a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Garden and owl update


Back garden

This is the first year I feel the garden is beginning to take shape.  The willows are now sheltering a seating area in the back garden.

TableThe plants are taking on a more mature look.


I’ve actually managed to grow lupins.  Well, four plants from a packet of seed.  But only two of them have flowered so far, but it is an improvement over zero.

Front garden

The front garden managed to fill itself up with a lot of self seeded flowers but they disguised the weeds wonderfully.

Nigella and bee

I must confess the Nigella did get a bit out of hand but I had not realised how much the honey bees liked the pollen so they were allowed to run free.

Poppy (2)

Likewise the poppies are always welcome.  They can change their colours and this one brings back memories of the holiday when we originally brought the seed head home with us.


Best of all at the moment is the noise of the bumble bees in the Kaki or Persimmon tree which is in flower.


There is a good competition volume wise from the cotoneasters.   Luckily we have several different sorts so the flowering period and buzzing is extended.  The honey bees like these flowers too but this year the garden seems to have even more bumble bees than usual.


The Phacelia is a magnet for the pollinators and full of bumble bees.

Sedum (1)

I had planted a bright yellow sedum in a small stone container in the front garden as I felt it would be able to stand getting dried out.  I am pleased that the yellow flowers are attracting the bees, especially a small halictus bee.Compost border

I had sown some seeds in the front garden border but when we came back from a visit to the U.K. I found that they had been completely smothered by tomatoes and lettuce from our compost.  We ate the lettuce but I had to weed out all the tomatoes which looked healthier than the ones I had planted much earlier from seed.  I did let the lettuce go to seed last year to see if any bees liked the seed heads (they did not.)  However, I thought the composting process would generate enough natural heat to kill any seeds.  Is there any way to avoid this?  I have always had the odd tomato pop up but nothing like this before.


Kourosh decided he had not seen the owls for a while.  He has fixed up an owl box in the workshop (see New home for an old trunk) subsequently the owl brought back its mate Is It Spring yet?).  So today he set up his ladder and took a photograph of inside the box.

Owl box

It looks as if they have been busy but we feel a bit cheated.  We felt that if they were ever to have chicks we might see them.

Owl eggs (1)

All we can see is some egg shells stuffed in the corner.  Have they done it?  Have they raised any chicks?


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.

41 thoughts on “Garden and owl update

  1. Heat is the secret to weedless compost. If you have a source for fresh horse manure you could dig it in this fall, as long as you don’t plan on using it until spring. A compost thermometer should tell you when it reaches about 150-170 degrees F, which will be hot enough to kill most weed seeds. Keep the pile moist and well oxygenated and it will heat up even without the manure.


  2. Your garden is very impressive and growing them by seed! I started many plants indoors to get a jump on the season. I then planted them outdoors only to have them all eaten by one thing or another. So sad. Not the whole garden is a fail, but close. I will keep trying as we gardeners (me–wanna-be-gardener) do! 🙂 How cool owls. I hope they had a successful clutch! Best wishes! Koko:)


    • There is something about growing your own flowers from seed – a certain pride but I think I’ve grilled more seedlings in too strong sun or the wrong soil than I have ever had successes. That is why it is so satisfying when the garden gets mature enough to fill up the spaces with the flowers that have left the seeds from other years. I’ll still be sowing flower seeds irrespective of my success rate! Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is clear that you have made a wonderful garden…and one that can only get better with time. Very well done. Sorry about the owls, but you do have your bees.


  4. I love you lupins. And keep us informed about the owls, please.


  5. What a little bit of heaven you have. It must be a truly happy place to spend time.


    • There is always something happening in the garden. Recently we have seen a rabbit (Kourosh says it is a small hare) near the beehives. I am not so enamoured with the idea of a rabbit warren at the bottom of the garden. There is an old tree root covered in soft soil which has a colony of Andrena agilissima bees but now has a strange hole – bunnies? This was roughly where I was going to prepare my hedgehog shelter for the winter. Mmm. Amelia


  6. How great that the owls used the box. It is always a delight to have them. And a Swallowtail butterfly- how magical. Your garden is lovely.


  7. Your garden’s beautiful! I hope those eggshells are evidence that little owlets hatched and fledged. They don’t look like they were attacked by a predator.

    I get the tomato seedlings all over in everything I put my compost on but since I rip out bolting lettuce before it seeds I haven’t seen it as a groundcover. Though, now I’m thinking I ought to start saving lettuce seed since it’s something I seem to be buying every year.


    • I was actually thinking of leaving one or two to go to seed for exactly the same reason. I grow the leaf type and they came true and were very good in the border so it would be worthwhile keeping the seed as we plant the lettuce several times during the year. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I hope that the little owlets hatched and are now learning about the world! As has been said above, heat is the key to killing weed seeds. I never manage it because I have always had open compost heaps. With the manure trick and a closed system you’d have a better chance. Lovely to see how well your beautiful garden is progressing – and to have your knowledgeable comments on which flowers the bees prefer.


  9. My compost is also always full of seed, I think if I can keep mine wetter it would help. I have tomato seed coming up everywhere, and yes mine look healthier than those I grew too! It does take a while for a garden to mature but once it starts it just gets better and better.


