a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

April is over


April is over.  It was a beautiful month in the garden; mild and sunny.  That was right up until the last week when it became overcast and rained, but as the rain was forecast we took the opportunity to leave the garden being well-watered and follow the sun into Spain for a few days.

A. fulva on blackcurrants

April is when the blackcurrants start to flower and as soon as they are open I know I will find an Andrena fulva bee drinking the nectar.

A. fulva

The Tawny Mining Bee is supposedly quite common in the U.K. and can be seen in gardens on all sorts of fruit trees and even daisies but I only see mine when my blackcurrants are in flower.

1-Asian hornet.Vespa velutina

One thing that you will not see on the blackcurrants in the U.K. is an Asian hornet, Vespa velutina.  This was the first one I had seen this year and for the sake of the bee keepers near me I hope there are none nesting nearby.

1-First rosa mutabilis

I nearly missed my first rose on my new Rosa mutablis.  I am delighted with the delicate foliage and thornless stems but mine is not perfumed, although some can be.

1-First flowers on flowering currant

I saw the first flowers on my new flowering currant and satisfied myself that, small as it was, it was still able to attract the bees.

1-First fritillaria

My first fritillaria flowered and has now produced seed heads.


I’m hoping to plant more spring bulbs at the bottom of the garden that can flower before the shade of the trees overtakes them.  I have anemones, pulmonaria, hellebores,  iris and asphodel but it takes time for them to get established.

1-Yellow tree peony

The yellow tree peony started to flower in the middle of April.

1-Full yellow tree peony

As the flower opens it looks as if it is actually growing larger rather than just opening out its petals.

1-Camassia on patio

I have Camasia cusickii in a pot in the patio.

1-Camassia bumble

The early bumble bee, Bombus pratorum, loved the Camassia and provided the entertainment whilst we drank our coffee.  They can be noisy little bees and you hear the “buzz pollination” as she visits the flowerlets.

It was from this vantage point on the patio at the beginning of the year that I noticed a thick growth of straight leaves, not unlike grass in the right hand border.  I had no idea what it could be so I decided to excavate a lump to have a closer look.  There were not roots but masses of tightly packed small white bulbs covering quite an area.

I recognised the bulbs instantly and I knew how they had appeared.

1-Dame d onze heures

Dame d’onze heures or Ornithogalum umbellatum, is a wild flower that sometimes appears in our lawn.  My husband mows our lawn and is rather fond of them.  He will not cut them down but tries to re-home them.   I have warned him of the dangers of introducing wild flowers where they will have no competition and take over completely.

I showed him the incriminating masses of bulbs that I was now obliged to remove.  I thought they should compost down nicely but he begged a reprieve and took them down to a rough part of the back garden.

1-Alium at bottom of garden

In April masses of white alliums appeared at the bottom of the garden.

1-Allium with weeds

They had fought it out with the weeds and survived, so I will again have to dig them up and replant them beside the dark tulips that they usually grow beside, in the front garden.

I would like to say two things in my defence.  The alliums must have had an amazing generation of bulbs as we never planted that many and also they did move!  They did not start out so close to the edge of the border as I found them.

1-Choisia butterfly

My Choisia, both the Aztec pearl and Sundance have really done well this year.  They attract lots of insects with their perfumed blossom.  I think this Red Admiral butterfly on the Sundance looks as if it is using a straw to get at the nectar!

1-First Peony bud

Another first this year is a peony which is flowering for the first time since it was planted in 2008.  I received four peonies from a specialist nursery as a birthday present from the children but perhaps the pine tree that we cut down in the winter took too much sun away from them as they never flowered.  I still have the paperwork so I will know what it is called when it eventually opens.  I hope it will be worth the wait.

1-Green apricot

Lots of apricots set on the trees in April but every day there are more on the ground so it will not be a plentiful year for apricots.  The problem is the wind.  We are usually very sheltered here but this April there has been a lot of high winds.

Back from Spain, I am looking forward to getting into the garden again, especially if the forecast sunshine arrives.


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.

39 thoughts on “April is over

  1. Hello Amelia, lovely photos of all the life in your garden. I’ve just contacted a local beekeeping soc to ask whether any of their members would like to site a couple of beehives at the Priory. I’ll let you know the outcome. D


  2. Lovely post Mme. Frenchgarden…
    There are Ornithogallums [Star of Bethlehem] just as you go into our village on our road…
    they are a wonderful sight…
    then they get mowed flat [‘cos it’s on the chitty!]
    I’m with your hubby!!
    There are some that don’t…
    just round the corner as you leave.

    Also, what are the very tiny bees that visit them?
    Any idea from this description…
    Black, about 1/4″ long…
    slightly hairy along the sides of the abdomen…
    look like a miniature honey bee… but the tail is blunter!!
    They are most definitely after the pollen, ‘cos they’ve always got full sacs.
    I’ve not yet managed a close-up pic…
    the Stars are in a vulnerable position for my… and the car’s… safety!!
    The 30 limit over the hump…
    becomes 90 just before the corner…
    and people tend to wind their motors up as they come off the hump!!!


    • The ones that I have photographed are like Andrena haemorrhoa which I do not think as very small but you can check on Google images and see if that is what you saw. I would imagine they would attract more than one type of bee. Amelia


  3. Hi Amelia, a wonderful update and some lovely photographs, we have had similar weather here and a late frost this weekend. I had some peonies which did not flower and was advised they like to be planted high and not mulched, I had been heavily mulching. Hope the sunshine comes.


