a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

It’s still summer in September


1-The potager

Back from a week in the UK it was straight out into the garden to see how the vegetable garden had survived in our absence.  The tomatoes were the losers this year.  The leaves had gone a crinkled brown but there were plenty of good red tomatoes for me to gather them all up and make enough tomato purée for our needs plus a few green tomatoes that I’ve put aside for chutney.


The Borlotti beans grow very well here and the first pods are all ready to be picked.


Unfortunately, my coriander shot up and flowered whilst I was away but I’ve had a good crop from it and I still was able to cut down, chop and freeze the good leaves.

1-Coriander difference

The same day I had sown my Sutton coriander seed, on the right of the picture, I had sown some coriander seed that had been given to me by a friend who had assured me it was excellent.  The difference was marked between the two varieties and although my friend’s variety had some very pretty flowers it had very little leaf.  I am wondering now if she grew it for the seed.


The apples and pears have not been plentiful this year but last year was a bumper year and I am just finishing last year’s apple compote now!


The medlar tree on the other hand is full of fruit but it will not be ripe for a while yet.  It flowers later so was probably not so affected by our hot/cold spring.


The pumpkins were put down to the bottom of the garden this year and seem to be thriving there and do not get in the way.

1-Pumkins close

Once again some plants flourish like the “Rouge vif d’Etampes”, on the left, whereas the Giraumon Turban on the right is my sole success from this sowing.  I had really only wanted some Turban pumpkins for decoration but one single pumpkin will have to be supplemented with some supermarket bought gourds this year.  I find the gourds a bit messy to grow myself, I must try to find a spot for them for next year but where they cannot strangle anything precious.

1-Butternut squash

We brought some butternut squash seeds home from an excellent butternut squash we had eaten at Christmas in the UK last year and much to my surprise, the plants have prospered over here.  There’s not to reason why, there’s but to plant and try!

1-Saffron patch

Last autumn I rescued my saffron bulbs from a border patch that was becoming increasingly shady.  I gave them their own private area, well apart from the tuft of chive seeds that I had hoped would have flowered by now (for the bees).  Now I wait and watch.  I was told by a saffron producer in the area that this year, with so much rain, any saffron bulbs left in the soil would rot.  😦

1-New tubes for bees

Of course, one of the first things I checked in the garden was my bee hotels.  Before I left for the UK I had put up some emergency housing in the form of a bundle of dried stems tied with string and attached to the Wisteria so that it touched the bee hotel.  In my last post I had described the pilfering behaviour of the Heriades bees and I thought it could be caused by an accommodation crisis.  During the week I was away two of the stems had been filled and there is interest in the remaining empty ones.

1-Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa)

This is where I got my tubes from.  It is Himalayan honeysuckle, Leycesteria formosa, also known as Pheasant Berry and Himalayan Nutmeg. I pruned it severely last winter although it should be pruned in the spring.  I, thus, provided myself with some excellent hollow tubes for bee hotels that are much easier to cut than bamboo and provide a good variation in diameter which is to the taste of the discerning mix of visitors that I cater for.  The plus side of these tubes is that they are easy renewable, if you have the shrub, and so can be opened easily to obtain the cocoons for those who like to clean their hotels.  The downside is that they are more fragile and possibly allow parasitic wasps to lay their eggs through the tube although I have not seen this type of parasite around my hotels.

1-Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa) close

I just wanted a close-up of the flowers and berries as I do not think the previous photograph does justice to this shrub.  I was photo bombed by that carder bee.  Honest!  The bumble bees do love the flowers and it is such an easy shrub to grow.  Mine is grown from a cutting from my sister’s garden and I believe it even seeds easily.

1-Garden bumble bee in Delphineum

Talking of bumble bees…they are getting some extra treats from my Delphineums this autumn.  Usually I have one or two re-flowering in the autumn but this year the spring display was so low that I thought the plants were perhaps on the way out and now there are more flowers than there were in the spring.  Completely the opposite!

1-Honey bee on Sedum

The sedums have loved all the late summer sun and providing lots of colour and attracting lots of honey bees with their nectar.  I am still somewhat surprised that I have not seen more butterflies or other bees taking advantage of the sedums.

1-Honey bee on wild mint

The honey bees are taking advantage of the wild mint that is flowering in the patch of grass we have left uncut at the bottom of the garden.  This is the first time I have seen the wild mint in the garden flower but as you walk through the garden in the summer the mint leaves are bruised and release a lovely minty perfume that follows you.  In fact, after a week away I realised that it was the smell of the garden that I missed as much as all the plants and flowers.





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.

