a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Turning a page on May


My last fruit tree is in blossom now.  It blossoms very late in the season and it also fruits late in the year.  My persimmon tree is in the front garden giving us shade with its dense, dark green thick leaves.  I picked the fruit a little early last year in early December as the bright red fruit is too tempting for the birds and they ripen well indoors in the cool.  My crop lasted into February (see my post Last Persimmons of the Season ).

Throughout May everyday something seems to appear and break into flower, unfortunately it can appear under some of the more exuberant growth and get lost.  My Nigella self-seeds and fills the borders, just as the forget-me-nots did a few weeks ago.  I find it difficult to pull them out and control them more harshly as it has not been long since there were so few flowers in the garden, and then the bees love the forget-me-nots.

The perfumes in the garden have changed too.  The Wisteria has finished flowering and it is now the turn of the Philadelphus to perfume the air.  I have several different types planted but they are all beautiful and much appreciated by the bees.

The Spanish broom is very fragrant and I have planted several along the back hedge.  I grew it from seeds where it was growing on coastal paths.  It is drought tolerant and can take plenty of sun.  It grows very rapidly so I will have to be more severe in my cutting back as it is getting too leggy.  The broom is the plant of choice at the moment for the carpenter bees along with the Jasmine.

Flowers also bring back memories.  These poppies were grown from seeds that I brought back from the Manoir de Bagnegrole in the Perigord where I spent a wonderful holiday.  The gardens were magnificent and we found 12 types of wild orchids growing on their lands behind their gardens.

We have one Pyramid orchid in the front garden and another in the back garden which we cherish but it is hardly up to Bagnegrole standards!

I have  honeysuckle in several places in the garden and  its heavy perfume fills the air in the sunshine and can waft for some distance on the breeze.

I have noticed some queen bumble bees around, I am a bit surprised as the Bumblebee Conservation Trust http://bumblebeeconservation.org/ says to look out for them in July.  We may be a whole month earlier over here or it maybe it is an early year for queens to appear.

I have several oriental poppies in the garden and it amuses me to see the bees with coal black pollen sacs like this one above.  It looks as if they are flying with little sacks of coal around their legs.

We have a good number of ladybirds in the garden but this year they are out classed by an abundance of chafers which are much too big for them to tackle.

This is a rose chafer on the rose but the other chafers seem just as happy to gorge on the centre of the roses leaving them empty of their stamens and pollen.  Hopefully, the bees are smaller and have already been there, done that and had all the best pollen.

I have geraniums wherever I want some ground cover or need a space filling as they are very tolerant and grow quickly.  This little bee is demonstrating how much he loves my geraniums.

This one was enjoying messing around in my clumps of Nigella it looks as if he has a problem getting his pollen in the right place or maybe he just doesn’t care.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

9 thoughts on “Turning a page on May

  1. Seems like you have as many different types of bees as me. Interestingly some of your plants flower atthe same time as mine and others later. One variety of Philadelphus has finished but a second, bought as Belle Etoile (but I don’t think it is) is full of flower now.


    • I think some plants have their season which is less dependant on the warmth than others, it is interesting to compare what comes up where! I know one of my doubles is “Virginalis” and I have “Snow Velvet” in intensive care at the moment but that was my fault as I let it suffocate with too much competition when it was only little. The others I am afraid I have forgotten what they are called. I think keeping a blog could help you remember what you planted.


  2. Really gorgeous photos. How easy is it to tell whether a bumble bee is a queen, are they hugely bigger?


    • Yes, there is a big difference in size. Some of the queens have the same markings as the workers and others like the red-tailed have different markings. The two on the honeysuckle were very large. I had a lot of red-tailed queens in the spring but I have seen very few workers and no queens yet. I have not seen any of the rarer bumble bees at all.


      • Thanks…I am worried about the bumble bees this year after the six weeks of rain we had here in the UK. As they don’t store big quantities of honey it must have been very hard for them to keep going. Butterfly numbers seem to be really down too.


        • We have not had that amount of rain, in fact not really enough. I have been thinking about putting some “safe” sources of water for the bees in the garden as we have several places for the birds to drink from but I never see bees there. We have had a lot of bees in the garden this year, especially bumble bees and many more carpenter bees but I think that is because the garden is just starting to mature and provide a continuous supply of pollen and nectar. Before us it had been neglected with little planted. O.K. when the brambles flowered but nothing virtually in between times (slight exaggeration here, sorry.) We seem to have plenty of butterflies but I do not get as excited about them.


  3. Your chafers look to be related to our June Bugs…or Japanese Beetles. Are they of the same genus?
    As always, your photos are fantastic! And commentary so good. I love coming to your French Garden!


    • What is called a Rose chafer in the UK is Cetonia aurata. What you folks across the water call a June bug is Cotinus nitida or the Japanese beetles Popillia japonica. Complicated isn’t it? But you are right, they are related and are all scarab beetles. Some can be agricultural pests and I can believe that as they can make short work of the centres of flowers. It does remind me to try to add the Latin names as much as I can as the common names of plants, flowers and insects can be very confusing and can even vary from one part of the same country to another. I had been admiring some products in France that had been dyed with pastel, a natural pigment, from the plant Isatis tinctoria, it was not until I saw a blog recently that was growing it in the garden that I realised it was woad!


  4. Bagnegrole is paradise. Monique is wonderful.


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