a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

March in the garden


Up till now we have been subjected to chaotic changes in the weather this March.  High winds, freezing temperatures overnight, sunshine and rain and more rain and clouds with temperatures about ten degrees under seasonal average take turns to fill the days.

The first of March saw the plum tree flowers frozen and brown.

Whereas a week earlier it had been full of flowers.

Four rows of broad beans were frozen overnight in an extremely low temperature.  I could have avoided the damage by simply covering the plants with a fleece or even some newspaper but they completely slipped my mind.

It has not been all bad news and the Goat Willow (Salix caprea) is open and welcoming the honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees and butterflies – especially when it is sunny.  As you can see our hives are very close to the willow, which is on the left of the picture, so they can take advantage of short sunny spells in between the rain.  Standing under the tree and listening to the hum above your head feels so peaceful.  There is a 19 second video if you would like to share the bees.

It is good to see the girls collecting such healthy sized sacs of pollen.

The willow provides nectar as well as pollen.  This is a  Andrena cineraria (Ashy mining bee).  They have nested in the past under the large plum tree.

Checking under the plum tree I saw a number of male Andrena cineraria flying over the ground and this one was kind enough to pose on a daisy for me while he had a snack.  It looks like they are keeping to the same nesting area.

Last week the Osmia cornuta emerged from their holes.  The males emerge first and on sunny days they fly constantly around the bee hotels hoping for a female to emerge.  I have just seen a female prospecting one of the bee hotels so it will soon be time to watch the nest building.  Check out last year’s post if you would like to see more.

On the opposite side of the garden from the bees is an area that has always been full of lesser celandine (Ficaria verna).  I do my best but I find it difficult to do more than try and keep it out the borders.

I probably would not mind it so much if the bees liked it but usually it is only flies that I see on them.

One thing you can be sure about bees is that you can never say never, when it comes to their behaviour.

Keeping on the unusual – this is a double headed daffodil.  It is the first one I have seen.  Is it unusual?

This hyacinth is probably easier to explain, as it looks as if it has self-sown.  Not very striking but at least it is a pretty colour.

It might be worth looking under your Hellebores as there are lots of seedlings under mine.

Looking closer the second leaves are just starting to appear but they could easily be overlooked by an enthusiastic weeding.

This spring has been so wet and windy that I have come to realise how useful the downward facing flowers of the Hellebore are.  The pollen is kept dry for the bees and they are sheltered from the winds that make flying and nectar gathering difficult.

The green tubular structures are that the bee is visiting are the Hellebores nectaries and provide nectar which is collected by honey bees and so very valuable to the overwintering queen bumble bees when they awaken on warmer winter days.

This year my previous year’s seedlings have all done well and are settling into positions at the base of deciduous trees and plants.  I have my seed trays all ready so my next job in the garden is to fill them up with more Hellebore seedlings as I have already marked out in my mind where I can plant them in the autumn.

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.

20 thoughts on “March in the garden

  1. What a lovely preview of what we’ll enjoy, if, and when, the snow melts. I’ve decided that the hellebore is a must. But for now, it’s great pruning weather…and I’ve still got to do the last of the apples.


  2. I love your close-up bee pictures: it makes me appreciate all the hard work they are doing. Your hellebores are beautiful too. I love a little accident of nature, like your double daffodil. Your photos look decidedly more sunny and warm than our garden right now. It has been a really frustrating March so far!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You need good light for close-up photographs so that you can use a small aperture, so I must choose the sunniest times. However, these days I have seen the sun but before I got to the flower I wanted to photograph the clouds had completely covered the sky. Our days have been very changeable and the temperatures up and down. I have found this frustrating too. Amelia


  3. Yes, really frustrating ! Broad beans are doing well in our vegetable plot, less frost in Britany for sure. Snow again to day, I dont know when we’ll be able to plant our potatoes , onions and sow peas …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our potatoes are still chitting inside. Everybody seems to be “on hold”. I have planted tomato, butternut and borlotti seeds inside as I think they are going to need a good start inside this year. Amelia


  4. Salix caprea? I have only read about it in a catalogue from a nursery in Oregon that grows all sorts of odd things like that. It seems to be a large specimen, although I do not remember how big they can get.

    Liked by 1 person

    • These are European trees. They are very useful here as they will support soils that dry out in the summer. They are not too big and there are some garden varieties over here too. This one is just the wild type. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, that would be why it seems bigger than I have read about. The red willows we have at work are quite weedy, but they are efficient at keeping creek embankments intact. Riparian trees can be so difficult to work with!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Chaotic changes in the weather seem to be happening everywhere according to what I’m reading. It’s too bad about the plum tree. We have ornamental cherries that the same thing usually happens to each year.
    I don’t know how rare a two headed daffodil is but I’ve seen a lot of daffodils and have never seen one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a special feeling to stand under a tree full of bees. You can feel the life and busyness down to your bones. It’s lovely to see your happy bee photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Amelia,
    Sorry to see you’be been clobbered by frosts as well – but some lovely photos anyway, as always. I completely agree about the “never say never” in relation to bees… even bumbles. They constantly surprise me with their choices, though this year they’re having a real weather pasting,
    best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen all our normal bumble bees awake now and I agree they are up against hard times with this weather. Here, even apart from the garden, there are plenty of wild flowers waiting for them but they will have to adapt to the cold and damp this year. Amelia


  8. Some very nice pictures of the A. cineraria. In the south west of the UK, celandine are very popular with the first emerging mining bees. I saw some last week with bees and hope to see more when the snow melts.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Do you believe you have lost your plum crop? Broad Beans are quite hardy, they may recover. If they turn black on the tops I have cut them back in the past, they have then regrown from the roots.

    Liked by 1 person

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