a french garden

Pressing on

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It may not be the New Year, there are still few days left of 2012 but it is not too early for me to have started my reflections on the past year with WordPress.

Early in 2012 my son suggested I started a blog as a way to create a journal of the garden and to reach out to other interested gardeners to share experiences, hopes, successes and disappointments that only other gardeners would appreciate.  It seemed a reasonable proposition but it soon took on a life of its own.

Cherry blosssom

Cherry blosssom

I realised that a picture was worth a thousand words, so my interest in photography which had languished for many years was rekindled.

Pear blossom

Pear blossom

I enjoyed taking pictures of my flowers but as I looked for photo opportunities, I started to see more than flowers.

Meloe violaceus in the pansies

Meloe violaceus in the pansies

I came across strange things when weeding, Tricked Again

Chafer in the cherry blossom

Chafer in the cherry blossom

Some creatures were strange and hairy.

Azuritis reducta

Azuritis reducta, Southern White Admiral, on Philadelphus

Others elegant and attractive.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea)

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea)

I started to see things I had never seen before.  Dragonfly pond update

White and blue wood anemones

White and blue wood anemones

I saw things I used to walk past. What colour is a white wood anemone?

White-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lucorum) in Spanish beans

White-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lucorum) in Spanish beans

I always loved my bumble bees but I paid more attention to them the more I photographed them.

Red-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius)

Red-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius)

I enjoyed noting the different species that visited the garden and was delighted when I found two bumble bee nests in the garden.

Tiny grey bee in Lavatera

Tiny grey bee in Lavatera

I noticed lots of solitary bees in the garden as well as the honey bees and started to follow some of the amazingly interesting and informative “bee blogs” on WordPress such as Aventures in beeland, Miss Apis Mellifera and Beelievable to name only a few.  I have to admit this has sparked another interest and I would love to be brave enough to embark on keeping bees myself.

Carder bumble bee (Bombus pascuorum) in quince

Carder bumble bee (Bombus pascuorum) in quince tree

They keep me company in the garden and in my walks in the surrounding countryside.

Carder bumblebee with pollinaria

Carder bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum) with pollinaria

It is often only when I review my photographs that I see something I had not noticed when I took the picture.  This bumble bee seemed to be carrying a lump of pollen stuck to its head.  I had seen them dusted over with loose pollen but never with such a strange package attached to them.

Bombus pascuorum with pollinaria

Bombus pascuorum with pollinaria

I discovered that this bumble bee was on a  special  pollination mission and had been selected by an orchid to carry its pollen to another orchid.

Orchids have evolved a special method of transporting pollen for cross fertilisation between plants by insect vectors.  Instead of releasing their pollen to the four winds like say the grasses, orchids have compressed bundles of pollen that will stick to the insect pollinators who will pass it onto another orchid that they visit.

This I would never have known, nor recognised on my bumble bee if it were not for WordPress fanning my interest in bees and bumblebees and the Bumblebee Conservation Organisation for supplying me with the information.

WordPress has stimulated my interests in photography, bees and nature but none of this would have been so enjoyable without all my gentle WordPress friends whose interesting blogs and helpful comments lighten and brighten the year.

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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.

30 thoughts on “Pressing on

  1. A lovely review of the year, especially your account of how you “grew in” to your observations and photography. The photos are wonderful. Today I was actually wondering if you have any clary sage in your garden. I put two plants in my garden because they supposedly attract bees. I have yet to see a single bee or bumblebee on either plant. Perhaps they are not interested because they are having too much fun in the borage.

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    • I grow clumps of sage in the garden because it does not need much watering, provides lovely greenery and blue flowers but this year I noticed they were covered with bees and bumbles and so I will try and add smaller ones in between the shrubs where I can. I mean the herb sage and my bushes were quite large. I do have some coloured clary which has self-seeded now. Which sort do you mean?

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  2. I have also found that looking through a lens makes me notice things I’ve never seen before, and I am constantly looking things up. I’ve learnt so much in this way and by reading other blogs. And because of your blog I have started to look at bees more closely too! Thanks! (Beautiful photos again!)

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  3. I have so enjoyed reading about your insects, especially the bummble bees; we have many of the same visitors. As you say it is amazing when you look at the photos you have taken and discover an interesting insect you hadn’t actually seen. A very Happy 2013 to you and your family. Christina

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  4. I really enjoy your simple, gentle observational style and am very pleased to have discovered your blog.

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  5. I have so enjoyed your pictures this past year. Here’s to a great garden year in 2013.

