a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Mirror, mirror on the wall, what is the ugliest bud of all?


yellow lily buds

I usually find buds attractive but the buds of these day lilies start off with blackened tips.  At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking that they had finished flowering and they were the seed pods or that something nasty was happening to them.

orange day lillies

Eventually they open up to large orange blooms that lighten up a good patch of the front border.  However, in so doing they are also choking the peony behind them.

Perhaps it is just that orange is not my favourite colour and even more so after I have been without Internet contact for a week.  How can you become so dependant on something that you hardly used fifteen years ago?

As usual it is my own fault.  I cannot help by being seduced on dark autumn days in the shops in the UK, when I am missing the garden, and cannot resist buying inappropriate plants and bulbs to plant on my return.

Allium cernuum bud

I get it right sometimes.  The Allium cernuum buds open delicately, unfolding from their covering membrane.

Allium cernuum

A couple of pots bought half price from Saville Gardens plant sales have provided a lot of pleasure for me and the bees.

Allium opening

Decorative Alliums are a new venture for me this year in the garden and I love to watch them open.


They started budding in May and have put up a long show but are starting to set seed now, although they still are looking good.



I kept an eye open for my Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) budding this year.  Last year was its first year to flower and all I found was the dried remains of the flowers in the autumn.  I understand why now, as the flowers are very discreet but extremely elegant in bud or in full flower.

Open flower of Liriodendron

When we had originally purchased the tree I had a notion that they had large cream flowers so they are not quite what I expected but I am pleased with the exotic green and yellow flowers that are appreciated by the bees.

Persimmon flower

The garden has gained  from the wet, mild winter and spring and the Persimmon tree has been covered with flowers.

Olive tree buds and flowers

The little olive tree in the front garden is covered with buds and flowers but I think we are unlikely to have olives so far north in France.

Arum lillies

Our Arum lilies have loved all the water they have received this year, with the warm weather to encourage them to grow.

Arum in house


This is for Rolling Harbour who teased me when I said I kept a special vase for my Arums (see, I need one!)


The other plant I would like to highlight just now in the garden is the Cotoneaster.  Beautiful little buds and flowers which attract all the pollinators and go on to produce red berries for the birds in winter.  They are such unassuming plants and need such little care which makes them a great favourite with me.

Red poppy

The garden is full of poppies at the moment.


I am in my element watching the bees.

Pink poppy and bees

So I leave you with a flash of poppies.

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.

37 thoughts on “Mirror, mirror on the wall, what is the ugliest bud of all?

  1. Beautiful! I love the close ups of bees on the poppies…


  2. I particularly like the way the alliums emerge from their protective papery covering, thanks for the pictures. Philip


  3. Beautiful! Love the tulip tree and those arum lilies! The ones we can get around here are much smaller. Would you happen to know what variety those are?


    • Sorry, I’ve no idea what variety they are. Everybody around me has the same ones and I can imagine they are all clones being passed from neighbour to neighbour as they divide and root very easily. Amelia


  4. You have quite a beautiful garden! Here’s a bee question for you. Some of the bees carry very large globs of solid looking orange bags on their hind legs, while others have the lumpy looking yellow ones. Is this just due to the pollen source or is there something else at work here? For example, look at the difference between the pollen on the bumblebee vs the green sweat bee in this blog post http://bybio.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/pollen-collectors/

    Thanks for any info you might have about this. Sue


    • Bumble bees moisten the pollen they gather with nectar which makes it lose its fluffy consistency. Bees also have a honey stomach which is what they use to carry the nectar back to their nest. However, Hylaeus bees also carry the pollen back to the nest in their honey stomach so they have no external hairs to collect pollen. The pollen also can look different where the external hairs or scopa are very long as in Dasypoda. I would guess the difference in appearance could be down to whether it was moistened with nectar, or packed tightly (bumblebees have special combs and brushes to help them do this) or left in long hairs like the Megachiles. Amelia


      • Thanks, I thought it might be something like that. That leads to another question, though. When do the bumblebees do all that packing of the pollen with nectar? Are they ingesting the pollen, mixing it with nectar, and then regurgitating it to pack on their legs, or does the pollen from flowers they have visited just adhere to the sticky sugar mix on their legs? I never see them stop to do any grooming or pollen packing — I am confused about how this works. Thanks!


