a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Getting used to November in the garden


At this stage in the year it is usual to accept that winter has come.  I just want to know where autumn went to.  We did go back to the U.K. for a couple of weeks late in October, coming back early November.  We came back to sunshine and tales of summer-like temperatures whilst we were away.

Mahonia Charity and queen bumble bee

Arriving back I checked out the garden before I went inside the house  and went straight to the Mahonia “Charity” that was planted last year.  The Mahonia was already nourishing a queen bumble bee.  “Charity” is a big variety and has put on quite a bit of growth since last year.  I had also planted two “Winter Sun” Mahonia which flowered in October.  I felt that was a bit early but they were mostly in the sun this year.  Perhaps when they get more shade they will do better.

Worker bumble bee on Mahonia

As well as the queen, there was a worker bumble bee on the Mahonia but she did not get that purple pollen from the Mahonia!

bumble bee on Phacelia

She had been working the Phacelia only a few metres away.

Barn owl in roosting box

As I was checking out my flowers and bumble bees, Kourosh had noticed a lot of white splashes on the floor of our outbuilding and set up a ladder to check for occupants of his barn owl nest box.  The owl does not look overjoyed to see us but we are happy he has returned to use the nest as a roost, if not to nest.

persimmons and asian hornet

We are not  so happy to see the Asian hornets much in evidence in the garden.  The persimmons were ready to harvest when we returned and we are content to share some with the birds but not so pleased to see them being enjoyed by the Asian hornets.

Magnolia Grandiflora seeds

The seed pods of the Magnolia Grandiflora are literally bursting at the seams.  I wander whether this increased fertility could be due to the pollination by our honey bees.  They seemed to be much more attracted to the flowers than the solitary bees.  It is only thirteen seconds long but the video shows you how much fun the bees were having in the flowers during the summer.

I managed to buy some some bee friendly plants in the U.K.  I bought Monarda “Jacob Cline” and an Eucryphia nymensis.  My friend Linda had been busy growing lots of Knautia so I now have a good size patch that should be a magnet for bees next year.


I am also replacing my sedum with varieties I which I know will attract bees.  Even though it was not the right time I did find a Sedum “Autumn Joy” and a small variety “Dragon’s blood” whilst I was in the U.K.  There are lots of little changes to be done and some bulbs yet to be planted but each change adds and an extra for the new year.


I planted the willows (Salix alba “Chermesina”)in January 2014 and now they are starting to fill out and add colour to the winter garden.   Although I am already looking forward to the spring when their task is to form a screen around a seating area.





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.

30 thoughts on “Getting used to November in the garden

  1. We were in the 50s here today so winter seems to be taking a short break. I’m already anxious for spring as well. I think gardeners everywhere probably are.


  2. It’s cold for here in the Pacific Northwest, but pretty. A crisp white frost that has been with us for several days, only melting where the sun shines, and the sun has REALLY been shining. We have Autumn Joy sedum, which self seeds all over the garden, and it was covered with bees in the earlier part of the season. Sorry, I don’t know what kind. But they made pretty, and loud music.


    • That’s given me even more hope for my Autumn Joy. The good thing about sedum self seeding is that they are easy to spot. I did a bit of weeding today and unfortunately started to pull out two types of flowers that I had wanted to spread before I noticed what I was doing. Amelia


  3. The bees really do like the magnolia, the willow stems add some welcome colour to the winter garden.


  4. I can’t tell you how jealous i am of your roosting barn owl. Very cool indeed. The local farmer has a nest box high up in one of her barns but it hasn’t been used for several years. D


  5. Lovely video of the bees….
    looks like they were in a queue on Black Friday…
    all jostling one another for the goodies on offer.
    And the Bumble with the purple pollen is a fun shot, too…
    it would be nice to see all the different pollen colours you’ve managed to capture whilst clicking away at the bees.

    Also lovely to see the Dame Blanche…
    even if it could be a male… there being no evidence of speckles on the breast.


    • I am fascinated by all the lovely colours of pollen. The colour goes from black to white with seemingly everything in between. I have never managed to put the photographs together and count how many colours I have captured. Amelia


      • Something to do in the darkness of winter…
        trawl through the bee pix for a collurs of pollen blog…

        oh, by the way, your blog suddenly seems to have developed cronic dandruff!


        • I would like to do that and I still have pictures of elusive bees I have not managed to identify due to lack of time. I rather like the snow – I could turn it off if I disliked it but it helps the Chrismassy feeling. Amelia


  6. ooo oooo ooo *jumping up and down with excitement* You’ve got a Eucryphia!!. You lucky thing! I’ve never had a garden that was suitable for one. The Australian species are known as Leatherwood and grow in the forests of Tasmania. They are an ancient Gondwanan plant (with natural distributions restricted to Australia and South America, like Araucaria and Nothofagus). They make a very dark strong honey which is much prized in Australia but unknown outside of the country. I think your plant must be E. x nymansensis ‘Nymansay’, which was bred at and named after the wonderful gardens at Nymans, where there is a collection of them. I hope it thrives for you. They are a bit picky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Spot on, but you know more about it than I do. I bought it on my trip to the U.K. and it is still alive and kicking as I write. I got it as I read its flowers were very attractive to bees. It looks as if I should do a bit of reading on care. Amelia


  7. A barn owl! Very jealous. Looks like a nice cosy box to sleep in.


  8. Your Barn Owl is beautiful Amelia, I hope he or she goes on to create a nest too. The Monarda we have grown here before regularly gets mildew, I’ve just looked your purchase up and see its noted as being resistant to powdery mildew, so I have added it to my wish list. I really enjoyed your clip, we have a M. soulangea that doesn’t seem to attract bees the stamens on the M. grandiflora seem much more accessible and welcoming or maybe its just your weather thats better! I am sorry the Asian Hornets are still at large, do they die off in the winter time?


    • Their life cycle is similar to bumble bees, so everything dies off in the winter apart from the queens. This is why trapping the queens in early spring is suggested as a means of control but it is not working. Destroying the nests in summer is difficult because so many are unseen in tall trees. If they ever reach the UK I hope they will be controlled more efficiently. Amelia


  9. How wonderful to have a barn owl in the garden. I have quite a few mahonias in the garden and I noticed that they were alive with bees when we had sunny weather. There is both Charity and Winter Sun here but I.can’ t rea!ly tell the difference. The one I look forward to in early spring is Mahinia japonica with its glorious fragrance.


  10. I’m beginning to think you live near the tropics instead of the European continent. What a lovely (albeit strange) climate. I’m envious, as I will soon be returning to snow, ice, and extreme cold.


  11. Love the photo of the owl. We had a Tawny fall down our exterior stove flue last week. Luckily our neighbour had dealt with this before and had enormous padded gloves (raku ceramics!) to haul it out from the bottom. It was ok if a bit sooty!


  12. Like everyone else I am very taken with your owl, how exciting!


  13. Sorry, catching up on posts I saved up to read later… Wonderful to have the owl. We have tried an owl box but no success yet. I suspect it’s (a) the wrong type of box and (b) in the wrong position – but I’m not going up the tree again to change it! RH


    • We never had much success with little bird boxes in trees – until last year with an old broken one recovered and repaired from my daughter’s garden. I think luck has a lot to do with it. Keep your fingers crossed! Amelia


  14. Same as RH, catching up on posts in-between bits of Christmas and New Year. Your sedum pictured looks the same as mine now and the hellebores are brown ghosts in the garden. I’ve taken some inside and sprayed them white and silver for decorations, autumn seems to be lasting a long time in London and I wonder if winter will ever come.


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