flower very early. This year we have had to wait for new seeds to germinate so the first flush of flowers have only just arrived. It self-seeds everywhere and I just pick and choose the plants to keep - the rest go on the compost heap, or are chopped up and put directly onto the ground as a mulch or the leaves go into a bucket of water to make a liquid feed. The bees and other pollinating insects love the simple open flowers, as do we in salads, preserves and drinks.

Week Fourteen  3rd April

Bugle (Ajuga reptans) or Bugle Rampante

Bugle springs up everywhere and is much loved by many species of butterfly. It is a plant I welcome because its habit of spreading over the ground helped keep our poor bare soil in place when there were few other plants. It competes well with the pasture grasses.

Week Fifteen 10th April


It just has to be cherry blossom!

The Napolean Bigarreau is covered in blossom for the very first time this year - like many things it has taken a few years to really get its feet into the clay. Will we get more than the four cherries harvested last year?

Week Sixteen  17th April (Easter Monday)

Grevillea Juniperina 

Wherever possible I try to grow plants that are native or at least have become long-established in southern Europe as in general they will provide the best opportunities for our dwindling native wildlife, but I was seduced by this Australian beauty. Plus it likes the harsh dry thin-soiled south facing bank where many other natives have foundered.

Week Seventeen April 24th

Phacelia Tanacetifolia

This gorgeous blue flower is my green manure of choice in the potager. 
Any empty ground that is finished with for the rest of the season and is not going to spend the winter under a mulch of manure or compost will get a sowing of phacelia. In mild winters the plants will survive and begin flowering nice and early for the bees and other pollinators but, as in this year where it has been cold and frosty, the plants will get knocked back and themselves provide a mulch. I hate having a bare patch of soil for the sun to bake or the rains to wash out!
When it is time to plant, phacelia is easy to remove and goes onto the compost heap; I use masses of compost to mulch the ground around new plants and sowings once again to protect the soil and keep the moisture in.

Week Eighteen 4th May

Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)

This perennial wild flower of wet meadows and roadside verges thrives in our sun-baked clay meadow, marking the routes where the water drains downhill after a rainfall. The whole area seems dry to me, but the plant knows better!

Week Nineteen (8th May)


Loved by the bees - you should hear the hum this morning - and by organic gardeners as the leaves make a fabulous although stinky liquid fertilizer. Having a fairly large plot I ignored the advice to buy sterile plants and grew plants from seed. I now have this exceptionally deep rooted plant popping up all over the place!

Week Twenty May 15th

This week is a special two for one deal - can you imagine just how stunning the wheat fields must have looked (and sounded) when they were full of weeds like

poppies (above) and cornflowers (below)?

These are both self-seeded in the vegetable garden, the poppies arriving of their volition and the cornflowers from previous plantings. Where possible I leave these kinds of guests in place and work around them!

Week Twenty-one 22nd May

Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)
I sowed a few of these a couple of years ago and they now pop up all over the place in a range of colours from deep blue to pure white. The white looks fabulous set against the deep blue honeywort and the later seed heads are very dramatic.

Week Twenty-two 30th May

Bird's-foot Trefoil
The flower meadow is a sea of these from early spring making it a good place to watch common blue butterflies - the adults feed from the flower and the caterpillars on the plant. 

Week Twenty-three June 5th

Brown knapweed (centaurea jacea)
Another wildflower that has made itself at home, this time choosing the banks above the house. 

Week Twenty-four June 12th

Morning Glory (Ipomoea, Belle de Jour)
These beauties are rampant in the vegetable garden and elsewhere, climbing up every pole and frame before self-seeding like mad. I haven't bought or sown seed for many years, simple relocating seedlings to where I want them. One clump, harvested from the top of the compost heap has gone back to the UK!

Week Twenty-five June 19th

Sunflower Earthwalker and a blue sky - summer in the south west of France!
The marsh tits are already checking out the flowers just waiting for the seeds to be ready. I never get to collect any.

Week Twenty-six June 26th

Echinacea Purpurea
The first flowers on this hardy perennial - I would expect them to be covered in bees and butterflies, although not in the rain when this picture was taken. It happily self-seeds (my favourite kind of plant) but has a real battle with slugs and snails to get beyond the seedling stage, so I collect the seeds and sow into trays in the spring.

Week twenty-seven

Honeysuckle - the scent of a summer evening. This plant is growing over an arch leading out to the wildflower meadow and is a cutting from the huge one growing over the pergola. That in turn was a cutting taken from a plant growing at a friend's house up in the Lot. It is a testament to this plant that it is as happy on the hot and stony limestone plateau of the Causse as the hot solid clay and boulders that grace my plot.

Week Twenty-eight 10th July

Gaura Gaudi Red in the rain.
One of the plants thriving in a bed dedicated to red and purple, although somehow some Golden Rod has slipped in and will need to be split and relocated in the autumn.

