a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France



Last week my husband bought a new chain saw, the old one having given up the ghost after years of rough treatment.  Inspired by his new possession he attacked the trees and branches on the left side of the garden that had left too much of the sides in heavy shade.

Collecting the ash

I had no sooner finished collecting the ash from the last bonfire than new cut branches were starting to accumulate.

Clearing the back wood

We are also trying to clear the very bottom of the garden of straggly growth that allows only sufficient light for ivy to grow.

Old willow cut

Trees have a remarkable ability for regeneration but we have left them untended for too long and judicious pruning and loping is required.  I want to protect the willows as they are alive with bees in the spring.

MistletoeA lot of mistletoe grows in this area of France and it was handy that some of the fallen branches supplied us with good bunches of mistletoe for Christmas.

Plum tree rebalanced

The large plum tree, another firm favourite of the bees, has had some lower branches removed .

Bee hotel in place

The bee hotel stayed undisturbed on it perch.

Christmas tree standing

But I had my eyes set on the ex-Christmas tree left by the house’s previous owners.  We had inherited three ex-Christmas trees with the house, planted in a straight row – baby tree, Mummy tree and Daddy tree.  Baby tree was cut to join us celebrating Christmas the first year we bought the house while we were still in the U.K.  Mummy tree was cut some years later but Daddy tree just grew too big.  I think there must be a moral in this story about people who don’t knew much about gardening being careful about where and how they plant trees in their garden.  I know we certainly have made many miscalculations and I am astonished at how quickly trees grow, especially if you are not watching them.


Armed with his new (but not shiny any more) chain saw my husband complied with my wishes and cut down the last Christmas tree.

Fallen tree

This left a lot of leaves and branches to be cleared.

Bedding area exposed

The objective is to give more light to the bedding area to the right of the tree stump.


However, some of the plants are shade loving.  I have grown this fragrant Skimmia from a tiny cutting that broke off as I passed it in the Aberdeen Botanical Gardens.  I loved walking there and it has taken me nine years to grow my cutting to a reasonable size.  I fear that if I do not move it that the sun will scorch this shade-loving plant.

Seating area exposed

It will also leave our sitting area more exposed so I am considering some alternative lower planting or short “hedge”.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

Strawberry tree

Despite low temperatures morning and evening we’ve been enjoying some sunshine and the honey bees have been visiting the strawberry tree.

bee on gorse

I was surprised to see the honey bees were busy and gathering lots of pollen on the gorse which seems quite happy to flower in these conditions.

Tip toes

I watched as one spent considerable effort to enter a flower that was not quite open.  I wonder if the first-come gets more nectar?

Take off

She’ll need plenty of energy to carry those pollen sacs back to the hive!

Wasp on hand

Apart from the gorse, the medlars were ripening and we were snacking on the fruit while watching the bees.  Medlars are sticky things to eat and I had difficulty in persuading this wasp to go and find its own medlar rather than expecting me to hand feed it on the remains of the one I had just finished.

December is a time of sharp contrast here.  Frosts and low temperatures mornings and evenings but sometimes blue skies and warm afternoon sun.