a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Still running to catch up with April


Ouside front garden

I feel guilty about our front garden.  Recently I have not been able to give it much attention and yet even the outside wall looks pretty with plants put in years ago.

Front garden less lilac

We did manage to remove an old lilac tree early last autumn which has left us with a very blank wall.  But I hope that other plants will be tall enough to remedy the situation by next year.

Spirea butterfly

The white Spirea provides a bright distraction but does not attract much insect life apart from an odd butterfly in transit.

Front garden fuschia (3)

Not so my Choisya Sundance!  It has lit up a shady wall all through the winter and is now full of fragrant flowers.

Choisia bee

Its flowers are beautiful, perfumed and the pollen seems to be appreciated by this wild bee.

Tree peony all

The tree peony is out and doing its bit to brighten up the wall.

Tree peopny flower

The flowers are large and lightly scented.

Cerinthe Anthophora

The ground in front of the tree peony is covered by Cerinthe which has self-seeded.  In the sunshine there is a constant buzz from the Anthophora bees…

Cerinthe Bombus pratorum

and the bumble bees.

Camassia Leichtlinii caerulea

On the front patio I’ve planted three Camassia Leichtlinii caerulea.  Last year I planted Camassia cusickii which I preferred but still I have plenty of bumble bees to watch as I have my morning coffee.

Lemon flower bombus pratorum

Then they obligingly move onto the potted lemon tree to help with the pollination there (this time it is a Bombus pratorum doing her pollinating stuff).

Front garden fuschia (2)

The Wisteria is the main feature of the front garden at the moment and it makes it presence known with its heavy perfume.Wisteria Carpenter

With Wisteria in France the Carpenter bees are ever present as well as the different kinds of bumble bees.

Wisteria bee

The honey bees come too but I doubt if they would get much nectar from the flowers if it had not been for the Carpenters and bumble bees leaving holes in the flowers to provide access for them.

Front garden fuschia (1)

All summer long my hardy fuschia puts up a marvellous show but I have neglected it this year and now new shoots are growing on the old stems that I should have cut down months ago.

Back garden ex pine spot

The back garden and the bees have taken up too much of my time this year.

Back garden ex pine

I am pleased with the willows put in as a screen where we frequently sit.

Dark tulip

The dark tulips grow in front of the willows.  Their petals are so dark that there seems a blush on their surface.

Quince flower bumble

The cherry and apple trees are in flower but the Quince tree is a particular favourite with all the bees but more about the Quince tree later.

Wisteria tree (2)

A couple of years ago we decided to try to grow a Wisteria into a tree.  Actually, two survived the first stage and we put the best in a selected, choice situation.  We did not know what to do with the other so we stuck it in the hedge.  Yes, the good one died leaving the survivor to hang over the fence!

Natural arrangement

Perhaps that is one of the charms of gardening that things don’t always turn out as you expect them to.  I left this dry, hollow log unadorned on a flower bed but by springtime Nature had adorned it with several mosses and a “wild” flower.  Left to itself it is prettier than anything I could have confectioned.



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.

36 thoughts on “Still running to catch up with April

  1. Beautiful! I like the calla/iris combination, the way they contrast. Isn’t that blank wall just begging for an espalier?


  2. Oh, what beautiful, beautiful pictures. Thank you for this!


  3. I think your gardens are beautiful!


  4. A very charming look at your charming garden. Wisteria is quite invasive here; I presume that is not the case in France.


    • It is a constant battle but if I had the strength I’d probably have more! Last year they flowered three times so they reward us well. We are constantly re-potting runners to give to friends, or as I mentioned we experimented in making them into a tree shape. So far the tree shape is easier to control. Amelia

      Liked by 2 people

  5. what a lovely place you call your own. the plants contrasted with the old stone walls look so great! And I am always a great admirer of a little wild left to gardens.


    • Last weekend I listened to a talk trying to convince the audience that it was possible to leave a garden completely wild and use just the wild flowers or “weeds”. His example was to show us a wild field and at this time in the spring his ideas were quite convincing. However, I’d need to see one actually done and what it looks like in the summer and winter. You are allowed to add paths and the odd plant with this concept. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would be afraid, that everything would get so thick, that one can’t even get through it. Nature tends do dense up, if allowed to….


