a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

The last days of September


Heptacodium jasminoides

The end of September has been hot with days around 30 degree C, although now the weather has changed with clouds and rain showers but with warm day-time temperatures.  The star of the garden at the moment is the Heptacodium jasminoides which perfumes a corner of the front garden with its beautiful jasmine-like scent.  After the late spring this year it is nearly a month behind compared with last year.

White tailed bumble bee

It is still covered by the white tailed bumble bees ( Bombus hortorum).  It surprises me that it is not the unanimous choice of all the bumble bees.  Perhaps because Bombus hortorum has a short tongue that she finds the nectar particularly easy to reach.

Carder bee

The carder bees come too but are much fewer in number.

Hardy fuschia

The carders are happy to frequent the nearby fuchsia but have longer tongues so are likely to have to work less to get to the nectar.  My hardy fuchsia is still a mass of flowers and has been flowering right through the summer.

Old bumble bee

I have been watching this old bumble bee as she returns day after day.  Her wings are ragged, her colours bleached and parts of her thorax and abdomen have become bald.  I think she must be very grateful for this plentiful supply of nectar.

Halictus female

Some solitary bees also take advantage of the nectar supply like this female Halictus, probably Halictus scabiosae.

Halictus sexcinctus

This is another Halictus, probably Halictus sexcinctus.

Unknown visitor

This is another visitor but I’ve unfortunately no idea of the identity but the white tailed bumble bees are content to share with all comers.

Carpenter bee, Xylocopa violacea

This year the carpenter bees (Xylocopa violacea) have been more numerous, perhaps attracted from the nearby Wisteria that has had flowers on it throughout the summer.

The late spring has been responsible for differences in the garden this year especially with the fruit and vegetable.  The first fruits such as the early plums and apricots never appeared and the tomatoes seemed to have had a problem getting started; the fruit ripened late and the last tomatoes have rotted on the vine despite the warm weather.  Not even any green tomatoes left for green tomato chutney.

Sweet peas pyramid

On the right my “Sungold” baby tomatoes tried to put up a good show but rapidly gave up the ghost a few days ago.  They were no way so plentiful as last year but I forgive them as they were sufficient for our needs.

On the other hand the mass on the left is my sweet peas, which I have not forgiven.  It was my last effort at trying to grow sweet peas and I succeeded in producing one flower about a month ago which I cut immediately to promote the production of masses of flower heads.  Ha!  I give up.

Dwarf beans

I have had better flowers from the dwarf beans that my friend Michel gave me and I planted on the 27 July.  They have produced lovely fine beans.

Borlotti beans

I am luckier with my beans.  These are borlotti beans and these too have lovely flowers.

Borlotti bean flowers pollinised by carpenter bee

I wondered who might pollinate these flowers and I was not surprised when I caught the carpenter bee on them at the beginning of September.

Inside Borlotti beans

The actual beans are a beautiful pale green and then become speckled when fully ripe.  I have been converted to a Borlotti bean fan by reading Sarah Raven’s book “The great vegetable plot” and use her recipe for the beans as well as for other things.

Aster, Sweet lavender

Another success of the moment is my asters “Sweet Lavender” bought half price from the Savill Gardens in January.  I’ve never had these tall little asters before and I like them a lot.

Green apple sorbet

I’m still looking for inventive ways of using my apples.  I found a recipe for green apple sorbet on the Internet.  They used Granny Smiths but I used my green Golden Delicious, not really believing that the sorbet would stay green.  It did and as the apples are raw and have only a little sugar added it is much healthier than the normal sorbets cooked with a sugar syrup.  It is best eaten straight out of the ice cream maker as it is more difficult to defrost later – but not impossible.

Hyla meridionalis

I have now accepted that autumn is here.  My little green tree frogs croak at me from the patio in the morning and hide in the plastic cover of the outside table.

There are mushrooms growing in the garden which is very convenient but something else has appeared around a spindle tree.

Spindle tree, Euonymus europaeus

It makes the tree look as if it is growing out of some giant pie crust.  It does not look too good for the spindle tree and I think we should maybe cut it down.  If it goes to the bottom of our “to do” list in the garden it will be a little while yet.

