a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

A confused spring


For the past couple of days we have had sunshine and temperatures going up to 26 degrees centigrade.  Sitting outside (in the shade in the afternoon) it feels more like summer.

The large plum tree has finished flowering and yet many of the trees like the Ash and Poplar still look skeletal from afar.

The Salix chermesina (foreground) have been cut down to leave pride of place to the Amelanchier.

I never had a species name for my Amelanchier but it is always full of blossom in the spring and I like its branched form.  Unfortunately the bees and pollinators are not impressed.

The peach tree is in blossom and…

the apricots have plenty of green fruit.  However, April can be cold here and frosts can be expected until the beginning of May, so I am not counting my apricots yet.

I have been starting to change the very bottom of the garden into a “Spring Walk”, inspired by Christina her Italian garden.  This part of the garden had been overrun and thick with brambles and ivy and had to be left on its own for many years.  Because of the trees there is little light in the summer but I thought I could introduce some spring flowers.

There were too many daffodil bulbs in the borders in other parts of the garden which had to be thinned out.  I thought that if they had prospered and multiplied with little care in the various borders then they might survive at the bottom of the garden, which is very dry in the summer.  The problem was there is little soil over the tree roots so it was a case of sticking them in during the autumn and covering them up with divots taken from clearing the borders.  Miraculously, they survived and have flowered.  We have also been trying to seed some of the woodland flowers from around us in this area for some years now.

We have been keeping the path strimmed roughly and after the daffodils  finished there was a beautiful path of dandelions.  It is not only here that the dandelions are prospering but all over the garden and over the fields outside.  I have never seen so many dandelions in the spring.  It must seem like manna for the bees and other pollinators.

I now have a request.  The white flowers look like snowdrops (sorry about the photograph but white flowers on long stems are past my photographic ability – just think big snowdrops) but I have forgotten their name.  I have a feeling I saw them in Cathy’s garden some years ago.  I don’t think this should be too hard for you gardeners out there.

Next I.D.!  This has been grown from a cutting from a dubious source.  It is not fast growing but it is very tough and makes excellent ground cover.  The leaves are small – check out the nettle in the foreground for scale.

This year it is covered with little white/pale lemon flowers which the bees like (which is the reason we took the cuttings in the first place.)  It is evergreen and keeps mainly a low profile put it has thrown up the odd higher shoot this year.  Perhaps this is a more difficult one to name?  Any help with the names will be welcomed.

I am always impressed with tough plants.  This picture was taken on the 14 March 2017.  This is my Anisodontea which was still flowering last December although the leaves were starting to go red in the cold and now it has started to flower again!  I think I will try and take some cuttings.

Another new plant is my Lonicera tatarica which is covered in these delicate dark pink flowers.  All the bees like it but they are a bit spoiled for choice with the number of flowers available for them at the moment.

The Viburnum tinus has masses of blossom and is that bit earlier to flower.  We have divided the shoots from our large bush to provide hedging for the side of the garden so we should have even more flowers next year.

I used to love the chrome yellow flowers of Forsythia in the spring and I have several plants but since I have become interested in the bees it has dropped low on my list of favourites.  I see very few bees on the flowers – but there will always be the one to keep you guessing!

Our bat is still with us and is enjoying the sunny weather.  It let me get a good photograph to show the white tips of its black fur.  I had read that the Barbastelle bat’s have white tips to their black hairs but they are not always apparent in the shade.  It flies off on its adventures at dusk, just as night falls.

Just now the moment is around 21.00 hours and we watch it take flight, never knowing if it will be the last time we wave it goodbye – for this year.

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.

22 thoughts on “A confused spring

  1. Hello Amelia,
    Looks like a fabulous spring you’re having. (At last I can look at some WP regulars again!)…we’ve also noticed that the Amelanchiers here seem to have very little appeal to our native pollinators – I wonder what does the business in their home range? Your woodland section of the garden looks like it’s coming on well. Do you have wood anemones in France? They might flourish there/ or is it too hot in the summer, I wonder?
    I think your mystery white flower is Leucojum vernum (Snowflake)?
    Best wishes


    • Thanks for that, Julian, I should have known you would recognise anything resembling a snowdrop. We get lots of wood anemones in the woods around here. In fact it was seeing the expanse of anemones under the tree cover that made me think of introducing spring flowers to the bottom of the garden. We have been bringing in seeds and some plants like Pulmonaria and Asphodel. This year we have some anemones appearing already. We also put in Lily of the Valley but because of its invasive nature I am not sure if that was a wise move. Amelia


  2. Yes I agree the big snowdrop is a snowflake, there are some out here at present.


  3. Your resident bat is adorable.


  4. In provence it is definitely spring! Viburunum tines blooming, also of course forsythia and flowering quince. Best of all, my bee house has seven “lodgnigs” already filled and sealed! So delighted. Also bats out in the evening. And tree rogs (Hyla meridonalis I think).
    Bonnie near Carpentras


    • It is a wonderful time of year. Your bees have been working hard! We have Hyla meridonalis tree frogs but it is possible that you might have Hyla arborea as well, because there are populations of them in the South of France. We have rain today which is great to freshen things up. Amelia


  5. It’s nice to see all the flowers. The path is beautiful and looks very natural; much like what you’d see here through the woods.
    I wonder if the shrub could be a Rhaphiolepis indica.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Amelia, I think your plant with the nondescript whiteish flowers and the leaves in rows….
    May well be a box of some sort….. does it have berries of any sort?


    • It does bear a resemblance to the Buxus microphylla but the flowers are totally different and have one pistil and five stamen. The flowers are lemon coloured which is difficult to show in the photograph. It is the first year it has flowered so I do not know about the berries yet but thanks for giving it a go 🙂 Amelia


  7. Hi Amelia. Yes, I see it has already been identified as Leucojum. There is a ‘summer’ snowflake too, L. aestivum. It flowers around April – May here. I think yours is probably that one – taller, and slightly smaller flowers, several to each stem, and no yellow tinge to the petals. My winter one (L. vernum) is well over already, and is in fact one of the first flowers to bloom here along with snowdrops.
    I saw the first bats flying here this week – it is very warm here too!


    • I think it was the summer one I “saw” in your garden as I remember how incongruous but pretty it looked. It is still warm here but our bat had to change quarters into the atelier again (same place) as it started to rain late last night. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think we are having similar experiences. Too much warm too early followed by too much cold and then more of the ups/downs. I hope this too shall pass…for both of us.


    • I am over-worrying about the rest of the spring because although the temperatures are lower now it is still quite warm. I think it is the gardener’s constant worry to put the tomatoes etc. out too soon or leave them too late. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I too think it is leucojum. I have some bulbs in my garden that were given to me by an aunt. My grandmother got them from her grandmother.


  10. Beautiful pictures of Spring but I still think your bat steals the show. Simply adorable!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. can you translate it to spanish


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