    • I had been told they should not go in too deep but I think as they were a present I would have taken care to find out how they should be planted but I must admit it is so long ago now I cannot be certain. I confess I did put wood chips on the area so that might not have been to their liking. My other cheap peonies bought as impulse buys have all flowered. Amelia


      • I have just come in from the garden and looked at my four Sarah Bernhadt Peonies, 3 have no buds at all and one has 5, they have been on the second chance, last chance, absolute last chance for a few years now. I think this really is the year they come out and make room for some new Peonies!


  4. Hello Amelia,
    I really enjoyed this review of the garden, with your usual impressive macro pics. The hornet looks a fearsome beastie. And your apricots are looking impressive. We also find the bumbles like our Camassia flowers, but the seed set is really poor, so I wonder whether we have a low fertility clone,


    • I actually kept some seed last year and shared it with my sister to see if we could germinate it. I have it in a pot and have two tiny shoots! My sister claims to have germinated it too (yet to be adjudged).It looks a bit like grass at the moment. I can’t remember how much seed I put in the pot but it does look like the seed set is poor. No sign of my rose seedlings yet. I gave them three months in the fridge which was lucky as it was so mild here this winter. Amelia


  5. What bliss to be surrounded by such beautiful bees and flowers. Shame about the Asian hornet coming to visit! But perhaps your flowers will distract it from honey bee nests.


    • It won’t be interested in the honey bees quite yet I don’t think, they will just be starting up their nests I think and they feed the honey bees to their larvae. The hunting association is trying to help catch the queens this year as they find that new nests appear often only 100m away from where nests were the previous year and they are targeting those areas with traps. amelia


  6. Lovely update but that hornet looks MEAN.


  7. lovely photos as per usual.


  8. I forgot to say, we had an Ashy Mining bee in our house. It was walking about a bit and looked very weak. I fed it a spoon of honey and after 20mins it flew off. I was very happy


    • I am glad you liked the pictures. The Ashy Mining bees are so cute. Perhaps it had become cold and was at the end of its energy supplies to warm up. You can also use a 50/50 sugar water solution for bumbles and bees. it was really kind to look after it, the solitary bees seem so friendly. Amelia


  9. The flowers are beautiful as always. Peonies are notorious for taking their time to bloom but once they do they should bloom for a very long time. I find them along with lilacs in the woods sometimes near the ruins of houses that stood back in the 1800s.
    Would your husband be swayed from transplanting the Ornithogalum umbellatum if he knew they were toxic? If you have grazing animals you don’t want star of Bethlehem near them.


    • I did not know that the Star of Bethlehem was toxic for animals but we don’t have any in the garden. This area is mainly grape vines, maize and sunflower but there are a few cows and horses. I had heard peonies lasted for a long time but that is much longer than I would have guessed. Amelia


  10. I’m glad your apricots made it to fruition. I know you were worried about them blossoming so early. It’s too bad the wind has been playing havoc. Great bee pictures. My bees are busy too but I haven’t had much time to photograph them. Have been chasing bee swarms. My wife says, “I never knew about swarm season.” To be honest, neither did I, but I’ve still got to land a swarm for my contribution to the new bee yard.


    • We had a very mild winter this year and my friend Michel who lives nearby has been called out and collected 25 swarms this year! He normally collects a few for people each year but this is a record. Amelia


      • 25 SWARMS!!! He is a nice guy! I hope he gets rewarded with some honey. 🙂


        • He does sell his honey in a small way. Last year he helped some professional beekeepers keep up with their orders as in other regions of France there was so much rain last spring the bees could not get out and the production of honey was very much reduced.


  11. Very nice to see your garden in April, my blackcurrants are also in flower so I shall now be on the look out for tawny mining bees.


    • I’ll be interested to here if you see any. You will have a better chance if it is warm and sunny, I find they the mining bees are a bit like me – they like going out when it is warm and sunny. Amelia


  12. Hope you’re enjoying your holiday, you have a lot going on in the garden, how can you bare to be away? So sorry your mutabilis isn’t scented; it is delicate but lovely.


    • We were only away for less than a week but its not a time to miss in the garden. I am not at all disappointed with the mutabilis as it is so delicate and prettier than I had hoped. Amelia


  13. You have such a lovely garden, and obviously lots of visitors to it.


  14. Love seeing the flowers, of course, but that tawny little bee is adorable!


  15. Pingback: Mystery Tree Identified | Adventures in Natural Beekeeping

  16. It looks as though you have been cultiver-ing votre jardin most effectively. A good spring for fritillaries – some of our white ones came up too, for a change. RH


  17. What a lovely post. I really enjoyed that. I’m always amazed at your bee photographs. Dana


    • Thank you. The bees are a big part of the garden for me. Most of the things I plant now are with them in mind. Some solitary bees have only a short flying period of one or two months so I try and have the flowers they will visit during that period. Amelia


  18. Gorgeous, as ever. Scientists are predicting that the Asian hornets will make it over the channel this summer. 😦


    • If they do, I think the UK will be more efficient in eradicating them and not letting them get a hold than they have been in France. It’s the nests that must be destroyed. Amelia


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