a french garden

Off the well trodden paths

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When I visited Minerve in the Languedoc-Roussillon last week we parked in the visitors car park outside the village which must be reached on foot.  The car park was well designed and the light stream of visitors parked and followed a well-trodden path for their initial view of the beautiful village.  Afterwards they followed the paths to the village pausing to take in the scenery and the atmosphere.

Osmia bee on Cistus

Osmia bee on Cistus

Alongside the path the wild flowers were growing in abundance and the wild bees were out in their numbers.  I think this is a Cistus incanus which is a Mediterranean plant so I’m not sure whether it has arrived here by itself or it is indeed native to this area of southern France.  It is so beautiful and provides the perfect foil for my bee which I think is the same Osmia cornuta which is nesting in my bee hotel in the garden.

Osmia collecting pollen

Osmia collecting pollen

The Osmia do not collect pollen on their legs.  The female Osmia have a brush of pollen-collecting hairs on the underside of their abdomen.

I was engrossed in my bees when I heard a voice from a party returning to the car park and explaining to a child that “The lady was taking pictures of the flowers”.  The child was obviously more interested in what I was doing than admiring the view and I’m sure would have been fascinated with all the bees.  It made me wonder how many people tread the well-trodden path and do not look any further.

After we left Minerve we followed a descending road but stopped at a marked view point.  The view was truly remarkable but when we looked a little further we found an abundance of wild flowers.

Wild thyme

Wild thyme

The bees have plenty of forage at this time of year and were visiting the wild thyme.

Yellow orchid

Yellow orchid

Just off the path were yellow orchids,  Ophrys lutea, I think.

Another yellow orchid.

Another yellow orchid.

Close by was another which I think is the Spider orchid Ophrys aranifera, which doesn’t look to much like a spider to me.

Spotted orchid

Spotted orchid

I’m not even going to try naming this one as orchids are extremely difficult to identify.  Lady Orchid, Orchis purpurea (Please see Susan’s comments beneath.)

Lathyrus cicera

Lathyrus cicera

This beauty was pushing up here and there, not as large or rambling as the sweet peas but just as attractive.

A peach tree had already set fruit testifying to the mild climate of the area.  An almond tree was also in fruit with some of last years fruit still on the ground and edible.

Still, like good tourists we pressed on to our next stop and took in the views until the bees called again.

Honey bee

Honey bee

The cow parsley was attracting lots of bees and other insects.

Nomada sp.

Nomada sp.

This is a cuckoo bee, I cannot be more precise for the species.  These bees do not build their own nests but lay their eggs in the nests of other bees.  Their young will be nourished on the pollen and nectar set aside by other bees, quite like mining bees of the genus Andrena.

I was lured back to the straight and narrow by the promise of an ice cream in the village, so I left the bees and my photographing.  It made me wonder though, how often we follow the well trodden paths and how much we miss in doing so.

Returning home on the motorway we stopped just outside Agen.  The weather was fine and we really needed to stretch our legs.  It was the usual petrol station/restaurant set-up but they seemed to have gone a little bit further than many in France and provided more places to sit and a pleasant play area for the children.  Just across from the play area we found – yes, more orchids.

Purple orchid

Purple orchid

(See comments) Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio

Unkown bud

And this beauty that is just starting to flower. (Tongued orchid, Serapias lingua – see comments)

We don’t have to wait for a signpost or a well trodden path to find something of beauty.

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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.

36 thoughts on “Off the well trodden paths

  1. Nice trip! I am so impressed of you knowing every bee by name! 🙂
    beautiful pictures.

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    • Oh, I would love to know every bee by name. There are more than 200 different species of solitary bee in the UK and probably more in France. I am aiming to be able to identify 20 to start with. It is very difficult and frequently a photograph isn’t sufficient for a verification.

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  2. It is wonderful that there is still so much on a well trodden path. The plants and bees have made homes despite the foot traffic.

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  3. The orchids are beautiful and the abundance and variety is amazing. I’ve hiked hundreds of miles over the past two years looking for them and have only seen two.

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  4. A real eye-opener – I know the areas you mention, and have NEVER noticed such beautiful orchids – I will have to be more vigilant – thanks so much for bringing these to my attention.

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  5. Amazing photos – especially the bee on the cow parsley.

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  6. Gorgeous photos! Are these native orchids, or have they been planted here? It’s such an amazing diversity of types. And your photos are wonderful.

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  7. Wonderful images Amelia; my husband walked with a friend on Wednesday (a holiday here) and he saw masses of wild flowers too, including orchids; sadly he’s not so avid a photographer as me so I only have his description but no photos! I do agree with you that many people miss so much because they simply don’t look. Christina

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  8. Your orchids are: Ophrys lutea (I am green with envy); Early Spider Orchid O. sphegodes (syn O. aranifera) or Small Spider Orchid O. araneola (I can’t tell which from this photo — they look like spiders because of the two beady little eyes in the throat); Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea; Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio (could be subsp picta); Tongue Orchid Serapias lingua.

    Your Cow Parsley looks like Wild Parsnip Pastinaca sativa to me (just as popular with insects). The Red Vetchling L. cicera is lovely. We don’t get that here at all.

    Great pics of the bees doing their thing — really good behavioural shots. I have a suspicion the one on the Cistus is a Megachile sp, btw.

    It sounds like a great visit, and a good time had by all.

    With regard to the little boy being interested in what you were doing, my guess is that photographing flowers is OK, but if you told his mother you were photographing insects she would have been completely nonplussed. My sister and I had two women ask us what we were photographing in a nature reserve near Alice Springs once. When we said ‘that dragonfly over there’ they grunted and went on their way without another word or glancing in the dragonfly’s direction! I have no idea what subject would have gained their attention. Good thing they hadn’t caught me photographing kangaroo poo 5 minutes earlier!

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    • Thanks for all the IDs, Susan. I still don’t get the spider thing but at least now I know what I’m supposed to see. I think you are right about the adults: photographing flowers is O.K. but people think bees are scary and dangerous. I’m sure the child would have had more fun helping me find bees than looking at scenery.

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  9. You always remind me to look.

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  10. This must be paradise, a village were you have to park outside. And all the lovely, wild orchids, my favorites! This must be the right time to visit this part of the world. I don’t know them, but the “another yellow orchid resembles one of our, our only Ophrys, the Ophrys insectifera. By the way, not a single flower yet in Norway…

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  11. Beautiful photos. What a lovely walk! I love seeing all the wild flowers at the roadsides in spring and early summer.

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  12. As a hardened birdwatcher, with an interest in insects, I only started looking seriously at flowers after getting my ankle shattered in a forestry accident…
    I was told that I must not walk on uneven ground…
    “S#D THAT!!” thought I….
    and, using a stick, started walking very slowly in the wild…
    watching very carefully where I put my feet…
    and began to notice very small flowers at my feet…
    Milkweeds, small Forget-me-Nots and tiny Geranium sp. to begin with….
    I’d always been aware of the beauty of some, more majestic flowers…
    but the tiny beauty of these grabbed me…
    and have never let go!!

    Great pix as usual… and interesting information about the Osmias…

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  13. Lovely post and absolutely stunning photos Amelia! What beautiful orchids.

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  14. Your photographs of the honey bee are excellent. What makes you such an avid bee watcher?

    Shakti

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    • It all started when an Anthophora plumipes stared at me out of a hole in the house wall. Then I saw the mining bees digging their nests in the soil. If you are quiet they let you watch them, most other creatures run away.

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  15. Very nice series . . . makes me itchy for the start of our flowering season.

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  16. Great pics, love the bees…

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