Maudez, Mushrooms and Medlars…

November has been very mild so far. Whether it’s been rainy, windy, calm or sunny the accompanying air has been warm and soft.

Just one night of dipping temperatures at the end of October brought a slight frost which burnt the dahlias without blackening the stems or turning them to mush. So a few straggling flowers remain – but they look understandably tired now.

The freshness in the garden is provided by the blooms on Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’. Just outside the door the fragrance is subtle but delicious and the pale pink clusters are more numerous than last year. It’s an untidy looking shrub with not much interest outside it’s flowering season which is now.

I will try to prune it to give it a ‘better’ more compact shape but I’m not hopeful.

But now on to the ‘M’s of my title:

Maudez. So familiar but always good. Here, the ruined chapel and the path through the pines. Beautiful light. Fairly squelchy underfoot in places. Lots of gone over ‘Slippery Jack’ (Sullius bovinus) mushrooms, and a lovely harvest of Hedgehog fungus (Hydnum repandum.)

Mushrooms…. Not just the Hedgehog Fungus. I’ve had several pickings from a roadside patch of Snowy Waxcaps (Hygrocybe nivea).


This is a beautiful little tree. Five years old now? Not sure.

Its French colloquial name is ‘cul de chien’ or dog’s arse (the first photo will explain that!)

Best harvest ever. I’ve put them in a tray to ‘blet’ Basically that means you just leave them to get so ripe that they’re squidgy and almost rotting. That would put almost anyone off eating them. But they taste like baked apple without having to put them in the oven!

A rush to fill up October… it’s Acers!

As the month reaches its end I find lots of positives.

Japanese Maples/Erables du Japan/Acer palmatum japonicum…

I wish I could say these are all growing in my garden, but I can’t! Most of the ones in my garden that I planted four years ago succumbed to some deadly lurgy, although I’ve still got three which are later to colour than the following.

These beauties are growing lustily in Michel’s garden. The last photo is a seedling from Michel. He’s also donated seeds… so, perhaps… one day….

October continues…

A distinct lack of settled weather and sunshine, but that means I’m treasuring the short bursts of warmth and soaking up the rays when they manage to get through the clouds and damp.

A pleasing array of butterflies emerge every time the sun shines:

Red Admiral and Comma. Both typical, late season, butterflies. But in fewer numbers this autumn. I don’t know why?

Speckled Wood and Wall Brown. Both quite unremarkable at first glance, but such characterful, feisty – even pugnacious butterflies – I’ve got a soft spot for them both.

There’s not many birds that seem as stupid as a pheasant, unless it’s a Wood Pigeon! The pheasants whirr and clatter and squawk and seem to be unable to understand that they can escape from you by going sideways into a field (or even by flying away!) Instead they just keep running in front of me, getting ever more frantic!

Oh no October!

I know all seasons are wonderful and all weather is just weather…However, I have to say that I am not a fan of anything much after September (October?) I don’t like the loss of light. I don’t like the damp. I don’t like the feeling of everything drawing back into itself and starting to dig in to hibernate…

I’m hoping that this post will fill up with wonderful things to disprove my title!

My last guy/gal standing… Despite the rain my last Swallowtail caterpillar continues munching on the carrots… One morning very soon I’ll go searching and it’ll be gone and I’ll be wondering whether it got eaten or whether it went and pupated… and I’ll never know the answer!

More Millers. What can I say that I didn’t say last year (and the year before?) I love these mushrooms. But I never get too complacent. Check the smell, is there that damp floury dough perfume? and if there’s ever a hint of not sure, do a spore print (pink) or throw away…

Huge chestnuts this year! Perhaps not so many as last year, but some real whoppers! Have been boiling and then scraping out the meat rather than just roasting on the fire… whatever way you cook them they’re lovely!

So… may well add to this but, at the moment, October is not depressing me!

… and straight into September…

And September does what it nearly always seems to do – the schools go back, the holidaymakers go home and September says “Ha! Here’s another burst of summer. Just for you”.

I’ve said thank you and made the most of it. A few (slightly clammy, it must be said) nights in the tent in the garden. Lots of sitting in the sunshine, watching the tomatoes finally ripen. Watching the swallows gather themselves readying to leave. (They left last week – on the 15th September.) But the neighbouring flock , is there a collective noun for swallows? left a couple of days later, and I counted seven stragglers sitting on the wires today…

Dahlias and Asters and Rudbeckia dominating the garden alongside the ridiculously laden apple trees.

The first few flushes of various mushrooms – a novelty still, welcome before they become common place.

Still a few butterflies gracing the garden and neighbouring fields: Red Admirals, all the confetti-like Cabbage Whites, Peacocks, Commas, Wall Browns and the occasional Clouded Yellow… I rubbed my eyes in disbelief at a pristine White Admiral which is usually only seen in high summer, in one generation – apart from exceptional years when there may be a partial second emergence… I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of it, but plenty of other pictures here:

View from my tent. Early morning…

Some of the many Dahlias and the Rudbeckia goldsturm.

A good mix of Saffron Milk caps, Millers, Charcoal Burner and a scattering of Amethyst Deceivers.

