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.


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!!!


    1. 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.


    1. 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


      1. 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!


    1. 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


  4. 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.


    1. 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


  5. 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


    1. 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


  6. 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.


    1. 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


  7. solarbeez

    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.


    1. 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


        1. 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.


    1. 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


  8. 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.


    1. 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


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

    1. 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


    1. 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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