        • It can have paths through it. Paths could be stones or even trodden paths. Where you tread leaves space for different plants to prosper. It is a concept I have difficult understanding.


  6. I don’t think the carpenters nectar rob the wisteria — they climb right in the flowers and it is definitely a favourite with them (as are most big pea flowers). Probably one of the bumbles is doing the robbing.


    • I have actually watched the Carpenters piercing the flowers. Perhaps it is easier for them to land and pierce rather than land and push, although I agree I have seen them do both. Anecdotally, I feel I am seeing less in the Wisteria this year. It may be as the years go by there are more flowers in the garden and they are more spread out. Amelia


  7. You may be running to catch up with April Amelia, as you would expect your garden is way ahead of us, the promise of things to come. First batch of cosmos up and growing in the green house, second batch planted today. I hope to have some to sell for our NGS open days, thank you.


  8. Good to see so much blossom, and the bees. Being on the south coast of the Mediterranean, our lemons are some way ahead of yours: I can almost smell the perfume in your garden! Would it be possible to grow a fig tree against the blank wall? I’ve seen one trained against a wall near the entrance to the herb garden at Kew, and it does a great job of covering the brickwork. Plus you’d get the fruit.


    • A very good suggestion but I developed a very severe allergy to figs some years ago. I cannot really come into contact with the fruit or anything it touches. I don’t understand how these things happen as I used to eat lots of the little green and the black figs when I was young. This is my only food allergy. Amelia


  9. Even “neglected” your garden is lovely–and such a haven for the wild things.


  10. Hello Amelia,
    Lovely pics and amazing to see Wisteria and Iris already in full flower. Are these always out now, or has it been an early year? The garden looks great,
    Best wishes


    • Over here the spring has been late this year although not as late here as in other regions. So they are about at the right time, starting early April. The wild yellow Iris in the fields are out now too. Amelia


  11. Hi Amelia, I am so wistful after reading your lovely post, your garden looks beautiful, we sheltered from the heat under a Wisteria in Spain and watched large Carpenter bees robbing nectar, the first time I had seen this close up. Thornhayes nursery suggest espaliered cooking plums, morello cherries or mid season cooking apples on an east facing wall. And your last photo is gorgeous, a plant to treasure.


  12. Tout est bien plus en avance par chez vous qu’à l’Ouest de la Bretagne où il fait encore bien frais !

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Looks great – our French garden is in the chopping back stage so that we can see what is actually there 🙂


  14. Do you know which Anthophora you see on the cerinthe?

    Some years ago, inspired by one at Sissinghurst, I began growing a wisteria as a tree. It is now in a large pot and currently covered in fat buds about 4cm long. For the two flowering weeks it is a source of much comment!


    • It is Anthophora plumipes as it comes so early. I think A.retusa is around now but I cannot tell the difference when they are in flight. I don’t get black A. plumipes females here. I think keeping a Wisteria in a pot is a great idea. I did not know it was possible but at least it is an excellent method to keep it under control. Amelia


  15. It is certainly the Carpenter bees here that love the wisteria above all the other flowers and I can confirm that they piece the flowers to the point of destroying them to get to the nectar. The terrace was covered in drifts of petals mostly from those damaged by the bees, but I don’t mind, there were so many flowers. The noise sitting under the wisteria was almost deafening! Here’s a link to a blog you may not have found, Cath often writes about bees and she keeps them too. https://absentgardener.com/2016/05/01/flowers-for-bees-in-mid-summer/


  16. I enjoyed your observation about the carpenter bees making foraging easier for the honeybees. With the cold spring, we’re still running to catch up with the garden project this year. I discovered that many of the plants in our garden were not perennials and a fair few were not even ours (overgrowth from next door), which means there’s considerable scope for re-planting. I’ve been making my planting lists for a truly year-round bee-friendly garden by reading your blog, so thank you for the inspiration. Adding quince now…


    • I keep a wish list Word document on the computer and when I come to an interesting flower or tree (i.e. bee friendly :)) on a blog I make a note of it. I then print it off when I go to the U.K. and if I see any while I visit the garden centres I can treat myself. The more exact the name the better it is if you are trying to attract pollinators. Amelia


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