a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

A good year, so far


Back from the UK, I was curious to find out how all the rain that has fallen this year has affected the woods around the house.  Before I left some of the paths were still very muddy but the soil dries up quickly here.

Wild anemones

The wild anemones carpeted the ground under the trees still not fully in leaf.  They are more plentiful than last year and present in places I had never noticed them before.  They are mainly white and single but I enjoy finding the variants of other colours and the double variant.

Wild anemones

They are early this year and I would expect to find them at the end of April (See http://wp.me/p2cvii-6F ).

Path edge

The violets and lesser celandine stood out on the edge of the paths.

Dog violet

These are not the perfumed violets that I find in some places but they are just as beautiful.

Violet and butterfly

The yellow butterfly (maybe a Brimstone) seemed happy to accept the nectar, perfume or not.

Meloe violaceus

Always on the outlook for bees, I notice other things and I frequently come across the Violet Oil Beetle (Meloe violaceus ).  It is not a friend of solitary bees as its larvae find their way onto flowers and hitch a lift on the solitary bees that they encounter so that they can enter their nests.  The larvae then proceed to consume eggs, nectar and pollen.

Meloe violaceus matiing

I had never seen the beetle mating before and I was surprised that the female could scuttle through the leaves just as quickly while dragging the male behind her.  He did his best to stay upright but he often lost balance as it cannot be easy walking backwards with six legs that usually go frontwards.

I also noticed a lot of little flies on the female’s back and I have found out that they could be attracted to fluids that she exudes or they extract from her haemolymph.  This is an oily substance called cantharadin which can blister human skin.  This substance is produced by other beetles like the more well known Spanish fly (Lytta vesicatoria).


The Pulmonaria is abundant this year, usually with its mix of blue and pink flowerlets.  I read some interesting comments on colour change and pollination of flowers (more particularly on fruit trees) in Coloured clues; Mossy Mulch; and Easter Eggs at The Garden Impressionists.

Bee fly

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of bee flies on the spring flowers.  These flies are also parasites of solitary bees laying their eggs on flowers or near the nests of the solitary bees.


It’s not all bad news for the bees as the Asphodel are starting to flower and it has been a mild winter with lots of rain which has suited them well.

Lady's smock, Cardamine pratensis

The Lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis) seems early and is more abundant.

Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea

The Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea is everywhere and is attracting the attention of an Andrena bee here, probably Andrena Willkella.Fern frond

Everything is fresh and pushing through like the fern fronds unfurling.


This is a time of activity and as I walk I hear the bumble bees, not just in the flowers but searching.  They are searching for just the right place to build their nest.  I often follow them as they explore and vanish into holes but they always return to continue their search, never seeming to find just the right place.

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.

31 thoughts on “A good year, so far

  1. You’ve just identified an insect for me. A couple of years ago we saw a pair of beetles that look very much like that doing very much the same thing on a dock out in New Hampshire. Lovely flower photos, too.


  2. A great read, and very informative.

    . . . FYI, it’s snowing here.


  3. Great post and lovely photographs, Mother nature dealt a strange card with the eating habits of oil beetle larvae.


  4. I never knew that anemone blossoms varied that much. I wonder if they are wild or cultivated? I’ll have to take a closer look when ours bloom. It’s nice to see spring happening.


    • They are wild and you do get natural variants. The actual plants are a lot more fragile and hug the ground more than the cultivated varieties. They are in the sun in clearings just now but disappear soon as the trees get their leaves. Amelia


  5. You had a mild winter and then an early spring. I wonder if that means it will be a long, hot summer in your area. I envy all the spring flowers (and insects) that you’re seeing. It’s snowing again here today.


  6. Lovely to take a “walk” through your woodlands. Thanks for the great photos.


  7. Lovely to see what is happening in your garden. I have just divided my pulmonaria. Hopefully they will be happy about that and give me lots more flowers this spring.


  8. Reblogged this on White Lies.


  9. I’ve never seen a double anemone in the wild, so must keep my eyes open. I have also seen a lot of bee flies this spring, but more bees and bumble bees than ever before! I think you are a little ahead of us, and we are at least 3 weeks ahead of last year… no sign of the ferns here yet, but everything is happening so rapidly it can only be a matter of days now. Lovely post Amelia!


  10. Hello A,
    What a lovely spring post and great photos. Suddenly France is looking way ahead of us again. And fabulous to get all those native wood anemones.
    I must admit that I’ve sometimes followed bumblebees and never been convinced that I’ve seen them enter a nest…all the nests I’ve ever discovered have been by chance, disturbing them. Thanks for the link as well, and glad to see the bee fly…although they’ve a bit of a menacing life cycle, I think they’re such amazing insects with their enormously long tongues and legs,


  11. Dave Goulson of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust says that to find bumblebee nests he takes a deck chair and a gin and tonic on a sunny day and watches. I’ve only noticed nests by the activity of the workers in the summer but I can’t resist keeping my eyes on the Queens. Amelia


  12. The Asphodels are flowering here too; I love seeing them, they remind me of DH Lawrence and his book Etruscan Places as the first time I saw them flowering was at an Etruscan tomb site near here and he described them exactly as I saw them.


  13. Nice bee shots, Amelia. That Violet Oil Beetle (Meloe violaceus ) looks a little like a Snail-eating Ground beetle,(Scaphinotus angusticollis), which I’ve seen here.
    I’ve seen the bumblebees flying low too, looking for a place to nest. It’ll probably end up in my shop wall where they really prefer to nest. 🙂


  14. How lovely. Amusing about the female oil beetle dragging her mate behind her!
    The bumble bee queens I see searching never seem satisfied either. They must be very particular about where they build their nests.


  15. Lots of favourites, Amelia – though I don’t have any asphodels here. Gorgeous and look like orchids. I’ve only just introduced some pulmonaria into the gardens – and about time too. Dave


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