Practical Ecology

Nature Switched On





in the Pyrenees  the first 10 years

floristic catalogue
faunistic catalogue
gallery 1: 2006-2012
gallery 2: 2012-

>> 2008 Jul 15
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                         a   S T A M M E R  project              

2008 June 14 - 29

The vegetation is at its most abundant these days. It is quite difficult to illustrate this extraordinary abundance, complexity and subtleties on a computer screen or even on any reproduction medium whatsoever. It's so much easier to give an impression of an ordinary garden with screaming colours and clear-cut edges.

To improve the definition and depth of a photograph, it sometimes helps to make use of backlighting, as illustrated in the two photographs below.




Flowering Hypericum perforatum, Orlaya grandiflora and Scabiosa columbaria.
Northern terrace, looking north.
24 June 20:44

  Flowering Santolina chamaecyparissus and Orlaya grandiflora.
Central eastern terrace, looking east.
15 June 9:01

Lowest terrace. Looking north-west.
20 June 20:15

Central terrace looking north-west.
20 June 20:18


Little by little it's getting hotter and we couldn't resist to have a bath in the pond. The water is not crystal clear but itīs pure rainwater and the regular pumping (for the moment with a car battery) and streaming will oxygenate and filter the water.



Blanca having a bath in the lowest pond.
Observe how the vegetation covers the liner edge completely.
21 June 21:37



The vines I pruned on 24 May are growing very fast and needed urgently some support. Inspired by a nice structure I saw at the 2008 World Expo in Zaragoza, I set about to construct several trellis with Giant reed (Arundo donax), which grows abundantly near rivers and irrigation canals all over the Mediterranean. It is not so strong as I expected, in fact much weaker than Bamboo and I had to 'splint' the structure a couple of times. I suppose it will only  last a couple of years, probably sufficient for the vines to become independent.







Reed trellis, the shapes copying the hills at the background.
Central terrace, looking north-west.
26 June18:56

Trellis made from Giant reed.
26 June 18:48


Having finished the foundation walls for the garden house, one of the following steps is the building of the south facing walls with 'rammed earth'. The first soil tests were very promising and now I set up a more serious test, in fact a kind of miniature version of the final set-up. I used the soil extracted from the foundation trenches and the only thing I added was a cup of water to 10 litres of soil. I applied two layers of 8 cm and 15 cm,  which were successively rammed for about 15 minutes. After taking away the forms, I could instantly admire the results which looked very promising too. Especially the bottom layer looked extremely smooth and  compacted as if it were concrete. The corners and edges were a bit rough but this should be solved with the introduction of chamfer strips on the forms.



Crucial is the absence of any mayor cracks after some days of drying which would indicate a too high clay content. After three days 'baking' in the sun the two blocks I had made looked still intact.


Metal clamps, wooden forms and a pole as a tamper.
26 June 17:25


After taking away the forms.
Observe the two layers, the second showing a clear transition (due to less compression).
26 June17:50 




After three days drying in the sun.
29 June 17:05



I had to resist an urge to mow down some areas were the vegetation was quite tall and dense. These areas will probably benefit from two cuts in stead of one a year but the vegetation looked so nice with many flowering plants that I will wait for September for a single cut. I also want to spare plants like Verbascum blattaria and Althaea cannabina so that they will be able to produce and spread their seed.


On the left the area mown on 31 May on the lowest terrace. On the right the unmown area .
Looking north-east.
26 June 19:30

Verbascum blattaria in the unmown area.
Looking north.
27 June 10:42


This creature was quite busy spreading its descendents. It's an Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator), one of the biggest Dragonflies and quite common. The females have a characteristic green thorax and abdomen and fly around (alone) with a typically curved body when laying their eggs.

On the photograph it is laying eggs on Veronica beccapunga, which I planted some months ago. Its leaves are quite smaller than when planted and this must be a clear indication of the nutrient poor conditions of this rainwater pond.

  Anax imperator laying eggs  on Veronica beccapunga.
29 June 13:53



More than a year ago I planted this Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) next to the bio wall. It's is growing well, probably taking advantage of the half-shade of the wall and started flowering these days.
The Common Ivy (Hedera helix, on the same photograph on the right) planted in March this year is also doing fine. It is still not clear if it will be able to stick to these cement blocks. The holes and spaces inside this wall don't seem to be much visited by wild life, but some weeks ago I spotted a young Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus) sunbathing on the south face. I doubt that the bats for which I erected this wall in the first place have returned, but let's be patient.


The bio wall with the planted Achillea millefolium and Hedera helix.
26 June18:35
  Agrimonia eupatoria is thriving excepcionally well this year.
At the back the bio wall.
26 June18:38


In the following paragraphs a summary of some conspicuous plants flowering these days.

Sedum reflexum (=S. rupestre) was planted all over the terrain in last March and started to flower half June. It grows spontaneously in the higher Pyrenees on more acid soils but is doing fine here so far.  It will also be used on the 'green roof' of our future house and garden house to which it will add the nice blue-green colour of its leaves and the intense yellow colour of its flowers.


Sedum reflexum on the central terrace.
Looking south-west.
26 June 18:26

Close-up of the inflorescence of Sedum reflexum.
29 June10:56



Eight plants of Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) are showing their spectacular flowers. At the beginning the flowers actually form a perfect pyramid but later on they become more conical.



Anacamptis pyramidalis on the central terrace, looking north.
14 June 13:56

The same flower one week later.
20 June 19:56


Ononis natrix has beautiful yellow flowers with red veins, covers large areas on the drier highest terraces and has been flowering for many weeks now.

Close-up of an Ononis natrix
15 June14:47

Vegetation dominated by Ononis natrix.
15 June 14:49



Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa) is one of the many Centaureas on the terrain, of which it has the biggest flowers that nevertheless don't develop always as nicely as on the photograph on the right.



A patch of Centaurea scabiosa on the northern central terrace.
Looking north-east.
15 June 9:22

Close-up of Centaurea scabiosa.
15 June 19:33


Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis lutea) is a short-lived perennial which was planted last March and started to flower at the end of June. It grows naturally in the higher Pyrenees but is also used in regular gardens where it readily self-sows and can even become weedy.

This is a spontaneous newcomer, the formidable Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Of all the thistles it has the biggest and sharpest thorns and the plant can reach a height of more than 2 metres.

Digitalis lutea in the half shade of the oak wood.
27 June11:13
  Cirsium vulgare on the lowest terrace:
27 June 10:51


Much more modest but with surprising decorative effect is this Galium fruticescens which grows here and there all over the terrain.                               


  Galium fruticescens on the central terrace with the pond at the background.
Looking north.
26 June 19:10

floristic catalogue
faunistic catalogue
gallery 1: 2006-2012
gallery 2: 2012-

>> 2008 Jul 15
<< 2008 Jun  7











Latest revision on:  01/08/2018