35 thoughts on “It’s still summer in September

  1. If it’s any consolation, Amelia my sedums have been covered with bumble bees this past week or two. And it’s been a good year for pears here too. I envy you your medlar tree. D


    • I think it is all about getting the right variety of sedum for your area. I have memories of the sedum in my father’s garden literally covered with butterflies. I may be completely wrong of course and it is to do with the weather or something else. Poire Belle Helene is one of my favourite desserts, a good tip for your pear harvest. Amelia


  2. What a super medlar crop. 🙂


  3. Some nice crops Amelia; Butternut squash grow very well here too. I’ve already harvested 7 large squash and there is another large one to pick soon which grew later in the season and some new small ones which I doubt will have enough heat to grow to ripeness, but who knows, all from 4 plants. I also grew Gold nugget squash which produced a lot of small round squash, some of which I even used before they were ripe in roasted vegetables and they had a good flavour and texture but were still green rather than gold.


  4. Your garden is looking really lovely in the late summer sun, and very productive too. I must try the Leycesteriana tubes for a bee hotel this year, since it grows like a weed with us, seeding all over the place.
    Best wishes,


  5. I grudgingly admit it’s a beautiful time of year. The shot of the bee on the sedum is lovely.


  6. Every time I’ve tried to grow coriander it has put out a few leaves and gone to seed, almost overnight. I always thought it was just the nature of the beast but yours shows me that you can indeed get some leaves from it. If you have the right variety, apparently.


  7. We’ve had our first snow yesterday . . . along with 28-F (-2 C) temperatures.

    The rest of the week will be in the mid-70s, but some of our flowers have taken a pretty good hit and are likely goners. Many survive, but look worse for the wear.

    We also went to a couple of apple orchards, and were surprised at the small apples (really, moste were no larger than 2.5 or 3 inches in diameter. A late frost last year and an early frost this year combined to make it a sorry crop indeed, so your apples look pretty good.

    Nice photos, as usual, and good to hear the update.


  8. The garden seems to have survived and flourished being left to itself! I have hardly seen any butterflies this month so far – perhaps when the asters fully open they will arrive. But the sedums are full of bees here.


    • The sunshine has brought out the butterflies again. I see a lot of the little common blue ones at the moment on the thyme and mint that is flowering in the garden. I like all the tiny blue ones. Amelia


  9. We have been getting borlotti beans from Riverford. I think they are grown on their French farm somewhere in the Vendee. They look very beautiful and are also very good to eat.


    • We don’t have a huge amount of space but Borlotti seem to tick all the boxes – I like their taste, they look good and they improve the soil as they are legumes. I am eating them at the moment but I will have to start picking them to freeze soon. Amelia


  10. Amelia, thats a great photo of the pollen covered Bee and your garden still looks lovely, hope you had a good holiday. This is my second year of growing Borlotti beans but it may be my last, they take up so much room for so little yield. What do you make with yours?


    • This year I have found they taste different if you pick them when they are young than leaving them to swell fully. I like these young ones cooked and served as a side vegetable, just as you would use carrots or peas. My daughters are vegetarian and I find cooking them in a homegrown tomato paste with or without aubergine a good sauce to serve with pasta or rice. I freeze them for using for this at any time of the year but also I put them into soups in winter. I get a very good yield here. I think they like warmth. They are very happy at the moment and I like the idea that they are legumes and improving the soil, so I move them around each year. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  11. You’ve got lots of really good stuff going on in your garden…. I was reminded of your bee hotels this weekend when I visited my parents as my dad now has some. I can never get my coriander to grow properly so just as well I don’t like the leaves, so the seeds suit me fine!


    • I like carrot and coriander soup and I like to put some green in too but you get plenty of flavour from just the seeds. I even like the coriander leaves raw in a mixed herb salad. It’s nice to hear when other folk enjoy seeing the solitary bees visit their garden. Amelia


  12. I envy you your butternut crop. Ours either didn’t come up or got stunted. I LOVE butternut squash.
    I’ve got to put out more tubes for the megachiles I’ve seen recently. Thanks for the reminder.


    • Isn’t it funny how things do well one year and not another? It is very difficult to know what to plant. I only want to plant for two as everybody around here has enormous vegetable gardens so it gets difficult to use if I get too much. Then there are the things that don’t succeed :(, so we have to plan carefully each year.
      I haven’t seen any more Megachile nesting in my hotels although they are still in the flowers round about. Amelia


  13. Great times in the garden. Thanks for the tour. You have lots of great things growing there, including the fruit. I’ll have to search for an apple compote recipe, as we have lots of apples now.

    I had a pumpkin disappointment myself – only one grew to maturity, and it was small. I think it lacked a rich enough soil.


  14. Like you I’ve been away and couldn’t wait to see the garden when I got back. My tomatoes are exactly like yours too.


  15. I adore the photo of the bee on the delphiniums, such subtle colours the flowers have.


  16. I really love your bee hotels, I wish the BBC would make a little drama about the goings on in these B&Bs – sort of an insect Downton Abbey


    • I thought all goings on had finished but today a wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) has decided to nest in a box I bought as you can open it all up. I thought it would have all finished by now but I had the treat of watching her bring her bundles of fluff to build her nest. She has filled 11/2 holes today. Also a very weird fly that I have seen before flew out another hole. I will be able to see now if it is a parasitic fly or just using the hole to nest in. So the dramas continue! Amelia


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