a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

End of September in the garden


It has rained at last.  It has been such a dry year that it is time to rethink strategies.  The potager gets watered within reason but during a prolonged dry spell it is like watering a patch on top of a sponge.  I sowed dill twice and each time it came up and flowered almost instantly.  There was no glut of courgettes but just sufficient salad stuff to keep us going.

There is a hazel tree just beside the potager.  We have pruned it over the years and it has given us some excellent straight poles but its nut production has not increased and it is now over-shadowing an old peach tree and I feel it may be taking water away from the vegetables.

The hazel tree’s days are numbered

All that is left is a stump

No more hazel tree

Now the hazel tree has gone I may have another victim in my sights!  The Christmas tree was left by the previous owners and has grown so large in such a short time.  I do not know how much taller it will grow and if it too is draining too much water and nutrients from the garden.  I must admit that I do not have a master plan for the garden from the design point of view and I would be interested in any comments from experienced gardeners.

Quince tree

On a more upbeat note the quince tree has come through the drought with no visible sign of stress and the quinces are already ripening.  I have already been enjoying the quince stewed and have bottled some but I will wait until the main crop ripens to get on with the jelly, jam and chutney.

Medlar fruit

Likewise the medlar tree has plenty of fruit but that will not be ready for another month or so.

Kaki fruit ripening

The persimmons or kaki are just starting to show a little colour but it will be probably Christmas before they will be ripe.  It is nice to have some more fruit to look forward to when the pears and apples will be finished.

The apples and pears ripened early and the harvest was on the low side.  There is always fallen fruit and the good advice is to clear it away to reduce infection from pests that may use it as a food source.

Comma, Polygonia c-album on the apple tree trunk

There is an advantage in not clearing the fallen fruit away immediately as the  butterflies are attracted by the fallen fruit and I presume feed on the fermenting juices.

Comma showing the “C” underside

This Comma is kindly showing the white “C” mark, like a comma on the underside of the wing.

Speckled Wood butterfly, Parage aegeria

The Speckled Wood butterfly is a common visitor to the garden and is also enjoying the fallen apples.

Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas

The Small Copper seems also interested so perhaps an extra tidy garden is not always so good for for attracting the wildlife, it certainly is a good excuse for not being too tidy.

The Praying Mantis looks disdainfully at my attempts to take a photograph

The butterflies are common visitors but the Praying Mantis is less visible and remains well camouflaged while it stalks its prey.

Praying Mantis

It preys on a variety of insects, it would be nice to think it was the ones that could cause me trouble but unfortunately it will eat anything that it can lay its long hands on.  This one had a relatively friendly disposition until it got bored and headed back into the apple tree.

A flight too fast to capture well.

During the long dry spell I did not forget the birds and I have had various containers of water around the garden.  These containers take various forms including old pots, frying pans and gravel trays.  Not a very ornamental collection but very appreciated by the birds, among others.

After a recent visit to a brocante (explanation – a notch lower than an antique shop in France) I was tempted by an old pan for seven euros which seemed just the right size to add to the collection.  (I try to avoid going into brocantes as they have such interesting things and even if you do not find what you are looking for you find something you did not know you needed, but at least at seven euros I got off lightly this time.)

The house belonged to a builder at one time and we have inherited a good deal of his stones which have come in very handy.  A quick hunt at the bottom of the garden in the secret store and the right base was found.

In place beside the rose arch

As the stone is old and the pan is old it seems to have always been there.

Ready for the birds

I could not do a post about the garden without mentioning the bumble bees.  They are still active although I have not seen any red-tailed or garden bumble bees for a while.  The dahlias are still very popular with the white-tailed and the carder bees.

Carder bee heads to the fuschia

The fuschia is still flowering and is well-visited by the bees.

Now that it has rained there is so much to do in the garden and plants that have outgrown their space must be moved.  Autumn is a busy time.

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.

11 thoughts on “End of September in the garden

  1. I’m glad you had some rain at last. I know I’m speaking as a garden designer but I would recommend that you did make some kind of plan of what you want in the garden; in the end it saves time and often money too. It needn’t be detailed by just how you want to use and plant the different spaces in the garden. You have so much fruit, my quinces are ripening now, I make a jelly with chilli in it which is delicious with cheese, I’ll swap the recipe if you send me the one for quince chutney! Christina


  2. What a lovely garden you have, I’m very jealous!


  3. Amelia, put a large stone [that is taller than the bowl rim] in the middle of the bowl… and make a shallow area [using smaller stones that sit just below the surface] to one side… you will dramatically increase the types of bird that use it… you will also get birds bathing.
    My wife and I try and avoid brocantes for the same reason as you!
    And let your hazel come back up… it will give you two metre poles every two to three years [very useful in a country that grows bambou everywhere but charges a small fortune for poles of it in the garden centres]and provide cover for insectivorous birds… just keep cutting it back. Its root spread shouldn’t reach more than the peach tree in diameter.
    As for the Christmas tree… have it down… the taller it gets, the wider the root pan… the larger the area it will drain.
    And I second the “draw a plan”… but take sheets of tracing paper and do the shape of the garden and the “permanent” plants on a large sheet of white card… you can then do many overlays. Also, take pictures of the garden and print them on paper too… so that you can draw on them… and cut out pictures of other plants and glue them on… 3Ms, Pritt and UHU all do a repositionable glue stick [that I’ve seen in LeClerc over here]… sticks the overlays down at the top and the pictures on where you first thought… but allows movement!
    It will be something for the long cold winter days…


  4. I second Tim’s advice about the bird bowl, the hazel and the christmas tree. The bowl and stone look fantastic!

    Praying manitises are surprisingly difficult to photograph nicely – I always seem to end up with some bit out of focus, so you’ve done well.

    One way of remembering how to spell Fuchsia is to remember that it is named after the botanist Fuchs.


  5. I can see how dry it is from your photos. I thought our landscape looked dry without rain for two months, but yours is even drier. I love the stone and bird bowl.


  6. I’m waiting for a bit of rain myself. We’re being treated to yet another heat wave. I don’t know when we’ll see cooler weather, but I’m looking forward to it.


  7. Glad you had some rain. The cards bees are still busy here too. They do seem to keep going longer than the other bees.


  8. Lovely post – it made me want to come and sit in your garden, particularly as it’s a miserable wet day here in the UK!


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