a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Looking back on June in the woods


June in our area of the Charente Maritime was a month of contrasts as far as the weather went.  It was off/on, hot/cold, sunny/cloudy but as far as our walking went we could not have asked for any better. There are so many flowers around just now.  All are beautiful, most are common , but none the less lovely.  I can recognise some and others not although I am trying!

Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris)

Field-scabious (Knautia-arvensi)

Wild carrot (Daucus-carota)

Yellow Loosestrife, (Lysimachia punctata)

It does mean I do not see as many bumble bees when we are walking.  Earlier in the year they were vying for the more limited nectar and pollen sources, now they are spoilt for choice and of course the white and red clover, a favourite food of the bumble bees, is everywhere.

The woods themselves are much quieter places than in spring but are full of the Meadow Brown butterflies that flutter in and out of the glades of sunshine.  They feed on the nectar from flowers such as bramble and thistle and there is plenty of that available just now.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) mating

We watched this pair mating and flying in tandem with complete coordination, taking off and landing although I could not quite see if that would involve both of them flying sideways or one flying backwards and the other leading.

Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria)

The Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) is another common butterfly in the woods as it feeds on tree sap or the juice of ripe or damaged fruit rather than the nectar from flowers. Apart from our usual bees and butterflies we come across some less well-loved creatures such as beetles.  I was actually sorry for this one.

He was being given a hard time from a bunch of ants.  They were much more numerous, lighter on their feet and appeared to be getting the upper hand.  It seemed to be a territorial dispute over an old tree trunk.

Our walk in the woods beside the little river has let us see some dragonflies this month.

Having been brought up in the UK I tend to get extremely excited when I see a dragonfly.  I was just reading on The Dragonfly Woman, another WordPress site http://thedragonflywoman.com/, that they have swarms of dragonflies in the USA.  I don’t know what it is but everything seems to be super-sized over there, even their robin red-breasts are the size of thrushs.  However, I am over here and I get excited if I see just the one (or two!)  First this beautiful green-blue one.

Then this brown one, he looks a bit sad here. But I think he looks happier now.

O.K. maybe I should get out more, must be spending too much time in front of a computer screen.

The woods also provide a bounty of wild fruit for those who are interested in foraging.

The strawberries in the woods are small but delicious.

The other fruit that provides a good snack in the moment can be more difficult to reach as the trees often become leggy in the woods as they stretch towards the sun and the fruit remains temptingly out of reach.  You have to find some that have found a clearing and have some lower branches with fruit closer at hand.

These are the Griotte  or sour cherries.  These are wild cherries and have small fruit but they are not at all sour and are in fact sweet and have a good flavour.

As mid summer passes the woods are already preparing for the future.

The brambles near ground level offer their flowers to the pollinators clambering over the other plants to reach the sunniest parts.  These will give us plenty of fruit in the late summer.

Overhead the chestnut trees are in flower.  The chestnuts themselves won’t be ready until even later when the days become shorter, but for now the woods are preparing for their next act.  Life in the summer is busy in the woods.

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.

8 thoughts on “Looking back on June in the woods

  1. Your photos are stunning as always. Your ‘dragonflies’, while beautiful, are actually not both dragons. Though they both belong to the Odanata order, the blue-green one you have captured is a damselfly (Zygoptera)…and three of the easiest ways to identify one from the other is the the damsel always holds her wings above the body (usually folded) when at rest, her eyes are separated, and has a slimmer body. A dragon always spreads his.
    We do seem to have an over abundance of them here in the US, and so many different ones. Boggles the mind. But they are so beautiful and you’ve captured them wonderfully.


  2. Great images of your woodland walks. I wasn’t so sorry for the beetle; horned ones like that are the ones that try to eat our chestnut beams in the house or the pergola, so not my favourite bug! Christina


    • We get some pretty nasty wood-boring insects here too. They can even bore into live cherry trees. I think I dislike the ants even more as they are always where there is trouble, farming the black fly and spreading a lot of problems in the garden.


  3. Poor beetle on the tree! A spectacular creature, very elegant. Love your photos.


  4. The wild fruits look wonderful, I love wild fruits or free fruit as I call it. The beetle photo is great!


  5. Ah, another lovely post. So much wildlife around you!


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