a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

See saw seasons


October finally decided to be a proper autumn.

We had a morning mist and cold nights making me think of the bees clustering around their queen and young brood to keep them warm.

Even in the muted light the falling leaves of the Liriodendron or Tulip tree add colour to the scene.

The dull morning light showed up the traceries of spider web linking the buds of the Loquat tree.

The willow leaves are turning yellow and dropping and the young stems are beginning to look reddish.

The bright blue flowers of my leggy Salvia Amistad stand out even in the dull light.  This year I tried to control its height and I cut it down in May.  It did not appreciate the intervention and has deliberately thrown out shoots just as tall as in other years but with less leaves making it look leggy and not just very tall.  In addition, I thought that it was going to refuse to flower as it usually flowers at the end of August to the beginning of September.  However, it has grudgingly flowered now and I will leave it in peace next year as it has clearly demonstrated who is charge of plant height.

The bees don’t mind waiting.  Perhaps, the nectar is a nice treat at this time of year.  I notice though that they obtain the nectar by pushing between the calyx and petals.  Earlier in the year they can enter the flowers directly, as well.  The flowers might not be so turgid after the cold nights making it more difficult for them to try a frontal entry.

The bees have also got the Mahonia for nectar.  I thought that this bee was exceptionally black.  She must be from the Poppy hive as those are our blackest mongrels.

The plants are just as confused as I am and the Mullein has pushed out fresh flowers into the sunshine that has arrived with temperatures up to 23 degrees centigrade on the 2 November.

So it was lunch on the patio again but today the outside table has again been carried under cover as rain has been at last forecast for the weekend.


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.

33 thoughts on “See saw seasons

  1. Good Morning from Boundary Bay just south of Vancouver BC.
    Hi Both, We have had a spectacular Fall as due to lack of rain the leaves have stayed on the trees longer and the sunshine has highlighted the vibrant yellow’s and reds.
    In the garden ( our latitude is slightly north of Paris) the nicotiana sylvestris , verbena amistad, Japanese anemone, roses and calendula are still holding on. This is late by my memory backed up by my garden diary.

    Unfortunately we lost our last bee hive in an unusually snowy period last February. We have missed their antics in our garden. We left Canada and were on the Canals of Belgium and northern France for three months so decided not to take on another hive. We went from three seemingly robust hives in Spring of 2016 down to none in Spring of 2017. This seemed more of a Queen problem than any thing else.

    Always follow your posts with great interest. Thank you for taking the time … and the photographs.
    Regards Janine


    • Our fall here is mainly yellow, probably because the soil is not acid as it is a mainly limestone area. We do not get the spectacular reds you often see in other areas. You must miss your bees. I often dream about keeping bees forty years ago when there was no varroa, no Asian hornets and much less pesticides poured onto the environment. Amelia


  2. Good bee photos. Here in Provence its still warm and the bees are very busy. I too have seen them pushing through the side of the flower to get at the nectar. We have red salvia still blooming, mahonia, blue mexican sage, and several other things, and the bees are working until nearly dark. I don’t really know bees well, but I think ours are primarily several species of solitary bees, not honeybees. My favorites are the heavy black ones with the blue wings, who just stumble around and hang from the flowers. I read somewhere that they should not be able to fly, too heavy for their wings, but I guess they didn’t read the book.
    bonnie in the Vaucluse


    • You are able to grow a lot of things that would not survive outside here. I’m glad you like the Carpenter bees (Xylocopa violacea) as they provide great entertainment in a garden and their wings are so beautiful when the sun catches them. There is another similar species that is smaller that you might see but I have only seen this one. You would only be likely to see honey bees if someone nearby was keeping them as they are now a domesticated species. It is fun to watch all the different beautiful wild bees. Amelia


  3. Those Lombardy poplars in the background rock! Even though they have an Italian name, they are so French! I grew six of them originally, and then planted a row of nine at my home. They do not make good firewood, but they make a lot of firewood. It works as long as it is used in the same year it was cut. It can rot if it gets too old. Then, new trees come back from the stumps to make more firewood.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Does your loquat make good fruit? I hear such good things about them, but I do not often see them with good fruit. They grow well here, but the fruit rots. The weird thing about that is that they seem to do better and produce better fruit where the weather id cooler and damper. That makes no sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Last year was the first time it flowered and the bees went mad for the blossom. The fruit set but was destroyed by a sudden short frost in May when even the vine flowers froze. We did, however, eat the fruit of a friends’ tree who lives only 2 km. away. They were very good. I first got to know loquats in Greece where they are very good. However, they are a short season fruit and you would want to eat them quickly. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lunch on the patio, wel jel

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The salvia is interesting. I’ve never seen one so woody and shrub like. And beautiful color too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Weather occasionally likes to mess with us . . . and with plants and animals.

    Dirt doesn’t care much and rocks are just as oblivious to weather.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The mist looks so cooling and refreshing, and I love the way it highlights the remaining colour in the garden. As for the salvia; well some plants will have their own way!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We had our first most the other day – quite took me by surprise. The weather might be somewhat unusual but it is good to see the bees about.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Very autumnal Amelia. I find my Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ has much the same problem; I resolve it by planting a group tpgether and they hold themselves up. I would like this one too, if I could find it.

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  11. Lovely that the bees still have plenty to enjoy. Here they love the ivy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The ivy around us was poor this year because it has been so dry but it is nevertheless very important for the bees and other pollinators. Unfortunately, over here it inevitably attracts the Asian hornet as well. Amelia


  12. We have mahonia in flower, which I thought was quite early. I was interested to read you called the black bees mongrels. What is believed to be the original British bee was black.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My bees are mongrels. I have no pure bred bees and even if I had they would not stay that way for long. It is not just the colour that would define the race of the bee, it would need DNA analysis. Some of our bees are more golden and some are more black. There are areas such as some Scottish islands and recently some areas in Ireland that the original European black bee has stayed unchanged and not mixed with exotic species brought in by beekeepers. Bee genetics is very complicated and does not work the same way as humans. Amelia


      • It is an interesting subject Amelia. Brother Adam at Buckfast Abbey use to keep his breeding nucleus hives on Dartmoor where there are no trees therefore no wild bees. I use to find it interesting explaining to people that a worker/female bee had no father only a grandfather!


        • The female bees all develop from fertilised eggs and the queen differentiates differently during her development. However, the male bees develop from an unfertilised egg and so from that point of view it can be viewed that they have no father. Amelia

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Good to see your garden is still going strong. It suddenly feels rather wintery here too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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