a french garden

Spring in February?

32 Comments

garden-long

Nothing looks greatly different in the garden since the big chill.  However, we had the big wind next with winds over 100 km. an hour and the winds were higher in the coastal regions.   This left our area without electricity.  We were out for just over 24 hours but depending on where you lived others lost their electricity for longer.  In areas with no piped gas, houses are frequently all electric.  So it is a good idea to keep in plenty of candles and a camping stove.  The really super-prepared have a little generator but we have stayed at the candles and camping stove level.

plum-blossom-ouside

Now we have sunshine and day time temperatures touching twenty degrees centigrade which has coaxed our plum tree to open its first flowers.

plumblossom-2

After the big wind some of the fine branches of the plum tree had broken and we brought in the twigs to enjoy watching the flowers open inside but they had hardly finished flowering inside before the tree itself had started to flower outside.

red-admiral

Some butterflies are out and from the freshness of this Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) it is a new season butterfly just hatched rather than one that has overwintered as an adult.

bombus-pratoris

The winter flowering honeysuckle welcomes different visitors now like this early bumble bee (Bombus pratorum) queen

carpenter-honeysuckle

and the Carpenter (Xylocopa violacea)

willow

It is not so visible from a distance but the willow tree at the bottom of the garden is opening out its buds too.

pussy-willow

The catkins are still at their attractive fluffy stage but soon the pollen will appear attracting the pollinators to this important plentiful source of early pollen.

hellebore-bee-pollen-1

The Hellebores are making a big impact in the garden now.  The bees make them a noisy attraction but the constant replanting of the self-sown seedlings is paying off.

hellebore-honey-bee

The different groups are spacing out their flowering times somewhat, depending on how much sun they receive.  I find the ones in full sun flower earliest.

bergenia

The Bergenia is starting to flower but I dragged it from one poor position last autumn to some other positions where I hope it will flourish.  It has not welcomed the change gladly.  Still there is always next spring.

bumble-new-heather-1

I was given a heather as a present but sadly with no idea of the species.  It was very pot bound, probably meant for impact rather than planting out.  I sawed of the bottom tangle of roots and sawed it in two.  I had just finished planting it when the bees appeared.  Well, that was one of my questions answered – the bees like it.  The heather I have had success with here is Erica x darlyensis which is more tolerant of chalky soils.  This one does not look the same as my others and has lilac flowers that fade to white.  I hope they will thrive in their new home.

honesty-lunaria-annua

It is only when you look closely that you see the changes in the garden.  The purple flower is self-sown Honesty (Lunaria annua), a bit early, I would have thought.

violet

The violets, both purple and white varieties, appear as weeds in the garden but are always welcome.

weeds

In fact, there are a lot of good stuff in the weeds in the garden.

wild-bee-2

The speedwell (Veronica (perhaps) persica) is covering the surrounding fields and the garden with a haze of blue but this little flower provides much needed pollen and nectar for the wild bees like the one above and also the honey bees.

pollinator-on-veronica

The hover flies too stop by for the nectar.

chimonanthus-praecox

Gardening is not for the impatient.  I have longed for a Chimonanthus praecox for my garden and now eventually I have a bush and it has flowered for the first time.  I do not know the species as I bought it in France where the species does not seem to matter much but I love it anyway.  My main criteria was the perfume and one sniff of the heady, sensual perfume told me I had a winner.  Also called wintersweet but I think of it as the ice flower although the weather at the moment is nearer to summer than winter.

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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.

32 thoughts on “Spring in February?

  1. I’m in Provence, in the shadow of Mt. Ventoux and we are also having spring weather. It looks like your trees are flowering earlier than ours, so far only an ancient almond. It looks like you are in the Charente Maritime but I can’t really tell. If so I’m surprised you’re warmer than we are here — 18 today. We have had a few bumble bees but not many. This is our first year here and we are developing the gardens, so hopefully we will have more plants to attract them by next year.

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    • We are in the Charente Maritime, not far from Saintes and Royan. We measured 19 in the shade today! Our hours of sunshine are comparable to yours but we will be cooler in the summer. It is good you are thinking early on of planting for the bees because the plants will attract them and the bees will give you such pleasure in the garden. Amelia

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      • yes, i love the bees. I lived in the Herault for several years and had a native garden with lots of good wild bees, big green lizards, a snake or 2 and stellar tiny green frogs (rainett vert). I want to get that happening here and your blog will help me, many thanks.
        bonnie

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  2. Lovely to see your pictures of spring! The snow has just about melted here, but we will need a while to catch you up!

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  3. It’s nice to see fruit tree blossoms again.
    I wish I could smell the wintersweet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.

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    • It is not an American plant and I first encountered it as a cut flower in floral bouquets. I read it must have acid soil , so I did not plant it initially but mine just goes to prove you shouldn’t believe everything you read. Amelia

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  4. Thanks for the situation report, Amelia. Fruit tree blossoms are such a spring welsome sign, and I’m glad to see that your bees are ready for another season.

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  5. I was thinking about your generator comment. We have lived here almost 20 years and survived winter power cuts with candles, blankets and a wood stove to cook on, but it was a prolonged power cut in summer that finally tipped the balance for us. Couldn’t bear to see all my summer fruit melting in the freezers. Since purchasing one last year our power outs have been minimal. 🙂 We also have signs of spring, thank goodness. It has been a cold winter here with plenty of snow that no one knows how to deal with, but bulbs are pushing up, and hellebore is flowering, and yes we are seeing bees on the heathers. The first camellia buds are popping. Down in the valley things are much further ahead.

    Annie—- in the Cascade Foothills.

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  6. It is good to see the signs of spring after your high winds, they can do so much damage. We have no mains gaz, instead we have a fire and the cooker running on LPG, in large cylinders. If there is a power cut all we need then is the candles. Lovely photo of the winter sweet.

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  7. It looks very spring-like where you are and good to see all the bees. Yesterday was the first warm day here and of course the bees were out as well, buff-tailed bumblebees and honeybees.

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  8. It is spring here now too Amelia, it is wonderful to be sitting outside, we even had lunch outside today, bliss!

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  9. What an uplifting post Amelia, you have so many Spring flowers and here its a mainly grey and bleak February – Plum blossom seems a distant prospect! Maybe you have a form of Erica carnea there. I know its not for the impatient but I do wish Spring would hurry up in the UK!

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    • I had a feeling that it is likely to be an Erica carnea and they are not supposed to thrive in this chalky region. I’ll just have to wait and see. I think the addition of the Erica darlyensis has done a lot for colour in the garden in the winter. Amelia

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  10. Yes, same thing here in the Mid-Atlantic State of the USA (North Carolina). Spring is about a month early!

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  11. How lovely, it looks as if your garden is enjoying Spring proper

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  12. Wow – as others have said, you are way ahead into Spring now! And it’s only mid-Feb. *Envy*. RH

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  13. It’s encouraging to see the bees enjoying the hellebores. The bees ignore my hellebore. Maybe I need to plant them en masse.

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  14. So lovely to see Spring springing – a window into the warmer times to come, Emma 🙂

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