a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Still waiting…


Front border

The bulbs are up but the sun is obscured by a thick grey blanket.

Front house

It is true that in our optimism our table was put on the patio a couple of weeks ago but it has since been covered with plastic and although temperatures are not low, there is no sunshine to attract you out into the garden.

Apricot flowers

The apricot forces open a few sporadic flowers but there is no real covering of blossom.

plum fruits

At least the big plum tree benefited from some warm sunny days and now is showing the green beginnings of baby plums.

Apple leaf bud

One of the apple trees has just started to open up the leaf buds with the blossom still curled inside.

Fritillaria persica

The dull weather hasn’t prevented the “Jack and the Beanstock ” appearance of the Fritillaria persica.

Fritillaria persica

The bulb produces a spike and the grey green leaves reach upwards in a slight spiralling direction.  An altogether elegant plant that has kept me company as I watch it from indoors waiting for the weather to improve.  This was a trial of an unknown but it looks worthwhile repeating in the garden with some more next year.

Wisteria flowers

We are all waiting.  The Wisteria buds to flower;

Wisteria leaf bud

their leaf buds resting discretely in the background waiting for the word to go.


The Amelanchier is waiting to add some brightness to the back garden –

Back garden

which is looking empty now that the big plum tree and the willow have stopped flowering.

New bee hotel

At least my husband has come up trumps with his latest bee hotel to add to my collection.  I think it is the best one yet.

Osmia cornuta males

Although even that has become a waiting place for different male bees waiting for their females to hatch.  The newly drilled holes in the wood provide a sheltered spot away from the wind and rain.  (For those interested in the antics of my mason bees check out “Isn’t Nature wonderful ???” on my Bees in a French Garden blog.  These two are Osmia cornuta males.

Bumble in Hellebore

In fact, it is only the bumbles bees that put me to shame.  They are not put off by a bit of dull weather and get on out there to carry on without grumbling about overcast skies.

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.

51 thoughts on “Still waiting…

  1. Just think of all you have to look forward to. Looks like you will be having a marvelous spring.


  2. I think we are all longing for some warm weather. Your garden is looking great.


  3. We are chilly here in London too, spring is taking its time this year. I have seen bumbles foraging in the rain, they are tough little creatures and have the right coats for the cold.

    I was thinking of getting a bee hotel but then I read this study, which suggests they have negative effects by producing an artificially high density of nesting sites, causing disease and increased numbers of parasites: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0122126 Now I don’t know what to think! The bees in your photos always look healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • … better designs modeled after natural conditions both in materials used and details of positioning in the environment. ….
      from the paper in your link…

      I think this is the most telling point…
      The “tubes” used were all very artificial.. designed so that the researchers could break them down easily… and the fibreboard support so thin that a bird attacked it… probably in the hope of nesting in there.

      With the type of design that K has built this time… and previous ones that he’s made for Amelia… the materials are much more likely to resemble those found in the garden.
      The one above is a stack of cane ends and a couple of bits of “rotting” log… albeit attractively framed.
      Here, we have had to store canes vertically, tops covered… seep-hoses for irrigation in bundles with both ends covered… just to stop the bees nesting in them and then their young getting buried when we need to use them…

      But, the effect above echoes this… and is similar to the bundles of teasle stalks on our “rot down” piles of woody material… where I have also seen solitary bees in abundance.
      And the same small parasitic flies/wasps that hang around the drilled logs.
      So, given that this study took place under very artificial conditions in a Continent that has abused the introduction of alien species for a very long time, my view is continue…
      take into consideration the comments, tho’ and place the hotels hither and thither…
      thus echoing nature.
      And, don’t forget that many other species find a framed box like K’s a wonderful place to overwinter!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I read it too but it is a special study of urban sites using very large nesting areas. Their results were different for native bees in suburban gardens. It is a very complex question and with bees nothing is simple like the question of competition between solitary bees and commercial honey bees. Parasites are a natural phenomenon and coexist with solitary bees. I think that bee hotels provide an excellent place to study and watch some species of solitary bees. Maybe the next David or Davina Goulson will start getting interested in science watching a bee hotel. They will not provide a physical means to save solitary bees but neither will a small nesting site in peoples back yard increase the percentage of parasites. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re lucky to have so many flowers blooming. I’ve seen a witch hazel and a skunk cabbage and that’s all so far. It looks like your spring is in full swing.


    • The plants are on the go and quite happy as the temperatures are mild and they have had plenty of rain but the lack of sunshine has inhibited all the bees and butterflies so it is a lot quieter and duller this year. Amelia


  5. Spring has really come your way with all the bloom. I so love when the bulbs give way to bloom. Your bee hotel is a nice addition too.


