a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

The garden in August


Taking photographs of the garden in August is difficult.

Lime tree (Tilia platyphyllos)

This is one of the Lime trees (Tilia platyphyllos) that I planted for its perfumed blossom (see my last post Perfumed Pumpkin Flower? https://afrenchgarden.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/pumpkin-perfume/) .  It is just  starting to take form but I find the August sunshine is as harsh in a photograph as it is on the grass.  I do not water our “lawns” as they are only mowed grasses and something green will come up even if they do dry up in summer.

White Hollyhock

However, the light for taking the plants closer up is better.  Hollyhocks survive very well here with very little attention.

Bumble on last of the Hollyhocks

Bumble on last of the hollyhocks

They are just about finished but I cannot bear to cut them down just yet as the bees, especially the bumble bees, still love to visit them, but they really should go as they are getting very long and straggly.

Hibiscus after a welcome shower of rain

Another plant that accepts a regime of lots of sun and very little water is the Hibiscus syriacus. It is called Althea over here and Rose of Sharon in the States. There were already a few Hibiscus syriacus plants in the front garden when we bought the house, in fact, they were just about the only flowers that we inherited.  They are survivors and require little care.  They also self-seed so I immediately picked out any little plants that I found and planted them along the long border that I have with the road to form part of a “shrubby hedge” I was attempting to grow.  These plants can be cut and shaped or left to expand and I have seen some that grow so large they are almost small trees.

I never knew what colour the plants I had planted would turn out be, but luckily I’ve had quite a selection of different shades as this must be one of the most popular garden plants in the area and the bees ensure there will be plenty of cross-pollination.

Pollen frenzy

The bees have transferred their allegiance from the hollyhocks to the hibiscus when it comes to pollen showers.

Bumble taking a break for a brush out of pollen

Sometimes it gets all too much for them and they sit down somewhere and give themselves a thorough grooming to remove the pollen load.  I love to watch them as they really do seem frustrated when the pollen gets too thick.

Complex flowerlets of Acanthus mollis

Another plant that attracts the bees is Acanthus mollis or Bear’s Breeches, I was given this attractive architectural plant by friends who were splitting theirs.  I was delighted, as I had very little plants at the time and as it threw up little side plants, I cleverly (?) found places for them in other parts of the garden.  Now I have to try and purge my garden of this invasive plant that thrives with little water and lots of sun.  In my borders it is a monster as even a tiny bit of root left behind throws out bright happy green leaves that laugh at me, but I will eradicate it!  I have left just the one plant in a dry spot that nothing else would want as it does look good, and the bees appreciate it too.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth, Macroglossum stellatarum

At least I can control the Red Valerian, Centranthus rubber, which is happy in a very dry hot spot along the front of the atelier wall.  It is a native plant of the Mediterranean and has the additional benefit of being attractive to Hummingbird Hawk Moths, Macroglossum stellatarum.

They actually do look like little birds!


These are day flying moths and are a favourite visitor to the garden.  They also visit the Buddleias but it is easier to photograph them on the low growing valerian, but they really move fast and hover while sipping the nectar.

Pink Hydrangea

Plants frequently do not turn out how you think they should and it is always worth giving a favourite plant a chance.  Hydrangeas remind me of gardens when I was a child in Scotland but I was not sure if they would survive in my chalky soil.  I bought a tiny plant and put it in a corner so that it is sheltered from the direct afternoon sun, I did not have much to lose.  In just a couple of years I have my pink mop head hydrangea that looks at home in the corner of the wall.

My bumbles love the Hydrangea too!

It was too cheap to have a variety name and anyway I find in France that the labelling leaves a lot to be desired.  Giddy with success I have tried a couple of lacecap Hydrangeas which are progressing but not with the same vigour.

Map butterfly on my daughter’s shoulder

You never can tell how plants will do and you certainly can’t tell with butterflies either.  Sometimes you chase them, camera at the ready and they flutter but never sit long enough to take a photo.  Another time they come and sit on a shoulder when you are having lunch.

Friendly Map butterfly (Araschnia levana)

Then happily pose for you on some nearby flowers!

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.

12 thoughts on “The garden in August

  1. Acanthus! You will be clever if you do eradicate it! I have it under the white Mulberry, it spreads there and that’s fine, little else will grow there. It has beautiful foliage during winter when the Mulberry has lost its leaves, followed by stately flowers in late spring but then it looks dead for most of summer only to reappear with the first rains in autumn. Christina


  2. We seem to have very similar plants and creatures to you. I have lots of valerian and hummingbird hawk moths too. I photographed a Map butterfly just the other day as well! I love the colour of your hibiscus.


  3. That map butterfly is crazily beautiful, it also looks like shattered glass. I always enjoy your posts.


  4. I have morning glory and indian balsam and that is it for flowers lots of brown grass and a few semi green veg.


  5. Lovely. I took my time with this post – it seemed to demand the pace of a long, sultry August day. I imagined sipping
    homemade lemonade on a deck chair in the shade of one of your trees. Interestingly, I have never seen a bee visit my mophead hydrangea. They do love my hollyhocks though. Whenever I find single hollyhocks I snap them up as most places here seem only to sell the double variety – ugly and not bug friendly!


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