Nightingales with megaphones

Posy of June flowers  Garrigue
Freshly picked from the Languedoc garrigue in early June

How time flies! Two weeks ago I was staying with a friend who runs a chambres d’hote in the Languedoc. The house is in the garrigue. Garrigue is not just low growing shrubs and plants like rosemary but also comprises trees including pines, juniper and evergreen oaks interspersed with the occasional vineyard. The stony golden earth is home to a rich flora.

The highways people have been stripping areas back from the road of scrub (presumably a fire thing?), and other plants have taken advantage of this. Clematis flammula was growing in fresh dark green humps over the ground, the small white flowers just coming out (lost mine this winter along with a C rehederiana – why?). Lonicera etrusca with fine spidery scented trumpet flowers is covetable for the garden, the stem appears to pierce through a series of twinned cupped leaves. Phlomis lychnitis is definitely something I’d seek out for the drier garden as well. Low growing with silvered furry leaves and clear lemon flowers. An odd tightly growing little shrub with small cream flowers was Daphne gnidium.

Some grasses and other plants were already dried, a form of wild oat? bleached almost white looked gorgeous in the lowering evening sunlight.  Various helichrysums were also just coming into full-flower, tuffets of silver leaves topped with pale yellow bobbles. Also very close to home I found a splendid Lizard Orchid over a foot tall which the French call Goat Orchid as it apparently smells of goat.

Nightingales with megaphones
Nightingale song could be heard not just at night, they seemed to be everywhere and were even more noticeable over the Spanish border in the area around Girona. Whilst it can be lovely it’s also LOUDER than anyone else too. I also heard hoo, hoo and fleetingly saw the chestnut back and a glimpse of the raised barred crest of a Hoopoe. It flies like a Woodpecker in short dipping bursts. Also I heard Cuckoos – on their way back to Africa from elsewhere or local and staying longer? The sound of newly emerged Cicadas was also being added to the soundscape, the temperature had got high enough to trigger their hatching.

Meanwhile in Languedoc gardens
Oleander was in full flower in many colours, used mainly as hedging. In one town we passed through a really intensely dark blue Morning Glory tumbled over a gateway and in another a Caesalpinia gilliesii cockily strutted its stuff.

Very jealous of Dan Pearson who wrote about his visit to Annie’s Annuals in California in last week’s Observer. And shame on Joe Swift for not embracing the hanging basket ethos fully on Gardener’s World this week.