Week Twenty-nine 17th July

I sow a load of this every year and bung plants into every spare corner of the vegetable garden; they look gorgeous and bring in the pollinators, too. This is from a packet of Sensation Mix, but I save seed as well as buying: one day I'd love to be self-sufficient in most seed.

Week Thirty 24th July

Wild blackberries are in full flower now in all the hedges, in colours ranging from this pretty pinky purple to pure white.  They are covered in gatekeeper butterflies and tiny bees at the moment, while we look forward to blackberry and apple crumbles and pies, not to mention some local venison (courtesy of la chasse) with blackberry sauce!

Week Thirty-one 31st July

Rosa Rugosa Alba
I bought a job lot of mixed Rosa Rugosa two years ago, not knowing what colours we would be getting. There are two Alba like this one plus a deep, rich purple-pink. Mixed in with a few different buddleia they form a low informal floral hedge.

Week Thirty-two
7th August

Blue Cardinal Flower (lobelia siphilitica) 
This plant is growing in the margins of the pond, but I've had to water it a few times a week since June because the water level has dropped below the shelves for marginal plants. The pond is only ever completely full in winter.

Week Thirty-three 
14th August

Mexican or Aztec Marigold, Rose d'Inde (Tagetes Erecta) on a blistering hot day.
I sow and plant this annual to bring pollinators into the vegetable garden, bunging a plant in wherever there is a gap. It is one of the few flowers that doesn't self-seed all over the place and I do have to be a little careful as the slugs love it. But that's better than them munching the lettuces!

Week Thirty-four 
21st August

A Pea! 
A sugar snap variety that has cropped very poorly this summer thanks to a combination of mildew and fusarium wilt, buy I like the subtle green veining on the pure white flower.

Week Thirty-five
28th August

A nasturtium, and like so many of the flowers in the garden these are also self sown. 
They are left to amble where they like with the exception of in the brassica patch. Cabbage white butterflies will lay their eggs on nasturtiums and I don't want them to be attracted to my valuable winter cabbages and kales! The flowers and leaves get used in salads and the pods are added to pickles for a little bit of pop and crunch!

Week Thirty-six
4th September

Week Thirty-eight
19th September

I'm a bit of a dahlia fan, the brighter and bolder the better. This one is in a pot surrounded by (and sometimes swamped by) morning glories!

Week Thirty-nine
25th September

A member of the wormwood family, this absinthe was donated to me by a neighbour with the assurance that it will kill all pests and diseases in the garden and home!

Week Forty
 2nd October

Pineapple Sage (salvia elegans)
Sadly there are no hummingbirds to enjoy the flowers, but the splash of red is welcome in the gloomier days of autumn, while the leaves remind me of pineapple-flavoured chewy sweets we ate as children. This photo was grabbed in a brief sunny interlude between spells of rain.

Week Forty-one
9th October

Red clover, trifolium pratense, (with crab spider).
We have loads of clovers quietly doing their thing throughout the garden, hardly surprising as this was once a field. 

Week Forty-two
16th October

Geranium Sanguineum or Bloody Crane's Bill
These flower in spring and then after a May haircut they come back again in late summer and will keep going right through the autumn. I love the way they are slowly filling a bed and smothering out the weeds.

Week Forty-three
23rd October

Buddleia Flower Power
One of several varieties which form a row between the fruit trees and the meadow, eventually they'll form a loose flowery hedge. Even this late in October they are awash with peacock butterflies on sunny days.

Week Forty-four
30th October

Aubergine Violetta di Firenze
There are still plenty of aubergine flowers in the potager but it is probably too late in the year for any of them to produce viable fruit. 

Week Forty-five
6th November

Self-sown marigold 
They will keep flowering right through the winter unless it turns very cold. After a weekend of rain and the first significant snowfall in the mountains, finding flowers is going to get a lot harder for the rest of the year!

Week Forty-six
13th November

Cerinthe Major Purpurascens or Blue Honeywort
Another self sown gift beloved of bees and other pollinators and quite oblivious to the arrival of the frost!

Week Forty-seven
20th November

Pink blushed yellow rose in the frost this morning.
Roses do well in our heavy clay and this one is traditionally planted at the end of a row of vines.

Week Forty-eight
27th November

Phlomis purpurea, purple Jerusalem sage.
At the back of the herb garden in a south facing rain shadow beneath our bedroom window, this interesting shrub, a native from the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, has been flowering continuously since the spring. The classic woolly leaves picked up the frost really well this morning.

Week Forty-nine
5th December

Somehow this tender perennial is hanging on in a pot partly under the pergola and partly under the roof of the covered terrace. In theory it is not frost hardy, but last night as every night for the last four or five, the thermometer in the most sheltered corner of the terrace was reading minus four and there was ice on the bowl of water left out for any passing animals in need.

Week Fifty
11th December

There are a couple of very early and very bedraggled flowers on the forsythia this morning. After a week of gales, snow, hard frosts and torrential rain that is all I could find!

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