a french garden

All’s well in the garden

39 Comments

View from upstairs window

View from upstairs window

The first flush of the spring bulbs is well past and the old faithfuls are shooting through.

Pulsatilla

Pulsatilla

Some things don’t come up as you expect them to.  I bought a beautiful pale blue Pulsatilla a few years ago as I was so taken by its ephemeral lightness. I propagated its seeds but only to find that it must have been a hybrid.  I have grown its ugly sister, a much darker harsher coloured flower but as it now has appeared yet again this year I think I am softening to it and I can’t resist its fluffy buds and leaves.

Forsythia, hellebores and tulips

Forsythia, hellebores and tulip

The wet, cooler spring has kept the Hellebores going for longer just until the tulips can take over.

Bumble in Hellebore

Bumble in Hellebore

This longer season is appreciated by the bumble bees.

Broad bean flowers

Broad bean flowers

The mild wet winter has favoured the growth of the broad beans that I sow in the autumn.  Last year they got frozen but this year has been good for the vegetable garden and the early peas are growing well too.

Back garden

Back garden

One by one the trees begin to flower.  The Amelanchier doesn’t flower for long and isn’t perfumed but its flower are so delicate that I forgive it its short comings.

Amelanchier blossom

Amelanchier blossom

I have never noticed any bees on the Amelanchier blossom which surprises me.

Quince and carder bee

Quince and carder bee

The quince tree is a mass of pale pink blossom which welcome bees and bumble bees alike throughout the day.

Cherry blossom  moved tree

Cherry blossom moved tree

The apricot trees are finished flowering and we were happy to see the cherry tree that we roughly transplanted has survived and is full of flowers on its foreshortened branches.  The plum trees are in flower and with the apple trees coming into flower all the trees are at their best.

I have noticed one very strange phenomenon this year.

Pear tree and Osmia cornuta

Pear tree and Osmia cornuta

About a week ago my pear tree flowers gave off a foetid odour of fish!  I have never noticed this before and believe me you couldn’t miss it.  I have a William variety in the front so I checked with the Conference in the back; same thing but somewhat less strong.  I decided to check out the neighbours so I asked Yvon and Annie if their pear trees smelled of fish.  After they had ascertained I was serious we all went off for a sniff.

Yvon decided it was sardines.  I think it was worse than that.  We all retreated to their cherry tree and took deep breaths of the fresh cherry blossom to purge our lungs.

The pear blossom is just about finished and the odour passed too.  Has anyone else noticed this?

Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

We get more and more birds in the garden now, the Hoopoe is a summer visitor.

Hoopoe with worm

Hoopoe with worm

He digs deep into the ground with his beak and is a successful worm catcher.  His visits would be great to aerate a lawn, if you had one.

Andrena cineraria in hole

Andrena cineraria in hole

Of all my visitors to the garden it is the bees that excite me the most and the garden is full of them at the moment.  I have so many to identify but I am overjoyed as I now have a book to try and get my mind round.  It is called the ” Bees of Surrey” by David W. Baldock.  You may wonder if this is what I really need as I live in France.  It is certainly the best thing I have read so far and I have learnt such a lot although I have not had time to fully use it.  It was advice I received from an excellent blog http://www.edphillipswildlife.com/news.html that put me onto the book.  The author of “Bees of Surrey” suggests that to begin identifying bees you should try and identify twenty (with the help of a local bee expert if possible 😦 ) and then you can identify a few new ones each year.  He says it is difficult advice to follow but you will be hooked for life if you take it.  Well, I have set myself the challenge to identify twenty bees by photographing them.

I’ve got a lot of photographs and some tentative identifications in mind and I’ll post some of my identifications and observations and I’d be very grateful for any comments.

When it is sunny here it seems it is not only the bees that are happy.

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It seems to put everyone in a good mood.