    Barbara

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  6. What a nice idea of reflecting on where the blog has taken you. I never realized what a great tool blogging is for connecting me with so many people all over the world with similar interests.

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  7. Have just found your blog and I will be following from now on. When I started blogging it was just for family and friends to follow what I was up to. Now it has taken on a whole new meaning with virtual friends all over the world.
    I would like to ask you what camera you use as your pictures of insects and birds are excellent. I only have a very cheap Samsung super market special, and I find it very frustrating not to be able to take photos of the birds and insects in the garden due to lack of a macro or zoom lens. Hope you have a good New Year Diane

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    • All the photographs on my last post “Pressing on” were ones I had taken earlier in the year with my Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ18, it has a Macro function and you can get really close up. It is not an expensive camera and now the TZ20 has come out and is even better. My husband bought me a Canon 60D for my birthday and I am very disappointed with the comparative results. For such a lot more money I was expecting more.
      In the New Year I hope to spend more time on improving my photography and have been given a great tripod by my son.
      I follow Focused Moments and Back Yard Biology and other great photography blogs. Most people would take it kindly if you wanted to ask about a particular shot but just looking at their lighting and angles and comments is very helpful.

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      • Amelia, are you using the “kit” lens that came with the camera… or have you also got some good lenses as well… I would recommend a good 1:1 ratio true macro lens of around 70 to 100mm and around f2.8 for the type of picture you take.

        My brother is a Canonista and bought his latest body and lens as seperate items, to ensure getting the right match having experienced the same dissapointment as you describe.
        I am a Pentaxian… having started with an ME Super in the late 70s and have accumulated quite a collection of lenses over the intervening years… so it would cost me far too much to transfer to Canon.
        But I am not happy with the modern standard of lenses… they don’t quite hit the spot.
        But some of my heavy old lenses… all glass too, not with some of the groups inside in optical plastic to save weight… give much better results.
        I have also realised that the UV filter that I had been using as a transparent lens-cap has diminished the results of the new lenses further!!

        I have got a little Pentax Optio “point and shoot” with true Macro and a super macro function… and like your comments about the Panasonic… I am very pleased with the close-ups… my only quibble against these small is the fixed aperture lens.. but you cannot have everything… its results outweigh the drawbacks.

        Keep blogging; your blog is entertaining, informative and great to look at.

        Experiment further with the Canon… after all the film is free… I take all sorts of shots of a subject and reject most…. but don’t get rid of them… and I also experiment with the camera settings on a still-life [if I find a dead insect or a dried leaf] keeping a pencilled set of notes whilst doing it… the Exif may record what the camera is doing… but if you are using other light sources, multiple flashes, polaroid filters, etc… they don’t appear!! Nor does a lot of the Exif if you use old lenses or extension tubes!!!

        Also see if you can find better glass on the secondhand market… Park Cameras have a very good secondhand section… as do Jacobs – I’ve bought much glass from them from their shop in Leeds… and I look forward to seeing the results on your blog in 2013…. Happy New Year!

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      • Thanks for the reply and also to drofmit, I need to make my mind up very soon what I want…..

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        • Sometimes you can get very good help at the photographic shops as it is often photo enthusiasts who work there. The real enthusiasts are quite happy to discuss things with you and suggest solutions.

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      • To take the kinds of closeup photographs in this post, you probably will need a macro lens for your Canon EOS 60D, as drofmit4108 noted. I use Canon’s L-series 100mm macro, which is expensive, but there’s a non-L series Canon 100mm macro lens for about half the price. I started out with the non-L and used it for several years before upgrading; I got good pictures with both.

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        • Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it. I think I have now bought two lens that were not really what I needed. I have just ordered a ring to reverse my lens so that I can play in the mean time. I am not sure how I can break it to my long-suffering husband that I really need another lens to get near to where I’d like to be 🙂

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  8. Beautiful pictures and beautiful blog!

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  9. Fascinating to have this insight into your blogging and photographing and bee-observing progress. My own relationship with bees has a similar trajectory. Happy new year.

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  10. A lovely end to the blogging year Amelia. Here’s to lots of photo ops in 2013!

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  11. Enjoyed visiting the French Garden in 2012, look forward to seeing what it brings in 2013. Happy New Year!

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    • A Happy New Year to you, I hope to have better photographs and I am excited about trying out my new tripod and I have just ordered a ring to reverse my lens to see if I can get closer shots. If I can’t get it in focus like that I’ll go for arty misty shots, I like those too!

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