a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Back to the garden


gdn nov 2013

I’ve never seen the grass so long.  We’ve been with the family in the U.K. for a month and it has rained a lot both in the U.K. and here.

Potager nov13

I managed to tidy the small vegetable plot before I left and it looks sadly empty.  In the bottom right hand corner there are rows of saffron bulbs that I dug up about this time last year after I had collected the stigmas.  I stored the bulbs over the summer and replanted them at the end of August.  I thought I had lost them all as nothing appeared until I saw some tips in the middle of October.  This was very late as they usually are in flower by October, however, my six bulbs that I planted in 2008 have now become 77 little plants.  It looks as if I will have to wait until next year for the flowers.

Garden 13

The medlar tree is full of fruit and provides some interest in the back garden.

For the rest I feel that the autumn is not a good season in the garden.

Euonymus europaeus

At least the spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) provides colour in the back.

Persimmon fruit

The Persimmon tree in the front garden is the only tree to give me red and yellow leaves of autumn, as well as the fruit.

Strawberry tree

I think I am missing the bees.  We have had little sunny weather since our return and I rushed out to take these photographs while the sky was blue.  I can always count on the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) to attract the bumbles bees when we have some sunshine.

Arbutus unedo

At least our birds haven’t been hungry while we’ve been away.  The fruits are edible but I have never tried them as I’ve read that they do not have much of a flavour.

Carder bee

There are a few stray cosmos left in the front garden but everything looks washed out.

I think I will have to put more effort into adding some interest for the autumn next year.  I have already started thinking of next summer and I have under-planted the trees in the back hedge with geraniums to add colour and keep down the weeds.  I have tried an on-line nursery here for the first time and I am awaiting the Elaeagnus angustifolia that I have ordered from them.  It is only a small bare root tree so it might be some time before I will know if the fruit will ripen here.  It does have a common name in France and is called the Olive of Bohemia.

Clathrus ruber

Clathrus ruber

This fungus comes up regularly where I have mulched the plants with wood chippings.  I find it very attractive as the lacy top is bright red and it appears from a cream coloured, egg shaped body that pushes out from the soil.

Bottom of garden

Another project for this winter is to add interest to the narrow strip of trees at the bottom of the garden.  Trying to take inspiration from Beth Chatto’s book “Woodland Garden” I want to introduce some shade loving plants.  I already have some Ruscus and spring bulbs on the edges.  In the summer everything will have to fend for itself.

Sparkle in tree

Of course, I am also trying to improve my photography.  Do you see the sparkle in the top right hand of this photograph?

Subtle sparkle in tree

I think I prefer the more subtle effect.  I’ll have to wait for more sunshine to try for more sparkles in my photographs.

I got this tip from a great blog I follow Focused Moments.  I think Rachel could have started a craze in WordPress with her great photographs including a point of light.

Tall Nepeta

I also have a puzzle in the garden.  This long straggly flower is supposedly a tall Nepeta but I wonder if it was wrongly marked or I picked up the wrong pot in error.  Granted that I should have found a sunnier spot for it but it must have grown to about two and a half metres tall.

Nepeta flower head

Does anyone recognise this as an autumn flowering Nepeta?

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.

38 thoughts on “Back to the garden

  1. It’s great to see that you still have bits of color in the garden, even though many things have finished growing and the bees are mostly absent. I like your “sparkle” photo–I’s have to check out the referenced blog to see how to do that.


  2. The grass certainly is green and luxurious. And you have a medlar tree and a persimmon! And a sparkle in the sky 🙂 Were you following my blog when I had all the excitement of a precious handful of medlars bletting in my house? And you have an entire treeful of medlars!


  3. We have been here and the grass is long, it has been too wet to cut it! Just starting to make medlar jelly now as the fruit is bletting nicely. Diane


    • My fruit isn’t ripe yet but I haven’t checked the trees that grow near us yet. I have only eaten them raw as a fruit, I’ve never tried to make jelly with them. Good point about the rain, I was a bit grumpy as I was thinking we would have cut it if we had been here.