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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 “All’s well in the garden

  1. Love today’s post. Some great photos too.. The bee in his hole and the lizards ( having a hug?) are my favourites

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  2. Lovely to see all the blossoms and life in your garden. No bees on the broadbeans? The bumblebees love my broad bean flowers. You have set yourself a challenge with your bee identification project! I had no idea that pear blossom was so stinky. I must pay more attention next spring. Oh and I love hoopoes.

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    • Spot on! I have lots of bumble bees on the broadbeans but they are low on the ground and when the bumbles go inside its a bit dark for a good photograph. The funny thing about the pear blossom was that it only lasted some days, it is not a permanent odour. Maybe it happens only in certain weather conditions as the neighbours tree, which was a different variety again, smelt just as bad. It would be interesting what you notice next spring.

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  3. I’ve noticed that bradford pears, used as an ornamental here, have a terrible fishy odor. It is a cultivated variety of the Callery Pear, which also has an odor. My question is, what pollinators are attracted by such a scent? Flies?
    I like all the white flowers in your back lawn!

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    • The funny thing is the bees showed no difference in behaviour and there was just as many bees during the fishy days. I love my daisies in the lawn too but they are a weed. We usually don’t get as many but this year we have had a lot of rain. Some bees like the daisies, too.

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  4. what an interesting bird! We don’t have hoopoe here in the US (that I’m aware of). Your garden is beautiful!

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  5. Lovely post. I enjoy the bee photos so much. After seeing so many close-ups of your flowers and the creatures in your garden, it was interesting to see the “view from upstairs window” and to get a better sense of the garden as a whole.

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    • The house sits sideways on the plot but what we call the front garden is fairly civilised now. The other side has still got a lot of work to be done but I don’t think you could ever finish a garden.

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  6. I’ve never smelt a pear blossom, but I have a flowering currant that smells of tomcats! Whatever, the bees still love the blossoms, as your beautiful photo shows. Love the last image too!

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  7. We are still so frozen here. I went out and checked on my wild bees…either they are still hibernating or they died over the winter. I am so sad. I love your yard!

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

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  8. It is always refreshing to see the progression of many steps that brings us spring. I really enjoy your photos.

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  9. The whole post put me in a good mood – the cuddling lizards especially so.

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  10. Great post, and nice to see, as I look out to our snow-covered yard, that spring has sprung elsewhere.

    Good yob on the photos, as well.

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  11. Lots of food for thought in your post – the bee identification book sounds exactly what I need. Is it me or are the quince trees looking prettier than ever this year? Just off to smell the pear trees, LOL, – will let you know if I notice anything out of the ordinary.

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    • Just to report that the pear trees here – which are all Doyenne de Comice – are all pleasantly and normally fragranced. And that today’s Top Prize for Scent is won, by a long margin, by the lilacs.

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    • I think my quince tree gives the most beautiful blossom in the garden because it is set off by the beautiful soft green leaves but it seems the same as always this year. I always love to touch the leaves just now as they are so soft.

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  12. We have many things the same in the garden at the moment, funny how sometimes your garden is ahead of mine and vice versa. A couple of weeks ago the Hoopoe arrived here and I believe he might be nesting in our hedge as I’ve seen him many times in the garden (great images BTW). Love the lizards, great capture. Christina

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    • I’m in the south of France at the moment and I am surprised to see very little difference in the countryside – season wise. I suppose it is from now on in that things will accelerate.

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  13. Nothing like having a hug in the sunshine. I have a fish allergy so would find your pear tree very disturbing! Will check the Surrey bee book out, thank you.

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    • I’m intending to say a bit more about it when I get round to it. It has some very detailed parts with a lot of history about how the bees have been monitored in Surrey which I found very interesting but may be too much for some people. But there seems lots for the general reader too and with the colour plates I thought the price was very reasonable.

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  14. Love Hoopoes – nice to see a reminder photo.

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  15. Spring is my absolute favorite time of the year. Watching the progress of my roses and annuals is so fun.

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  16. Oh, that is great! I have a book but it’s far too general (all insects). And the one you recommend is about bees in Surrey, where I am! I am off to click on that link right now. Thanks!

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