a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

November Walking


Back from the UK, away from the motorways, I was keen to get back on our well-trodden paths.

Beech lined path

But three weeks away and you can forget to pick up the things you need for a walk.  We often pass through the village and I have several friends I talk to and who expect a “Markie” from the backpack.

What did I do wrong?

You can see the disappointment and disbelief, the tail drooping and the ears down.  I felt so ashamed, but I was back with my “Markie” the very next day just to explain it was nothing personal.

The main street of the village is kept immaculately by the Mairie (council) and the Abelia is still flowering by the roadside.

Bee with pollen sac

Incredibly busy, the bee was gathering not only nectar but also pollen.

I saw another on the nearby Rosmary but she had flown away before I could take a picture but I did notice something else on the Rosemary, a red and green striped beetle.

Chrysolina americana

Researching for insect species is usually a difficult task for me and I doubted whether I would ever be able to find the name of this beetle on the Rosemary leaves but it is in fact – a Rosemary leaf beetle, Chrysolina americana!  Unfortunately it does not bode well for the Rosemary for the beetles eat the new shoots and their slug like larvae will continue the damage.  They seem to prefer similar plants like lavender, sage and thyme so if you see the tips of your plants blackening or being nibbled check them out and look on the underside of the leaves for eggs.

The signs of autumn are in the woods.

Solanum dulcamara

The bittersweet or climbing nightshade drapes its red berries in garlands through the trees as if anticipating the Christmas decorations.

Ruscus aculeatus

The red berries of the Ruscus or Butcher’s Broom are just as vivid and survive happily under the shade of the trees.  Ruscus is a popular garden shrub in the UK and it is strange for me to see it growing negligently throughout the woods here.

Euonymus europaeus, Spindle tree

Likewise, it always makes me smile when I see the Eonymus europaeus, or spindle tree in flower as I had always admired the one in Crathes Castle walled garden near Aberdeen in Scotland (http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Crathes-Castle-Garden-Estate/What-to-see/#).  I found their (should you call it a fruit or a flower?) so attractive that I was determined to plant one if I ever should have my own garden.  As it so happens they were already growing at the bottom of my garden and grow freely in the woods around us!

Wild iris seed head

The other red berries that are decorating the edges of the woods at the moment are the iris seed heads.

But November here is such a mixture.

Escapee sunflower

There are often some straggling late arrival sunflowers in the fields where the main crop has long since been harvested, they are much smaller than the main crop but there were enough to provide an attractive vase full for the house.

Ulex europaeus, Gorse

There is gorse in flower but I think the it is the result of recent plantings as are the Medlar Trees.

Mespilus or Medlar

We often make a detour to pass by the Medlar trees.  They are much later in ripening this year, perhaps due to the lack of rain.  I enjoy an impromptu snack and I cannot understand why they are not widely accepted.  All I can imagine is that if they are eaten when unripe they will be considered inedible. I have fed good ripe medlars to sceptical friends and have seen them appreciate their unique flavour, but they must be ripe to be enjoyed.

Roe deer on the move

We never know what we are going to see.

Trying to catch up the others

I took these photographs at 1.30 p.m. hardly the time to expect to see deer in the open.

Almost there

I think they must have been disturbed in one copse and had to leg it some distance in the open to the nearest alternative cover.

Path of Beech leaves

The woods are an altogether quieter place in November but the floor is covered with all sorts of fungi.

Some of the fungi present this November

A few years ago I decided that it would be nice to discover what sort of fungi grew in the woods because neighbours and friends were only interested in the edible ones.  Armed with my camera and a large identification book I started.  I was quickly defeated by the variety of fungi that can be found and I have even noticed that the variety changes each year depending on the weather condition, I suppose.  I now just admire them and use them as photographic models – naming them is beyond me.  I have managed this year to at last take spore prints – that was thanks to encouragement from The Foraging Photographer http://theforagingphotographer.wordpress.com/.

Often on walks I wish I could not only take  a photograph but capture the odour of the surroundings because of some delicious perfume in the air, I thought of this when I was walking near these fungi.

Wet pungent fungi

Normally fungi have the decency to fade away discretely but these ones had taken over an area and were releasing a fetid odour that I have never smelt before and never want to smell again.  Definitely an odour I would not want to capture!

Geranium robertianum, Herb Robert

There has still been  plenty of sun this November in the Charente Maritime and the Herb Robert is flowering on the verges along with clover and scabious.

Bee on Bugle, Ajuga reptans

However, it is still surprising to see the bees feeding on this very late flowering Bugle.

Asian hornets, Vespa volutina on ivy flowers

Perhaps they are being kept away from their more common source of nectar by the Asian hornets that seem to be everywhere at the moment.  They were not around in the summer near here, perhaps concentrating themselves around the bees hives, but every time I seem to target a flower with my camera lens an Asian hornet is there (O.K.,sorry, exaggeration but it sometimes feels like that.)

The cabbage white butterflies are still laying their eggs on my brussel sprouts and I am still picking off the caterpillars.

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta

The Red Admiral do not seem to care that it is November and the Speckled Wood butterfly is still around on the sunny days.