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 “The last days of September

  1. We’ve had our first frost, and yesterday morning there was ice in the birdbaths.

    That means I’ll soon clear-cut the flower beds, bring in the hummingbird feeders, and prepare for the coming snow.

    We still have the occasional bee, but there’s not much left for them.

    One thing in common . . . I have a few mushrooms growing in the yard (for the first time in a number of years), probably from the wet last few months.


  2. My tomatoes went the same way as yours, although they are still hanging on. Not sure if there are enough for chutney though. Enjoyed the photos of your bees – the sedum is their major attraction here now, but there are fewer than normal.


    • I bought two other varieties of sedum this year as I thought it was the variety of sedum that I had which was not attracting enough pollinating insects. The other two varieties are very pretty but no more successful than the first. I remember our sedum in my parents garden in the U.K. actually covered with butterflies. Plants to attract pollinators must have a different success rate in different areas and perhaps may depend on weather conditions.


  3. It’s nice to see plenty of bees in a garden. A bracket fungus on a living tree almost always means it’s not long for this world.


  4. It’s fascinating for me, a child of the suburbs, to read about the trials and joys of trying to grow food. So much is unpredictable, with weather a major variable. I really enjoy your photos of all the different plants and bees. The growing season is coming to a close and I suspect that you are already making plans for next year.


    • You are a lot more dependant on the vagaries of the weather than you imagine when you first attempt to grow anything. I’ve got a lot of respect for professional growers now. We try and sit down about this time and analyse what was worth growing and should repeat and what we should maybe miss or grow more or less. We keep a limited area under cultivation for vegetables because it is much more work so we have to chose what we grow carefully.


  5. Bees, bees everywhere and I love Mr. Green Tree Frog!


  6. Loved the photo of the poor old tatty-winged bumble bee. I am wondering if I am going to plant sweet peas this year. If I wonder too much longer, it will be too late to plant them anyway.


  7. This year I think there have been more Carpenter bees than any other kind. Do share the recipe for barlotti beans, they grow well for me too.


    • She has a lovely picture of the dish in her book. It is very simple. Mix them with some melted red onion, skinned fresh tomatoes and a good slurp of olive oil, stewing them slowly for half an hour (I find they take less if fresh). Cool them a little and scatter a generous handful of chopped coriander over them. You can serve with more coriander and slivers of Parmesan. She also suggests using them for a bean houmous which I would like to try.


  8. Very autumno-pastoral… and isn’t it strange what does / doesn’t thrive in a particular year. Some of our veg were disastrous, but we have had our best grapes for 30 years… in London! RH [PS new WP theme?]


    • Funny about the grapes as we had better weather than the U.K. this year but I suppose ours are used to the weather over here and were not happy with it at all. I have not changed my theme ever and I was just thinking of changing my header to another but I have not got round to it yet.


  9. Your garden is so beautiful and i hope you can still enjoy it for a long time, and wish I could have a tiny bit of it…


  10. Gorgeous gorgeous photos. Poor old bumble bee, she is working late in the year.
    I saw lots of carder bees on fuschia in Cornwall a couple of minutes ago.


  11. I have a Heptacodium jasminoides that grows outside my office in the corner of my home. I love watching it bloom in the fall which it has just done…your photos are gorgeous.


  12. You have succeeded in growing more sweet peas than I ever managed (even if it is just one) – my Dad, in sunny Lancashire, can create a stunning supply – but I have failed dismally. There’s some comfort in knowing that I am not alone.
    My tomatoes are hanging on bravely, still ripening in the afternoon sun. I have lots of fabulous Bramleys right now – just made a fluffy apple mousse and am about to tackle an apple and toffee cheesecake – very decadent, but its for a birthday party.
    Nice to see all the bees still out and about.


  13. A lovely amble around your early Autumn garden.
    We are having an indifferent Autumn, with severe weather warnings predicting torrential rain for this afternoon ( which has failed to materialise so far). Quite a few flowers lingering on nonetheless. In particular, my roses, dahlias and solanum jasminoides. I am jealous of your tree frogs 😉


  14. I feel a bit tired and ragged round the edges after a long, hot summer – a bit like that aged bee. Some of that smashing looking apple sorbet would revitalise me nicely. Dave


  15. It seems like a poetic secret garden… Un jardin français, voilà… Merci Aquileana 😉


  16. Pingback: Autumn has started | a french garden

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