  10. It is so nice to see your garden growing. And congratulation for being able to grow those pretty lupins from seeds. Novella and pink Poppies, too. I love this sight.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. How frustrating not to have seen the chicks…. I hope you spot them if they stay in your area. Your garden is looking lovely Amelia. And the lupins are magnificent!


    • Not having seen the chicks we can not be certain that all went well. The lack of bodies in the atelier, although a macabre thought, is comforting. We will have to look on the bright side and hope they come back another time. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Looks fantastic – We are really looking forward to living in our French house full time after September 2017 and getting to grips with our garden (providing of course us Brits will still be allowed to live in France – I am very concerned about the way BREXIT seems to be getting ahead at the moment.


  13. Your garden is beautiful !
    In our garden we cant have flowers from seeds left the previous year because of the chicken going and scratching everywhere! I have to sow them in small pots in the house and planting them in the garden surrounded by little bamboos to protect the young plants from scratching…It’s a lot more work but it worth it, it’s so nice to see the chickens enjoying the garden.


    • Our neighbours have their chickens loose as they have no flowers, just some fruit trees so we have to make do with watching them. They follow us when we work in the borders on our side as we must disturb things weeding that they then catch as they scurry away. Amelia


  14. Our Barn Owls are still busy going to and fro…but only normally in the dead of night.
    The “piege photogaphique” is capturing that…and has shown an increase in “hits”.
    You have a baffle board in place, so cannot see beyond that…
    The instinct of the chicks is to freeze in a corner if anything untoward occurs….
    So you may still have chicks in there…. The female might well have been tucked in there with them…the male tends to roost elsewhere once the brood is hatched.
    Our’s arrives with food around 10.15’ish as the first drop!
    So don’t count all as lost, yet!!
    I’ll check the blog date when Kouroush found the pair….check it against the information in Birds of the Western Palearctic and the new New Naturalists “Owls” book and report back….as mentioned above, the eggs don’t look as though they’ve been predated!!
    Tim at La Forge


    • Thank you, Tim, for that helpful comment.
      Actually during my previous intrusion into their nest, when I captured a picture of the pair of barn owls, I learnt a lesson that one must be very careful not to disturb them. That time, the male flew just touching my hand. Apparently, they can bite one’s hand.
      This time I took two quick photos and once I was pretty sure they have left, I extended my hand into the box and took a photo of the area behind the baffle board. There was only used nesting material.
      I am still very pleased that they did raise two chicks as for several weeks we could hear the noise of the owls moving around inside the box even during the day.
      I believe that they might even raise a second brood in one year, as the season is quite long here. In any case, apart from a lot of mess that they make in the atelier, I am delighted as they are beautiful creatures and hopefully catch most of the mice around our garden.
      Thanks again. – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

  15. It is very difficult to produce weed free compost on a garden scale. The experts say you should turn the heap at least once a year to help generate heat all through the contents. If your horse manure contains a lot of fresh straw ( Carbon) and you don’t have enough green material (Nitrogen) to add at the same time try sprinkling Chicken Pellet fertiliser in with it, or any high N Fertiliser. This will speed up the composting process thereby increasing the heat. Do you have a cover on it?

    How wonderful to have owls nesting in the garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Amelia,
    Given the owl box… and your comments about the odd goings on by the hives…you really ought to treat yourselves to a trail camera…. it is amazing what goes on while you aren’t watching…both day and night!!
    We now have two and two more on order…it is a large patch of land an we are trying to monitor it closely [and grow veg at the same time]… our chosen favourite is the LtlAcorn range… excellent pictures, easy to set up and use. Currently, don’t buy from Amazon…they seem to have a lot of copies in look-alike boxes….and their prices are not much cheaper!!
    I can email you the info if you’d like…


    • I think a lot could be going on when our backs are turned or we are tucked up in bed but at the moment I do not think I could handle monitoring a trail camera. If we ever get a bit more time, I am sure it is something we would enjoy and I would come to you straight away for tips. Amelia


      • It is dead easy monitoring a trail camera… I check ours once a week…
        more often and the disturbance can have an effect on results.
        You just check the status of the batteries and swop SD cards…
        Then you look at the results on the computer, at intervals if you like, over the next week. I have two cards for each trail camera and a spare set of batteries that cycle around the cameras… they very rarely all need changing at the same time. But you do see some lovely sights that you would otherwise miss… like our Madame Barn Owl roosting in the sun….yes we did have some and she took advantage of it as did we…. she was perched on the platform in front of the box at 17:25pm… I wish I’d known…I’d have taken some pictures with the telescope, for better quality.
        You can get a version of the same camera that sends pictures to your ‘phone… but, unless you are doing it professionally, the expense is just not worth it… it is almost double the cost before network fees, contract, etc!!
        Much better to use that money for another “trap”…. there will be a post soon about the saga of the owls… first the Tawnies, followed by the Barnies… I have now found the approximate change over dates…
        but, frustratingly we had a problem with the camera that week…a snail had slimed the lens… couldn’t even make out the nest box…let alone whether the Barnies had occupied an empty nest or, more unlikely, fought for it…. Tawnies usually win, they are much fiercer. But we had a mild winter, so the Tawnies may well have started to breed at the beginning of the accepted range of dates… the box will then have been empty.


  17. My your lupins look good! Ours are still about 3 inches tall.


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