a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Autumn discoveries


Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki'

Some plants just seem to work harder than others.  My Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’ is full of flowers and these tiny flowers emit a heady perfume.

Osmanthus heterophyllus

I wish it could be near a door but it sits in the shade of the wall to the back of the front garden, its glossy leaves providing a year long green backdrop.  The RHS suggests it should be pruned in April or May or after flowering.  We pruned it last spring and I think this is the reason for our heavy crop of flowers this year.


The Persimmon tree is holding on to a heavy crop of fruit this year.  I suspect some will soon be ripe enough for the birds to start to peck but the tree is too big to net.


The Medlar tree is heavy with fruit too this year but they will not be ripe enough to eat for a while yet.

Nerine bowdenii early bumble bee

I have made some discoveries about bumble bees.  The first is that they like Nerine bowdenii but the second is an identification that has been puzzling me for some time.  I am now sure that the bee above is an early bumble bee.  How come early in October you say?  Checking with BWARS they note for the U.K. the early bumble bee is  “bivoltine in the south, with a smaller late-summer generation”.

Saffron bombus pratorum

These must be Bombus pratorum queens, like the one in my saffron, but I have never seen any males or workers at this time of year and I wonder if some queens might come out of hibernation for a top-up of nectar before the final last months of hibernation.

I also decided to try and and find out the meaning of pratorum (I erroneously guessed spring but Latin was always my worse subject).  It appears that pratum is a meadow or hayfield so these are the bumble bees of the meadows.  May there be many meadows for all the bumble bees.

Mahonia eurybracteata

My Mahonia eurybracteata “Soft Caress” that I planted last year is just starting to flower.  I had not realised it flowered so early but that is fine, I have other ones that will come on later too.  I am just looking forward to see which of the bees find it first – my bet is the bumble bees.

Apple cider vinegar

Another “discovery” or surprise was that I was able to make apple cider vinegar from our glut of apples this year.  I love apples and we have been eating them raw, stewed and baked.  They have also gone into jams, jellies and chutney but the vinegar is a new product for 2015.  We can now take jars of our honey as well as apple cider to my daughter in the UK – sweet as well as sour.


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.

23 thoughts on “Autumn discoveries

  1. Amelia, this is such a lovely post, I haven’t seen an Osmanthus with as many generous flowers as yours. Earlier this year I signed up to the Bumblebee Conservation ‘BeeWatch’ the link is on their website, hopefully this works too
    I submitted two photos of BumbleBees I had been struggling with and they came back to me with identifications. You are very observant to work out your Bumblee identity, I find it quite tricky. One of the purposes of Bee Watch though is to encourage folk to get their “eye” in. Your photo of the Bumble on the Nerine is really quite beautiful. Apple cider is new to me but sounds a lovely gift, we eat far less puddings than we used to and its good to have ideas for other uses.


  2. De inimico non loquaris eam.

    Nice photos.


  3. You’re very lucky to have so many flowers still blooming!


  4. Let me echo your ‘may there be many meadows for bees’, as well as many gardens like yours. Love the sweet and the sour produce from your garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I always prefer to use cider vinegar rather than wine, it never seems quite so acidic. Perfect images of all the bees. There is a new series on the BBC about bees, I’ve just downloaded the first one; you could see it too if you have a VPN.


  6. Or someone will put it on Youtube, I’m sure.


  7. Beautiful bee pictures, I especially like the one where the bee is headfirst in the depths of the crocus. Your garden shots made me feel slightly envious as here in the UK we are in full Autumn, the clocks have changed and the light seems weak.


  8. I have just looked up Persimmon tree, I had not heard of it before, how do you use the fruits?
    Cider vinegar is claimed to have many health giving properties, was it difficult to make?


    • Persimmon taste very good when they are ripe. I cannot compare them with any other fruit and can only say they are not acid but sweet with their own flavour and attractive red colour. The cider and from there the vinegar was extremely easy to make from recipes I looked up on the internet. I made the cider in a plastic bucket for honey and went on from there. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Really lovely photos Amelia. I’d be interesting in hearing more about your cider vinegar too. I use it quite a lot. I’ve never seen it cloudy before.


    • I got the idea from an American recipe on the internet. It was all very rough measures and I would never have tried it unless I had so many apples and was desperate to try something different. Amelia


  10. Love the post. What do you do with your medlars, I tend to make jelly with them but I would love to have more recipes as we always have a glut. Sue


    • We eat quite a lot of fruit and appreciate the medlars and persimmons coming along in the winter. I have heard of medlar jam but never tasted it. There are lots of medlars growing around here but they are not universally appreciated. It seems that you either love them or hate them. It would be interesting to find out what else you could make with medlars. Amelia


  11. Interesting to see the Early Bumblebees at this time of year. Unless you see workers it feels like your second idea (popping out from hibernation for a feed) is more likely.


  12. Your Persimmon tree is glorious as are all your autumn discoveries. Truly a season of great treasures 🙂


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