a french garden

Beginning of April

39 Comments

It has been a dull start to April.  Heavy clouds hanging over the garden dulling the colours of the flowers and keeping the bees in their nests.

I shouldn’t complain; the north of France has had snow and we are only suffering from a lack of sunshine and below normal temperatures.  It has reduced my walks as I am more tempted when the sun is shining.

Still clear canopy

Still clear canopy

The trees are budding but the sun easily reaches the ground bringing out the spring flowers.

Dog violet

Dog violet

The violets are everywhere but I haven’t found any perfumed ones yet.

Geranium robertinium

Geranium robertinium

The wild geraniums are plentiful.  Unfortunately, they are difficult to tell apart from the perennial geraniums I have planted in the garden and I cannot always remember where they are so it makes the weeding difficult.  I am very fickle, outside the garden I admire them and take photographs: inside they get short shrift and are summarily removed.

Cardamine pratensis (Cuckoo Flower or Lady's Smock)

Cardamine pratensis (Cuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock)

I must admit that the common name, Cuckoo Flower, was right on target as I heard my first cuckoo just days  before seeing the flower.  The French name for the flower is La cressonnette ou cresson des prés as it resembles cress.  It is reputed to be edible and can be added to sandwiches to spice up the flavour.  I have never tried this so I cannot recommend it (yet).

Pulmonaria and Lesser Celandine

Pulmonaria and Lesser Celandine

The Pulmonaria is everywhere and is enjoying a spring that has been wetter than usual.

Grape Hyacinth, Muscari

Grape Hyacinth, Muscari

I am always surprised at what grows under the vines.  The vegetation is controlled under the vines in this area by spraying but come spring a variety of plants appear undaunted.

Dandelion and bee with pollen

Dandelion and bee with pollen

My favourite weed at this time of the year is the dandelion.  Its pollen is a magnet for the bees.

Dandelion and bee

Dandelion and bee

Last year I managed to take many photographs of beautiful bees on the dandelions and other flowers and my winter task was to identify them.

Another bee on dandelion (Halictus ?)

Another bee on dandelion (Halictus ?)

Ah, the innocence of ignorance.

I have not identified most of them but I think I have got this one that I saw on the first of April this year.

Rear view

Rear view

If you will note, this little lady has a longitudinal slit in her last tergite.  A sign of the Halictus I have read.  I find identification frustrating, you try for a wing shot to see if the venation pattern will be useful and then find out that a rear end photo would be more useful, anyway she kept her wings folded too.

Red-tailed bumble bee ( Bombus lapidarius

Red-tailed bumble bee ( Bombus lapidarius)

At least I have got the bumble bees that are a lot easier to identify.  The white-tailed are the most common around me and I am still seeing the queens frantically patrolling at ground level looking for a nesting spot.  These are obviously the late risers as I have already seen my first worker, so someone was quick off the mark.

White-tailed worker bumble bee

White-tailed worker bumble bee

The white-tailed queens are very big and can be told apart from their smaller workers.

Mining bee nests

Mining bee nests

I had never noticed  the Mining bee nests in the paths before.  They must surely have been there last year but I must have stamped over them unaware.  Now I see them where the agricultural machinery hardens the paths.  I suppose the ones built on the edges must do better than the ones that will be compacted by the tyres as the seasons pass.

Fox peacock

Fox peacock

I know the eye spots on the butterflies are reputed to deter predators but I had never noticed such a striking resemblance to a fox face as this photo presents.  Does anyone else see a face instead of butterfly wings?

I am waiting for the sunshine which has been forecast to return late next week.  I feel very much like hibernating until then.

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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.

39 thoughts on “Beginning of April

  1. Lovely reading…
    at first sight the Peacock reminds me of the Moyen-duc that has been hanging around here…
    but the more you look the foxier it gets… nice!
    That is just the hind wings I’m refering to…
    nice to see so many flowers…
    and bees… none of those here yet!
    Tttttt…oooooo…ccccold!

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  2. Dandelion —-my favorite of all the weeds and flowers!

    Boomer you had better get to barking up another storm, that ground looks pretty dry.

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  3. Don’t think you are alone, it is still cold here in Italy too, we’ll be lighting a fire tonight. But the flowers around you know that spring is here. Lovely capture of the dog violet. Christina

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  4. Really fantastic photos of the bees, so clear. I admire your ability to identify them.

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  5. We always say “April showers bring May flowers” here, but I don’t know if your weather patterns are the same as ours. In any case after it has showered for 5 or 6 days in a row you get sick of it, May flowers or no. I like the pulminaria and celandine combination and the bees on the dandelion shots are excellent.

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  6. I, too, admire your ability to identify the bees. I find it hard to take a good photo of them. So glad you pointed out the “fox”. After you suggested it, I could clearly see the face!

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  7. Great photos. Those bees look so happy with an incredible variety of flowers to choose from.

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  8. Great compilation/write-up. We are scheduled for 5-8 inches of snow Monday evening, and 3-6 on Tuesday . . . I will be waiting a bit for our spring.

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  9. Your photos are absolutely stunning. We are right about at the same point with our blooms, but not bees yet. Our early bees are Mason or Orchard bees. I am looking forward to crossing that threshold.

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    • The bees are a hardy bunch here and make use of the warm sunny days. The honey bees come out very early if there is a fine day just like the bumblebee queens. I’ve seen some Mason bees this year but it is still too cool for the main bunch to come out.

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  10. Hmmm, all those pretty spring flowers don’t look dull to me, but we are still in the gray and brown phase of spring. So your spring colors are quite lovely on comparison!

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  11. That is a very fox like face! I love the way the bees are so involved with the dandelions.

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  12. Well, wouldn’t have seen it without your prompt but yes, a fox begad. Both you and Christina act like a time travel window on what will happen here in Sussex … eventually. Dave

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  13. Your Halictus looks like H. scabiosae to me, and is probably what is making the holes in the path. Really good photo of the rear end!

    Your geranium is Common Storksbill Erodium cicutarium.

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    • I just checked out the Common Storksbill. The good news is that if that is what it is I can eat it! This particularly appeals to me as it gets into the garden too – I can wreak my vengeance on it by eating it.

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  14. The butterfly was like one of those 3D pictures where you have to let your eyes adjust! But yes, I can see your foxy face!

    Miserable weather here too, although the weekend was more pleasant. This time last year, after a very warm March, we had bluebells, cuckooflowers, dandelions, tadpoles, cherry blossom… this year, nothing.

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  15. It is a delight to discover your site! My blog post last week was on gratitude and bees…the need to help them out due to all the environmental assaults. Pls. Give a look at http://www.life-change-compost.com. Post is called “Bee Grateful.” My husband and I are coming to your beautiful country for a month in June to celebrate our 35th anniversary. I hope the weather warms up a bit by then! Lovely photos, thank you. susie

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  16. I do recall that most French families holiday in August,they do the same in Italy which is where we lived for four years, plus one in Switzerland. i miss Europe. Do you have any tips for special gardens to see in the area around Lyon? We will be there quite awhile. I’m going to enjoy your blog!

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    • I’m afraid I’ve never been to Lyon, Susan. I would make a generalisation that they are not into their gardens as much as they are in the UK. The best idea is to go into the Tourist Office as they are usually very good everywhere in France and very helpful. This is their web page for Lyon http://www.en.lyon-france.com/. I notice they have some gardens if you use the search.:)

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  17. Thanks and cheers, Susie

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