    • The hotel designs are improving year on year! But they don’t have to be complicated to provide a lot of entertainment. I still feel our spring is strange this year as it is so lacking in the usual sunshine. Amelia


  6. Back to rain again here but we were still able to chuck some seed potatoes in the ground. l like your husband’s creative design for a bee hotel. Likewise, I want to try a different design, rather than the boring functional design I’ve been using for the last three years. I’ll have a year to think about it. I’ll need it. 🙂


  7. Wow, that Fritillaria persica looks fantastic! Are you in the Open Gardens / Jardins ouvert scheme? http://Www.gardensopen.eu. Or do you open your garden ever? Thanks for showing us the photos anyway!


    • I bought the persica bulb while I was visiting Savill gardens in the UK. I think I should have dug deeper and got a few more. I have looked at the scheme but I thought the charges very high for small gardens, even though it is for charity, and there is the problem of providing toilet facilities. In addition, most of the local people are only interested in what grows, as long as you can eat it. I do not have an impressive vegetable plot. I think they would be more impressed with something Sarah Raven would have. I would be happy to show it to any blog reader passing by as all gardeners love to talk about gardens 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I may be ahead on the veg front Amelia, but you are way ahead with the blossom!


  9. … but the sun is obscured by a thick grey blanket.“….
    here it is a thick, wet, grey blanket.
    It is dismal and depressing…
    I looked at the weather records for here for Jan to March since 2012….
    this year has actually had the least rain!

    We’ve only had the river to a good height this year on a handfull of occasions… and no floods across or on the meadow… but a low patch that holds water for a couple of weeks after a flood… has been permanently flooded all winter!

    If we’d forked out for a weather station that also recorded solar, however, I’ll bet that we would have had the least sun also this year…
    the cloud has been so persistent that spells of sunshine have become almost “diary” events.

    And our potager is vanishing under the weeds… good job the beds have corner markers… and are wider than the paths… else we wouldn’t know where to dig!


  10. We have been very lucky with sunshine here this spring, so we must have got your share! It looks like the whole of Europe should get warmer weather and clear skies next week though. Have a nice Easter weekend Amelia!


  11. I agree with Tim re the weather situation — it’s not as wet as we think it is, but I bet sunshine hours are going to be down (they were earlier in the year). It’s very dismal, but once the sun gets going I’ll be complaining about how much there is to do in so little time 🙂

    I love the F. persicaria too — beautiful colour. And K’s new bee hotel is splendid. He does a great job and you clearly have the knack of placing them where the bees are happy.

    The first orchids are out in the Touraine, so that cheers me up.


  12. It’s going to be even more beautiful soon. Love the bee house! I’m working on finding or making one for my garden.


    • There are some reasonably priced ones on the market, although you can get a lot of success with just a bundle of hollow stalks from the garden plants tied with string or stuffed into a plastic bottle. For the very curious there is one you can buy that unscrews so that you can look inside at the end of the season. Amelia


  13. Undeniably a 5* bee hotel… beautifully done.


  14. The closeup of the mason bees is absolutely amazing.


  15. Love the new bee hotel Amelia. We have been enjoying a much warmer spring here in the Pacific Northwest, and today we were mobbed by orchard mason bees fighting over hole spaces, so much so that we both retreated to the workshop to drill some extra homes.


  16. Excellent bee hotel and a brilliant picture of the waiting males!


  17. That bee hotel is wonderful. I love the Fritillarias, too and pontica is a favorite.


  18. Like others, I too really like your bee hotel! I am fanatical about not burning old stalks or stems so that insects can overwinter in them and then leave come the spring. But husband is not too keen on the massive mountain we now have of old wood and stalks:)


    • I can sympathise with the problem. An old poplar tree fell down at the bottom of our garden some years ago and we have now started to clean up that area. However, in the meantime some mining bees, Andrena agilissima, have decided to nest in the upturned roots. My husband asked me when he could tidy it up and I had to break the news to them that they will now use the site year after year. Still, he enjoys seeing them buzz in and out of the holes of the dry earth. Amelia


  19. Oh wow! there are actually bugs inside your bug hotel! 😀 My husband made me one a few years back, but I must admit I haven’t seen any bugs (good or bad) inside it yet :/ I’m not quite sure why?

    I wanted to ask you for some other random advice: I’m not sure how well you know the rest of France, but are there any areas in France where one can grow mango trees outside? I’m looking for a property somewhere (probably around the South) where it doesn’t snow and I can grow some rosemary, mangoes and citrus. Any clue of where exactly I can look? I know that Paris and Normandy will be out…

    Thank you for your time.


    • For a climate mild enough to grow citrus fruits in the garden you will be looking at the Côte d’Azur, so I hope you have plenty of money :). I have no idea about mangoes as I always thought they were tropical fruits. Rosemary would be no problem anywhere. To attract the bees you should ensure there are plenty of their favourite flowers around. If there is no nectar, the bees will not survive without food. Perhaps you could try and change it to a new location. Sunny spots seem to work the best. Good luck! Amelia


  20. I’ll be trying that bee-house.


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