      • Diane is right about the rain making it too wet to cut…
        we’ve had over 100mm here in Tour”RAIN”e du Sud in the last month….
        in total desperation I mulch mowed the most trod areas around the potager, down to the wood store, etc. yesterday…
        and raked the worst off this morning.
        Pauline is desperate to get the garlic in where some of the potatoes were…
        I tried raking a level bed this morning and just got a rakehead full of clag!!


  4. I think your plant is a Salvia, the flowers look a bit like S. ‘Indigo Spires’. The fruit of the Arbutus is Okay, not wonderful although they sometimes sell the fruits here in fruit and veg shops and they definately sell them in the Middle East. But I leave mine for the birds, not that they’re very keen.


    • I had a suspicion it might be a Salvia. I had always thought of Salvia’s as short until I saw a beautiful tall Salvia in a friend’s garden about a week ago in the U.K. and it looked suspiciously like my “Nepeta”. My friend had a cutting of the Salvia already potted and I was very excited about bringing it over. Unfortunately, it got left behind, so it will have to wait until our Christmas visit. I have just checked “Indigo Spires” on Google, so thanks for the ID.


  5. Beautiful. The plant in the lower picture is a Black and Blue Salvia (Salvia guaranitica )


  6. The Nepeta might be a Salvia, but I suppose if it was looking for the sunlight it could be what it says it is. I’ve had several salvias that are always taller than they are supposed to be! That fungi is very pretty. We had a lot of unusual ones this year… difficult to name them though!


    • I think that it is indeed a Salvia, I had not realised until recently that Salvias could grow so tall. I should really move it to somewhere it isn’t so much in the shade, it is getting leggy looking for more sun.


  7. I always enjoy your bee photos so much. I’m afraid the grass is quite long in our garden, too, in spite of frequent mowings right into November. It’s too wet to mow now, and the dandelions are even taller than the grass. 😦


  8. Isn’t it fun to come home after a time away to see all the growth and changes in the landscape. You must have such a lovely climate there, with all those fruit trees and flowering shrubs I it the fall. Yes, I too loved Rachael’s starburst sun spots in her photos and blogged about them also.


    • That was supposed to read fruit trees and flowering shrubs late in the fall–stupid iPad!


      • It’s good to be home. We usually get more sun in the autumn here, though. This morning we have our first white frost on the grass but the sun is shining too. I think Rachel will start a fashion with her sunbursts. Perhaps I will get a chance to try again today if the sun stays out.


  9. I miss the bees too. You are lucky to still have a few bumbles around.


    • I usually can see the queen white-tailed bumble bees on sunny days on the Arbutus and right through the winter on the winter flowering jasmine. The honey bees come out too if it is sunny – I mustn’t forget them!


  10. That “Saliva” is a wonderful colour!
    And the fungus is terrific… very alien…
    and far prettier than a stinkhorn…
    is it fly distributed too?


  11. That flower does look like a salvia, but I can’t say for sure which one. I like the cage fungus. That’s another one I’ve never seen in the wild.


  12. Lovely promenade around le jardin. Merci. RH


  13. Gorgeous post. And thanks for the mention. I do seem inadvertently to have started something. I have been having fun popping round to blogs referencing the starburst post.
    Your garden always looks so intriguing. That fungus is spectacular!


  14. Lovely summer still! 🙂 Now I know the name of a tree I have only seen once, on Sardinia: the strawbery tree.


  15. That’s an amazing fungus! You’re inspiring me Amelia, I’ve let the garden go over the last few months. Must do better!


    • I’m hoping to knock it into shape now so that we have less to do in the spring. My husband got a new chainsaw yesterday, his old one being worn out. There will be sawdust flying today, no doubt.


  16. Pingback: Heatwave October | a french garden

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