a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Sunshine after the gloom


Ranunculus ficaria

Ranunculus ficaria

Spring colours are bright whether it is the wild Celandine that appears all over the garden…Purple crocus

or the crocus…

Purple crocus

which can be positively gaudy.

Crocus and scilla

Crocus and scilla

I have planted the bulbs as near to the house as I can in any space I can find to cheer up the dull days.


But however bright they are, it is a bit beyond the flowers to lift up continuous days of dull, cloudy, rainy weather.  But at last we have had a whole day of sunshine and the garden looks so different.

River at bottom of garden

The level of the river at the bottom of the garden has dropped a little bit and the nearby fields no longer look like lakes.  I’m not quite sure why, as the rain has been falling with boring regularity.

Another Ash tree has been felled to give more light to the vegetable garden.  I can just imagine us having a scorching summer now and the garden turning into a dust bowl!  The sunshine gave us incentive to plant a few early Almondine potatoes and some dwarf peas (Douce Provence) as the temperatures continue to be so mild.

The fallen tree gave me ready access to admire some beautiful lichen close up.  I’d like to dedicate the next few photographs to the New Hampshire Gardener at New Hampshire Garden Solutions.


This I think is a lichen with purple apothecia.

foliose lichen

This probably a foliose lichen (I go no further).

Lichen and moss

Lots of lichen and moss living happily together.

Yellow lichenVery yellow lichen.

Brown stuff

Very brown, jelly…stuff.


This is one I recognise as Tremella mesenterica from NH Gardening Solutions posts.  However, I may be wrong as the branch did not look dead but perhaps it was not feeling well before we cut it down.

Plum tree in flower

Back to the garden – my big plum tree is in full flower.

Plum blossom

Beautiful as the blossom is, I am not happy to see it open so early.

Honey bee on plum tree

When the sun is out the honey bees are there to collect the pollen but because of wind and frequent rain showers the bees are not as numerous as other years when the plum tree has flowered later.  It was in flower a month later in 2012.

Apricot blossom

Some of the apricot blossom has already fallen, but will any fruit follow?

Dark hellebores

The garden has quite a few hellebores now.  They all originated as seedlings from my sister’s garden.

White hellebore

As well as the dark ones I have this white one…

Pink hellebore

and this spotty pink one.  I had lots of seedlings last year which I potted up and cared for in the summer and planted out in the autumn.  I am hoping they will flower next year and I wonder what colours they will be.

Bumble bee and hellebore

I know who I have to thank for the high seedling rate of my hellebores.  The bumble bees are occupied for quite a long time probing just inside the petals where I presume the nectar must accumulate.  In the meantime the bumble bee is receiving a good dusting of pollen from the stamens.  I haven’t seen any of the bumble bees gathering pollen yet so I presume the queens are not starting to nest yet.

Carpenter in helleboreThis carpenter bee looks a bit on the small side.  It has come out of hibernation early.  Carpenter bees overwinter as adults to start up their life cycle at the beginning of summer.  The middle of February is hardly the beginning of summer so perhaps they will go back into a torpid state like bumble bees do if the weather turns cold.  This one did not seem as active as carpenters usually are in the spring and did not object to the hellebore being moved to take the photograph.


I inhaled the perfume from my skimmia for the first time in the sunshine and it brought back memories of the huge bushes in Seaton Park in Aberdeen.  I brought this plant on from a cutting but perhaps because it was too much in the shade or too dry, it has taken about eight years to flower.  If you fancy a perfumed skimmia, I would recommend that you buy a decent sized plant!  The perfume is wonderful and I was wondering if it would attract anything apart from me.

Bumble on skimmia

I did not have to wait long.  The flowerlets are barely open and the bumble bee is already forcing her way in.

The bee activity is stepping up in the garden and I have only identified ten different solitary bees that I have seen in my blog Bees in a French Garden.  I have challenged myself to recognise twenty so I will have to spend more time in my photograph files.

Bombus pratorum and winter honeysuckle

Bombus pratorum and winter honeysuckle

But it is so difficult to stay concentrated when the sun is shining and there are bees in the garden.

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.

30 thoughts on “Sunshine after the gloom

  1. Your photography is amazing. Lovely pictures of early spring flowers and lichen. I’ m liking the lichen.
    As a francophile I love the idea of living in France. Your place looks wonderful.