Cranes in flight

But despite the sunny days with the Charentais blue sky the geese are making their noisy way south, a sure sign that they know it is November and the winter will be arriving.  Correction!  My friends now tell me that these were more likely to be cranes, please see the comments below – I did not notice the long legs.

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.

35 thoughts on “November Walking

  1. Would love to come on one of your walks, everything is so beautiful. And you still have the bees out foraging, and flowers blooming.

    I have spotted the rosemary beetles on my rosemary before and known they were up to no good, but didn’t have the heart to squash them as they’re so pretty.


    • We are very lucky that despite the area being agricultural – mainly vines but also grains, maize and sunflowers – there are lots of small woods left practically untouched. It gives us a wide choice for walks and the mild climate shortens the winter.


  2. Is it usual for the bees to still be around in November?


    • Even in the UK they will come out in warm days if it is over 10 degrees. They will have the ivy in the autumn in the UK. Here I have my Arbetus, or Strawberry Tree in the garden in flower at the moment. I also have a winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, that attracts them in the winter time. Never the less, they are still much fewer than in the summer.


  3. A very enjoyable walk, and thank you for all the wonderful detail. I’ve never seen a rosemary beetle before, but it is very attractive. Our autumn seems a little more advanced here – lack of sunshine and the damp weather has turned everything brown and soggy!


    • This area has a lot of limestone. Good point is that the rainfall is absorbed very quickly, bad point – the inside of you kettle turns white and washing machines, dishwashers etc. do not last long.


      • The same here! We have a special system in our house where minute amounts of special minerals are pumped into the tap water to prevent serious damage. It certainly helps.


      • We use an electrical system here that is used by many UK hospitals… cost around £250… but it works without using chemicals… it alters the state of the carbonates in the water and somehow? it actually cleaned our lime-ridden Leeds kettle. The lime is still there, but it brushes out. Veolia state that our water here is “moyen-forte”.


      • The system is called “Scalewatcher” [http://www.scalewatcher.co.uk/]… I’ll email you with the address, etc. We bought it at the Harrogate Homebuilders exhibition… they were on the stall next door to the StepWarmfloor that we were visiting to discuss details of the plans we had been sent… and as the sales person there was busy when we arrived we started to take a close look at the softner system.


  4. Lots of colour and interest still. I envy you your walk – though a chained dog always depresses me. I’ve seen bees still feeding here on warm days and Red Admirals too. The rosemary beetles though you may keep – thanks very much. Dave


  5. beautiful colour and pictures of the walk. And that rosemary striped beetle? Looks like 2 beetles to me… having fun together… 😉


  6. A great blog, lots to see and some good photos. Now you know what I am like and I do have a good look at your photos. Are you sure they are geese and not storks or Cranes. They have quite long legs??


  7. How lovely to share your walk, thank you. I saw a red admiral today and geese flying away so we share many of the same sights. In spring there are lavender beetles which look like close relatives of the rosemary beetle, I keep them under control by squishing them until their preditor (I don’t know what) takes over the job. It is always a worry as they like perovskia too so there is a lot that attracts them to my garden. Glad you’re enjoying these lovely autumn days. Christina


    • We really take advantage of these precious autumn days but we are also a bit behind in the garden so we have been finishing the cutting back and also my husband has cut down three old fruit trees that were failing and had some suspicious holes in them. We may be able to replace with a greengage if we get a move on. I have never seen those beetles before and I have all the plants that they like, I’ll keep an eye out for them in the future.


  8. Amelia… your long-legged “geese” are actually Common Cranes Grus grus Grue cendré on their way from Scandanavia to Spain…. we haven’t had a flight over us yet… unless they came through in the night.
    They really make a noise don’t they.
    Keep an eye open for more, there are still tens of thousands to come through…
    Pauline, [Tim’s wife.]


    • Thank you for that, Poitou Charente in Photos was very dubious of my ID so I am glad that has been clarified. I think I’ll amend the blog, I am quite pleased I’ve seen siege of cranes in flight. (Did you like that – a siege of cranes? I looked that up.) 🙂


  9. That was quite an exciting walk — so much to see. The flowers, berries, fungi, all were beautiful autumnal color. Fall is such a lovely season.


  10. Still lots of life in your late November countryside. Interesting that you have abelia there too – I grow it for the bees. 🙂 Spindle is a prolific wild shrub in this part of Surrey and has put on a very good show this season. By the way, I have a friend who runs a business making preserves out of foraged produce. She would be drooling at your medlars 🙂


  11. Do you have a mycologie group that you could join in your area? I started off fairly clueless about fungi, and not really all that interested in investing the time to learn them, but having joined my local group, I’ve come on in leaps and bounds. A few outings with someone who really knows their stuff will have you much more confident about IDs.


  12. What a lovely november you can enjoy. And that sweet dissaponted setter… 😉


  13. Lovely post as usual Amelia – I really feel like I’m there with you! Thanks for the mention too. I’ve just taken and photographed some spore prints to put on the blog, so it’s very timely!


  14. Pingback: Spore Art « The Foraging Photographer

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