Shelling bean ‘Cocos de Prague’ – a good harvest. Enough to dry and eat over the coming months and enough to sow next year.

A beautifully fresh Red Admiral, nectaring on a pink Aster.

What happened to August?

Or more to the point, why no post? Here are some of the best bits before I’m posting again asking the same question about September:

The North Coast between Plouescat and Goulven. Lots of dunes and fine, shimmering white sand. Not that much visited previously. But will become a new favourite I think.

The first of the plum harvest. Damsons and ‘Victoria’.

Morning Glory (Ipomea) ‘Milky Way’ and ‘Grandpa Ott’. From seed this spring. One pot of these is clambering into the overhanging oak branches. No leaves left in the vines, but still a new flower every morning.

Sooty Copper. The purple iridescence is quite marked when the sun catches the wings…

Common Blue. Actually not that common here. This is the one of the very few. I’ve seen this year – on Sea Holly – at Plouescat

Just outside the garden…

A few photos of round and about… The fields and meadows have been beautiful this year; such a variety of grasses and flowers, and such lushness. And all on my doorstep.

‘My’ field, obviously no such thing, but it’s the field my garden was carved out of, and flanks it on one side. The first picture is after it was cut for silage earlier…

And the re-growth now. And the amazing flowers! When this was originally sown for permanent pasture it was with ryegrass. It took two or three years to not look patchy, and to be honest never looked that great… but the past two years have seen a transformation. So many wildflowers. I said last year that I should be systematically trying to record what’s growing here, but of course I haven’t (yet?)

Water meadow nearby after having been cut for hay. The darker green zig zag is the rush growing back more vigorously than the grass where the various streams flow/drain down to the valley bottom.

Track in the Landes de Kerlouet. Heather, gorse, bracken and ‘le Miroir’ butterfly.

Walking through the pines at St. Maudez.

I’m very lucky.

Part Three: the Butterflies…

I’ve been holding off on this butterfly post waiting, waiting and some more waiting for the first appearance of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris). New camera with super zoom at the ready. But, sadly the colony has disappeared this year … or despite all my hours spent scouring the oak trees with my binoculars I just haven’t been there at the right time. So, no Purple Emperor photos. If the colony has died out there are many possible reasons, but the most likely may be weather related. As I understand it the week or so of heavy rain and colder temperatures in June just as the butterfly was about to emerge meant that it stalled, and was predated on as a result. And night time temperatures were chillier and windier than the Purple Emperor likes…

However, that’s not to say that there haven’t been butterflies! And amongst them two new species for me here.

First of these is the Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia).

It’s one of the rarest UK butterflies and although widespread in Europe its habitat preference – Heathland – is becoming increasingly scarce. However, as luck would have it, there’s a bit of an abundance of Heathland here! But this one had found its way into my garden.

The next is also a new to me species. This one again likes Heathland and isn’t found in the UK. In French it’s called ‘Le Miroir’ because of the markings on its underwings. In English it’s called the Large Chequered Skipper (Heteropterus morpheus). I photographed it up on the Landes de St Maudez, and then the following day on the Landes de Kerlouet. Again, it’s habitat preferences make it relatively uncommon in France – Brittany being one of the few places with damp, acid heathland, is one of its strongholds.

This Common Blue is a bit of a misnomer – not being that common at all here at least not in my garden where the ‘blue’ that’s around almost all year is the Holly Blue. It’s not by any means rare but I’m not confident identifying them and got help from the butterfly forum I use a lot. There were five or six of them bombing around in the sunshine, but this one sat still long enough for me to photograph it.

The first butterfly pictrue I posted this year was of a tatty Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) that was in my porch. This beautiful, pristine one spent a couple of days mainly on the Verbena bonariensis in the garden. I’ve spotted several this year.

A Purple Hairstreak (Favonius quercus). Like the Purple Emperor this one spends most of its time up in the canopy of oak trees where it is hard to photograph. But if the weather is good it comes down in the morning onto bramble flowers, and in the evening – always at around 6 or 7pm – I can watch the little colony in the garden whirling and boxing each other in the late sunshine; looking like a handful of 5p coins chucked up in the sky! The ‘purple’ refers to the iridescent upper-wing which you don’t often see as it usually perches with its wings closed.

of course these are just a few highlights. There will, I hope, be more…

Part two… edibles

The first asparagus. Not the chunkiest, but the supply was good. There have been vole depredations, so some crowns have been badly, or totally, eaten. But there was still a decent crop, and enough crowns in good enough condition to grow on for next year.

Didn’t grow these myself. Field beans, féverolles, thieved perhaps would be accurate, seeing as I’ve been filching them from a nearby field … little mini broad beans. Very tasty. The basket was a birthday present from Anne-lise, a basket maker friend.

The almost last artichokes prepared for cooking. I love having them, but have to say that I am less excited by eating them these days. The plants themselves, I still love. Beautiful, dramatic foliage and when the artichokes flower… well the bees just adore them. Any that are left now in the garden are for the pleasure of seeing bumble bees laying cushioned on the flower heads, drunk on the nectar.