a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

A walk after the storm


Our garden borders the river Seudre.  We have left a part of the land next to the river somewhat wild forming a little forest.  After the recent storm it now resembles a war zone with broken trees scattered along it, waiting for the autumn when I will drag the branches to an open space and burn them.

We are still in the middle of summer and summer storm are not unusual here, but I was reminded of Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s Ode to the West Wind:

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing – 

Amelia and I often walk on a path only a couple of minutes from our house, that takes us along the river and then through a forest to the nearby hamlet of Madion.  It is a pretty walk that usually takes less than an hour, if Amelia doesn’t stop too long photographing the bees.  Today we took the same path for the first time after the recent storm.

The wild mint is flowering just now and is adored by the bees and the butterflies.

The wild mint

The wild mint

The hemp agrimony ( Eupatorium cannabinum ) remains a favourite of the butterflies.

Butterflies on hemp agrrimony

Butterflies on hemp agrrimony

A little while later I realized why not many people had walked along the path lately.  Between the river and the field of maze, the path was blocked by a broken tree.

IMG_2787We maneuvered our way through the field of maize as many have fallen victim of the storm and were flattened.  On the other side of the fallen tree, I encountered a patch of my worst hidden enemy in the garden: the stinging nettles.   They were covered with caterpillars.  Well my consolation is that at least we will have more butterflies.

Collage catepillars

Like all little boys, I am fascinated by the form of the little snails.


In the stillness and the heat of the late afternoon, I could see a few  damsel flies and even the dragon flies.

Collage damsel flies

I am not a biologist, but merely an engineer, but it seemed to me that each wild plant and wild flower has its purpose in the life of the countryside.

Wild flowers

I could see that my path was yet again interrupted by another fallen tree.

IMG_2809Never mind, I will turn right through the forest.  That is my favourite route: so peaceful, and yet so full of promise.

IMG_2811A few minute later the forest path was also blocked.

IMG_2813We fought the branches and emerged yet again successfully on the other side and then left the forest into a much more open countryside. along the vineyards.  On my left, a bunch of mislteoe:  Perhaps waiting there for a stolen kiss?

IMG_2823And then a field of pure warm sunshine:

IMG_2827I do not know the people that live in that little farm building, but I have often thought that they have indeed chosen a corner of heaven.


In the open ground there were more bees and butterflies.  Even a queen bumble bee with her sac of pollen.

Bumbles and butterflies in the open

The grains of grapes are swelling.  Perhaps summer is already approaching its end?

IMG_2845And more wild flowers and berries preparing the countryside for the summers to come

IMG_2831In this part of France they often plant sloe (prunus spinosa) along the edges of the fields.  Its white flowers are pretty in early Spring, its fruit is eaten by some wild animals, and its thorn inhibit the intruders.


The wild blackberries are already ripening.  Last year we collected several kilos of blackberries at this spot and Amelia made delicious jelly.

IMG_284715th of August is the Assumption day.  It is a National Holiday in France and some towns will have the last fireworks display of the season.  After that the French holidaymakers start returning home to prepare the children for the rentrée scolaire.  

On our return home, after nearly two and half hour of walk, I look again at the devastation that the storm caused in the countryside.  I think back at that night of the storm with 150 Km/hr wind tearing the trees down, and I can’t help but think again of Shelly:

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;

If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;

A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free

Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even

I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven 

We are really lucky here that we have a mild climate and do not suffer from ‘uncontrollable’ wind very often.  Our summers are warm, but not too hot and we are able to enjoy the last days of beautiful warm sunshine well into October and and when autumn at last comes we will return to the task of clearing Amelia’s afrenchgarden.


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.

26 thoughts on “A walk after the storm

  1. There is little I like more than a long walk in a pretty place – thank you for letting us enjoy exploring the French countryside with you 🙂


  2. What a lovely post – it has really brightened up my Friday afternoon. You really do live in a magical place!


    • Thank you. We do feel honoured to have the chance to live here and share our garden and our life with the beautiful nature around us. I am so glad that you liked the post that I wrote on behalf of Amelia. Have a good week end. – K


  3. Such a beautiful variety of butterflies and an abundance of fruits. The colors of the butterflies are so vibrant.


    • They are beautiful indeed. My purpose was to record that although the storm had caused a lot of damage in the countryside, somehow, nature seems to heal itself. Life just goes on. Birds continue to sing and butterflies just pretend that nothing has changed. – K


  4. A very nice walk indeed.


  5. It’s a beautiful walk in spite of the storm damage. The mistletoe is interesting. I’ve never seen it growing anywhere.


    • Thank you for the comment. The trees at the back of our garden are usually full of mistletoe – big bunches of them. Every year I remove the bulk them from the apple tree. The experts say that it does not damage the tree. But, I don’t want to risk it on the apple trees. -K


  6. A lovely walk, with a few more diversions than usual. Did Amelia use the sloes for jam or gin?


  7. A lovely snapshot of your rural life!

    The picture of the farm buildings reminded me of the painting by Andrew Wyeth entitled Christina’s World.


    • Amelia and I really appreciate that the countryside around our home is still so unspoiled. The modernity of life; the satellite television dishes; the telephone and internet connection to houses has not yet changed the way people live here. They still go to their local weekly markets; they hold local festivals and often we see several generation gather under a large tree in front of their house for lunch.
      I was not familiar with that painting but I just found it on the internet and you are right. I can see the resemblance. – K


  8. Lovely rustic wander… and illustrations.


  9. Thank you for sharing real touches of beauty…loved the butterfly photos.


    • Thank you for your comment. Isn’t nature wonderful? Even after the storm, we can find beautiful flowers, bees and butterflies in our garden and along the paths we follow frequently. – K


  10. A poetry-quoting engineer – that would be a rare sighting indeed down here amongst the aerospace fraternity!
    Lovely post – I was transported along with you.


    • I often have thought that without the song of the birds and the flight of the butterflies, nature would be a less beautiful place to walk through. I believe that without poetry our literature would be less rich and enjoyable.
      Thank you for your comments. I am glad that you had the time to join us on the walk – K


  11. That’s quite an odyssey you’ve described in words and pictures. I like the way you incorporated lines from Shelley.


    • Thank you, Steve. Amelia and I are lucky that we can just walk out of our front door and choose a number of walks depending on our mood. We have named each walk, like our ‘butterfly path’, or ‘river bank’ or simply ‘the walk around the chateau’.
      Shelly is one of my most favourite English poets. I often think of him, and how he must have loved nature. – K


  12. A lovely, slow, amiable meander. And some Shelley too. Perfect.


  13. Thank you, Rachael.
    Sometimes things do not appear ‘perfect’, but we do try to make the best of what life offers us. Countryside without flowers is like literature without poetry. It wont be perfect. I appreciate your comment. – K


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