a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Green grass!


1-From potager

It’s the middle of August and the grass is green!

1-Back garden

In the summer the vegetables get watered and any of the new or less drought tolerant plants but not the grass.  The grass gets left to go brown and anything that grows up after it rains is mowed.  However, this year the rain has kept the garden and usually the vegetables sufficiently watered.  My neighbour, Annie, who has gardened here for many years does not remember a year with such constant rain.  In between the rain there has been plenty of sunshine and the temperatures have not been low.


After the first blossoming in the spring the Wisteria usually blossoms another once, sometimes twice, later in the summer but this year it has hardly stopped flowering.


Even the Philadelpus that I cut back heavily after it flowered in May has decided to push out a few more blooms.

1-Tall Cosmos

That’s the problems with plants.  They don’t do what you expect them to.  I like to have Cosmos in the garden in late summer to add some colour and give plenty of flowers to cut.  I sowed this “Sensation mix” for the border, the  120 cm. marked on the seed packet seemed a good height for the borders.  However, these are now taller than I am and are hiding a sunflower I planted behind them.

1-Earthwalker throwback

The sunflower they are obscuring is grown from the seeds I kept from my “Earthwalker” variety which has not bred true but it is a very attractive colour all the same.

1-Short Cosmos

Returning to my Cosmos problem some of  the Cosmos on the other side of the garden have kept to their expected height – but not all.

1-Vanilla Ice

I am a bit disappointed with my pallid “Vanilla Ice” sunflower.  These ornamental sunflowers seem to flower later and be more delicate plants than the plain ones my husband sows from the birdseed.

1-Lilac Aster

This year I sowed Asters for the first time.

1-Puple Aster

A 60p packet of “Duchess mixed” bought in the UK has provided a lot of colour.  I bought them to attract the bees but I have not seen a lot of action around them yet.

1-Halictus scabiosa in Aster

But this Halictus scabiosae bee was using the Aster as shelter in a windy day and did not want to be disturbed.

1-Wildlife Word box

This week I bought a new bee box from Amazon.  I am quite excited as it can be taken apart in the autumn when the bees are finished laying their eggs.  I thought the design was simple and innovative.  The holes look rather large but I have been surprised by some little bees tackling large holes or canes.  It is a bit late to put one up so I may get nothing this year.

1-New this year box

The newest “husband made” box has almost got a full occupancy.  The three holes that look empty on the log are in fact partially filled.  Some bees appear not to fill the holes or canes fully.


These tiny Megachiles are very busy at the moment and I wonder if they will be tempted by the new box.  Some people are concerned that the bee boxes can be parasitised and prefer to use paper tubes that can be opened to remove and clean the cocoons.  I asked on a bee forum and found that opinion was very split on this.  It has to be born in mind that parasites are part of nature and if you accept one part you have to accept the other.  I think the bee boxes are fascinating and a wonderful way to observe some of the bees.  My box originates from Wildlife World which is a UK company that supplies tubes and paper liners that I might try, although they do not deliver outside the UK.


The other evening we had a surprise visit from two pairs of hoopoes.  We had never had four hoopoes on the lawn before!  They made themselves at home and were extracting lots of juicy looking treats from the moist grass.  They came right onto the patio and helped themselves to some bird food.  We were very hopeful that they would become permanent visitors but unfortunately that was the last we saw of them but we can always hope that they’ll come back!

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 “Green grass!

  1. Everything is flourishing; so beautiful. And, yes, our plants rarely do what we expect them to!


  2. So lovely. Regular rain is a wonderful blessing in summer.

    Why would you buy a bee box when your husband makes on that looks amazing and that the insects obviously love?

    I had never heard of a hoopoe before reading your blog now I love it when they make a surprise visit! That Mohawk is hilarious 🙂


    • I’d love to have a peek inside the bee boxes – like you do when you examine the frames in the hives – only you can’t see inside a log or a hard bamboo. It is also possible to clean off the cocoons if you see any mites (supposedly). Amelia


  3. We’re having a cool, dry summer in Northern Michigan. Like you, many long lasting blooms and happy bees. We might just as well enjoy the upside of climate change.


  4. Very nice.

    I did look at Amazon, and they carry a number of solitary bee houses. I’ll be trying some next year.


  5. It’s the same here in the Auvergne the grass is growing like crazy and the potatoes we have just dug up are huge! First summer we have not had to water the garden at all as every week there’s been rain.


    • All the rain is good for the vegetables but I’m not sure that it is so good for the vines in our area. We have just been to the Agen area and they are complaining it has been a bad summer for the tourists – its been much cooler there and they have had a lot of rain too. Amelia


  6. The hoopoes are pretty. I am also astounded at the size of those Cosmos! They do look good though. The constant rainshowers have kept my garden ticking over too, but your grass is definitely greener! 😉


  7. Great boxes. I think I might get one (or more).


  8. We’re having the same sort of summer. I planted impatiens in May and haven’t had to water them once since.
    I’ve never heard of hoopoes. That’s quite a hair style!


  9. Your hoopoes look like funny characters. We have only recently started to have rain after a very long dry spell in the UK and its most welcome. Can you help – I read this week to ensure the holes for bees are small to protect from predators, do you know what that means, who predates bees or am I missing something?


    • Bees have a lot of predators but I can’t see how having small holes helps. One of the common predators of Mason bees are related to fruit flies and are very tiny. They pop in and lay their eggs whilst the Mason bee goes off for material to close the cell containing the egg and pollen. Other insects have adapted ovipositors that can pierce through the seal so that their eggs are laid inside the sealed cell. Parasites have amazing strategies for reproduction. The entrances of honey bee hives are often protected to prevent the entry of mice or hornets, I wonder if that’s what was meant? Amelia


      • Thank you for explaining that Amelia that makes more sense, I had read a bite size piece in the telegraph which just stated to keep the holes small but did not explain why or suggest what the predator was.


  10. Hoooopoe….
    Just wonderful…
    and the potager?
    Wonderful too!


  11. The bee sheltering inside the Aster is so sweet.


  12. We grew Cosmos “Sensation mixed” as well, Bio seeds from Graines en Folie. They were a gift to attendees at the LPO Touraine get-together for Refuge supporters in Villandry last spring. They promised to be 40cm to 1m high, more like 1,20 except for the single white one which is twice the size of any of the others and looks cockeyed in a container by the front door. It’s a magnificent plant but not what I would have chosen to put there!


    • That was a well-chosen gift as Cosmos looks so good at this time of year but you never seem to be able to chose what size they will reach. I would not have guessed that one in a container would have grown tall. Amelia


  13. Such an interesting place, your garden. I’m glad you showed the bee nest box from amazon. Now I know where to look if I can’t get my husband to make one for me.


  14. Great shot of the hoopo; I see them quite regularly on the lane but rarely in the garden but never manage to get a photo. You have inspired me to build a bee hotel during the winter for next year, I’ve already seen bees crawling into some canes that were left after I’d used them in the garden so I’m sure they will be fun to watch in spring when the bees hatch.


  15. I really like the “husband made” bee houses and it seems the bees do as well.

    Another supplier of bee houses, including those made by Wildlife World is here: http://www.nhbs.com/insect_boxes_eqcat_436.html
    They ship all over the world I believe.


  16. Seems to have been a very successful year in your Jardin. Hoopoes are so lovely, too. I love seeing them (but all too rarely in the right place at the right time)


  17. The garden looks lovely. I too put up a bee hotel a little to late I. The season for any bee action. I’m hoping next year we will get some though because it looks like they’d be interesting to watch.


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