        • My understanding is that they mix and pack the pollen as required according to availability of the ingredients but it is not regurgitated. They have special combs on their legs to facilitate this. I’ve often seen bumble and other bees grooming themselves when they get covered in pollen. It also depends on what stage of life history they are. The queen bee needs to keep her nectar cup in her nest filled up while she is incubating her eggs but does not need the pollen until she hatches the larvae. A great book is The Humble-bee: Its Life History and How to Domesticate it [F.W.L. Sladen] , he wrote the first draft when he was sixteen. A man who knew about bumble bees. Amelia


  5. Your alliums and arum lilies, the tulip tree and the poppies are lovely. And the bees, as always. I agree with you about the daylily buds, but there are many varieties of daylily that aren’t orange. There are beautiful white ones and white ones with maroon centers, and on and on. I recently visited a garden near Vancouver which was entirely full of daylilies.


  6. Interesting to see the tulip tree flower up close. The one where I work is so tall that I can barely see the flowers. And your arums are so tall! I grow mine in quite deep shade which probably explains why they are so darn short. Dave


    • I did a quick check. The arums in the front garden are over five foot this year i.e. taller than I am. They are behind a wall and don’t get a lot of sun. I have a few more clumps and they do vary considerably in height but usually about three foot or so. Amelia


  7. There was I, enjoying your post as ever, when I find a namecheck… and I must say your arums look wonderful in their arum vase. And I now discover that Mrs RH has an arum vase as well… Our son was married at our house in Dorset last Saturday, and she brought arums down from London (where they thrive) and dug the vase out of a cupboard. They happily lasted more than a week… Maybe everyone has an arum vase?


    • I think you must have had wonderful weather for your celebrations, congratulations to the happy couple. I think all arum fanciers must have a special vase kept to one side! Amelia


  8. Quite gorgeous and quite amazing. You are having an exceptional June; I really love your tulip tree.


    • Our good weather this year is continuing and we are having lovely sunny weather. I love my tulip tree too, but they can grow very tall and we have already nipped the top. I hope we can keep it at a reasonable height for the garden without spoiling its shape. Amelia


  9. I had never thought about it before, but I suppose day lily buds are not really pretty. The Alliums are far more attractive, and your photos of them are lovely too. The Arums are quite wonderful!


    • This year is exceptional in the garden having had a mild winter and spring with lots of rain. I think a lot of the trees are happier too as we have had some very dry years previous to this year. Amelia


  10. I love the shots of the alliums, especially the buds!


  11. Nice shots…
    The Tulip Tree blossoms are so colorful. When I was trying to get photos of the one here, I started to panic that there weren’t going to be that many to photograph. My wife says, “Look up.” There were probably dozens if not hundreds already in full bloom.
    The Cotoneasters grow wild here and the bees will work them into the late evenings. I love watching the bees on the poppies.


    • I can imagine a lot of people might miss the Tulip Tree flowers even though they are so large. I’m finding out slowly that a lot of our garden flowers are originally native to the USA. Amelia


  12. My goodness your Arum lilies are enormous, sadly mine haven’t flowered this year, love the bees on the poppies too. We had a honey bee swarm in our lane this week, it was quite fascinating to watch, they finally settled on a Rowan tree and then about an hour later all moved off somewhere else. We were also visited by a bee from france, by chance I took a photo and after some research it turned out the bumblebee conservation trust are recording sightings on Bombus hypnorum, so I sent off my photo to them.


    • The tree bumble bee is really doing well in the UK. Strangely enough I don’t see it very often in this area. Nobody seems to have come up with any ideas on why it is increasing in the UK and I saw a comment by a pesticide producer citing its advance as a reason why Neonicotinoid pesticides are not harmful to bees. Amelia


  13. Your lilies, Arum and Day, are so tall! No wonder you need a special vase for the Arums. The tulip tree flower is delightful.


    • I think it depends on how much water they get over the winter and then if they get just the right amount of sunshine to suit them. The tallest Arum plant is over five foot but I think that is as tall as it would ever get. Amelia


  14. Many beautiful things Amelia, but my favourites are the poppies. I’m very envious of your Arum lilies, it isn’t wet enough to grow them here; yours are gorgeous!


  15. They are all beautiful.


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