a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Summer is here


Amegilla on lavender

Summer is definitely here.  Outside the garden the fields are full of sunflower and I could stand all day and watch the bees on my lavender.  My little grey Amegilla albigena that I noticed for the first time last year, has returned like an old friend.

Chitlapa 26.6

My Chitalapa has been flowering from the end of June and is still going strong.  It is a hybrid of the Catalapa or Indian Bean tree and Chilopsis or desert Willow.  Catalapa are beautiful trees but really need space so this has proved a good compromise and the flowers are delicately perfumed.

1-fading Magnolia

The perfume from the Magnolia grandiflora is much stronger and is held even by the blossoms as they fade.  It looks as if it holds onto its nectar too as the bee is still interested in it.

1-Bumble and clover

Despite the variety of blossoms available the bumbles love the clover.


Before we even came to live here permanently I planted Oleander outside the house.  Apart from it being beautiful and reminding me of Greece it is supposed to keep away mosquitoes.  I would never have planted it if I had realised how fragile it is.  This winter was mild and it thrived but usually it is damaged over the winter by frost and cold.  When it was smaller we covered it with fleece but it is too big now and so any damaged branches must be cut away in the spring.


I was surprised to find this winter flowering cyclamen in the back garden under the trees completely ignoring the summer weather.  There are always surprises in the garden.

1-Bumble starts drinking

We found this tired red tailed bumble bee and gave her a 50:50 solution of sugar and water.

1-Starts on the next drop

I was surprised as she lapped up the first drop and started on the second!

1-That was good

It gave me time to admire her pollen load.  She had carefully packed the pollen down from the flowers she was gathering from.  There were two shades of yellow pollen but I cannot say where the yellow pollen came from as there is so much around just now.

1-Red poppies

I’ve no problem in guessing where the black pollen comes from.  Most of the poppies have coal black pollen.

1-Last of the blackcurrants

I have gathered in the last of the blackcurrants and the sorbet is made and waiting for the arrival of the grandchildren.

1-Stork and tractor

Outside the garden nobody is thinking of holidays.

1-Stork 1

As the tractor breaks up the rough ground the stork is finding food in the uprooted grasses, perhaps frogs and lizards.

1-Wee mousie

Birds of prey are interested in the disturbance that will make mice and voles run for cover but this one has not run fast enough.

1-Black kite

I think they might be black kites but I am not a bird person so I cannot be sure.

Garden in the evening light

Now that summer is here I look forward to holidays and uh oh, those summer nights.


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.

36 thoughts on “Summer is here

  1. Your gorgeous images really give us a sense of the beauty of the summer there (and I am thrilled that you were able to capture some shots of the birds there). The idea of sorbet sounds wonderful as does the prospect of an extended vacation.


    • I am much better at making sorbet than taking pictures of birds. My blackcurrant sorbet is my best. I have not got a lens that allows me to take birds very far away and any time I get a camera out they go and sit behind lots of leaves – the bees are much friendlier. Amelia


  2. I’m glad you’re seeing some good weather. We’re in our hot and muggy period.
    The Chitalapa is interesting. I’ve never heard of the catalpa being crossed with another tree.


    • It seems a very successful hybrid as a Catalapa would be too big for the garden yet I can enjoy something very similar and I do try to chose plants that can survive without watering once they are established. Amelia


  3. That photo of the magnolia flower with a bee is soooo beautiful. And I love the stork following in the tractor’s wake – lazy old thing, going for the easy meal 🙂 This post made me long for summer – I have about 3 months to wait!


    • I love my Magnolia tree, I planted it when it was very little and I had no idea how long it would take to flower. I did not even think about the bees back then so that is an additional bonus. Amelia


  4. Did the wee bee recover after its double helping of sugar syrup?


  5. Love the photos of the tuckered out bumble 🙂

    And you get Storks! Envy again!!

    The raptor is definitely a Black Kite. They are one of the few species we get here that we also got in Australia. My father used to make us kids go and lie on the ground somewhere in the open to encourage them to investigate the ‘carrion’. Then he could get good photos or observe them closely.

    Off topic, here is a link to a blog post about some promising new research into a native biological control for the Asian Hornet: <a href="http://wild-life-in-france.blogspot.com/2014/07/conops-vesicularis-and-asian-hornet.html&quot;


  6. Beautiful flowers, buzzing bees, exciting wildlife–Summer is the best!


  7. Like New Hampshire Garden Solutions, I’m fascinated by the Chitalpa. What kind of soil have you got there to please it so? Your beautiful bee pictures always make me so happy when I see them – and you’ve been responsible for making me pay attention to the bees in my own garden so much more. Thanks!


    • Our soil here is chalky and sandy. It is never water-logged and does not retain water well. This is great for walking around us as we are never knee-deep in mud, but in the garden I try and choose plants that can withstand periods of dryness and have none that need wet conditions to survive. The Chitalapa is perfectly suited for dry conditions – that doesn’t mean it would not survive in damp soil, just that I have no experience of that. I’m glad you look at the bees more. I was walking with some friends near the vines a few days ago and I showed them the bees nests in the dry ground and the bees coming and going out of their nests and they had never noticed it before even though they have lived here all their lives. Amelia


  8. Winter flowering cyclamen looking so fresh at this time of year. Go figure.


    • We may call them winter flowering but they don’t care! I think this summer and spring have been so mild and wet their corms are full of energy and bursting to flower and so don’t wait for winter. Amelia


  9. Love the pollen bags, Amelia. Agree with Susan Walter – I think it’s a Black Kite too. RH


  10. We have a lot of blackcurrants this year, some will be made in to coulis (good with ice cream or other fruit), some will be frozen to give a mid winter-hint of summer. Philip


  11. All beautiful, but especially the Chitalpa. Roll on holiday time!


  12. Certainly looks like a kite, Amelia but as we only have red ones here I can’t tell you whether it is a black one. I tried growing oleander (in a pot) but it never thrived and mainly just looked an embarrassment. Dave


    • I’ve had black Kites pointed out to me in France so thanks for the back up ID. Oleander does need a milder climate and if it has that it doesn’t ask for much more. It’s lovely to see them where they are happy. Amelia


  13. I have a white cyclamen in a pot and that’s flowering! I have no idea why, it isn’t that cold here! Fun to see all the birds too.


  14. Beautiful photos and I envy the way you live there.


    • Thanks Marie. I love my garden and my bees but there are always frustrations in a garden too. Today (19.7.14, back from holiday, there have been thunderstorms and more forecast. The grass is long and wet and the weeds even taller! Amelia


  15. Yes, looks like a black kite to me too. I like your mention of giving the tired bee a feed, think I’ll try it next time I see one out in the garden. Nice one.


  16. Hello Amelia,
    The heat almost hits you from all these summery images on screen. Is it turning into a hotter drier than average summer, or par for the course? And I wonder if irrigating the garden ever becomes a big issue?


    • This year continues to be unusual. I have been only watering the vegetable garden when necessary because we have had so much rain. However, we have also had warm temperatures and lots of sunshine. Usually the grass doesn’t need cutting much in the summer and there are generally a lot less weeds. I’ve no complaints as I like the warmth and sunshine and usually we do have to water in the evening so it is saving us work. Amelia


  17. We have definitely had a lot less watering to do this year. Another major storm hit us today, complete with hailstones. Everything seems to have survived ok though!


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