    • I’m glad you like the photographs, its like sharing the garden with friends. NH Gardener always has great lichen photographs which he identifies. It is amazing to see them surviving in such cold weather.


  2. The pictures are beautiful and I especially liked the last one with the bumble approaching the flowers


  3. Lovely to see all the signs of spring emerging in your garden. I can imagine everything and everyone wanting to dance a little in the sunshine 😉


  4. According to my French mycologist friend Paul T. mesenterica is the most likely orange jelly fungus, but there are two species that it is almost impossible to tell apart just visually. Also, I might be wrong, but is that carpenter bee a male? It’s got red antenna tips. Great lichen photos, btw.


    • I thought that it might be a vaga as it had beige coloured hairs on its shoulders and it looked smaller and hairier than my usual Carpenters. Then I saw the red antenna tips so it must be a male X. violacea so there must be some variation among the individuals. I wasn’t ready to catch this one to have a good look. It was very heavily invested with mites.


  5. The Carpenter bees here have been flying virtually all winter, they seem the hardiest of the bees. Our wild plum is just beginning to flower too, but I think that is always quite early.


    • I’ve never noticed the Carpenter bees before in winter as the first flower they came to was my Wisteria so that would be the end of April. My Hellebores are relatively recent. You must have some flowers they like and most probably your winters are milder. My plum tree behaves more like the wild plums around here but the fruits, though small are very sweet when ripe. The wild plums around here have a good flavour for jam but are too acid for most people to eat raw.


  6. Always nice to visit your garden, Amelia. It acts like a little glimpse into the future of what will happen here. Though that still seems impossibly distant. Dave


    • Normally I would be pleased to be a bit ahead of the UK but everybody over here is getting very nervous about the lack of any cold weather this year. The sap is rising in the vines and some of the more recently cut stems are “crying” and the farmers say this will allow entry of infection if the weather stays mild and damp. In addition they are starting to bud which is much too early. Always something to complain about with the weather! Amelia


      • Hehe. Yes, always complaining about the weather is a gardener’s calling. But it is a worry – we’ve had next to no hard frosts here either and no snow for the first time in a number of years.


  7. Thanks, Arthur, it was so good to get into the sunshine after such a long time of gloom or dreich weather as they say back home. Amelia


  8. Very nice, and a little envious. Our spring is easily 3-4 months away.


  9. We are almost entirely wet, mud and green coloured here…
    but, buds are breaking [unfortunately] and the odd crocus flower springs at you from the flowerbed.
    Great pix as usual…
    especially the lichens and mosses.
    My favourites.


  10. Glad you’ve had some decent sunshine, and the plum blossom looks amazing, but isn’t it strange how some things are early in this messed up winter, and others late.
    I guess its a bit big to go and chuck a sheet over if frost threatens?? Love the bee photos as always…am learning so much from these here and on your other bee blog.


  11. Thank you for posting the lichen photos. You grow beuatiful ones there but they’re very different than ours and I don’t recognize any of them. The jelly fungus does look like Tremella mesenterica and the brown one that looks like jelly is actually a liverwort, I think. Possibly Frullania eboracensis. Your lichen terminolgy seems to be right on the mark!
    It’s great to see all the flowers. At this point I’d even settle for gaudy crocus.


    • I must admit I did wonder about that brown one having seen your posts on liverworts, I’ve checked more photographs and it could be Frullania eboracensis. What amazes me is that some things are the same and some things different on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Amelia


  12. I’m surprised that you have a plum tree flowering so early. I hope the blossoms survive any freezes that might still come your way.


    • Today we had sunny spells and the plum tree was full of honey bees and some bumble bees. It was getting quite noisy. I had been hoping to spot some solitary bees on the flowers but they are still asleep. There is a beautiful almond-like perfume from the flowers now that they are fully open. Amelia


  13. Beautiful photos Amelia – lovely light and colour. I wish
    I had more colour in my garden at the moment, although the Ceanothus is partly in bloom, strangely.


  14. Great photos – plants and lichen. You must be about 3 or 4 weeks ahead… things in the garden are only just beginning to wake up (a daffodil or 2, some crocuses, a few hellebores, still masses of rather leggy snowdrops). RH


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