a french garden

A new year starts in the garden

25 Comments

owl 2

Arriving back home from our Christmas break we caught our barn owl in the glare of the car headlights.  I thought the sudden interruption would be sure to disturb her but instead she looked more put-out, as if to say “Where have you been?  It’s been pretty quiet around here with you gone”.  It gave a chance for Kourosh to get out the mobile phone and try for a photograph (not the best quality, but a touching memory.  She only flew off slowly when we got out of the car.

used bird box

January has been disappointing to work in the garden.  Cold and too frequently cloudy.  Still the bare trees show up the bird boxes to be brought down and cleaned ready for spring.

old wasp nest

This one had been home to some wasps, most likely after the birds had left.  We often find these delicate paper nests tucked away around the garden and the wasps help themselves to the water put out for the birds.  The nests are never very large and we have had no problem with the wasps themselves.

queen bumble bee mahonia

We have had some sunny days when the queen bumble bees are warmed up enough to come searching for nectar from the Mahonia flowers.

pelote d'ivoire

The honey bees are doing fine and are happy to see the Viburnum tinus starting to open its flowers.  Can you see the shiny ivory pollen sac on her back leg?

pelote jaune

The other pollen the bees are bringing in is the winter flowering honey suckle.  The bees in the garden surprise me by flying at temperatures of under 10 degrees when their hives and the plants are in the sun.  I feel they take a risk, for when the thick clouds take over the temperatures drops noticeably.

I can’t help but empathise with the attraction to leave the house when the sun shines.

hellebore

The first Hellebores are pushing through, they seem late this year.  Perhaps I’m just willing the signs of spring to appear.

reinette 9.1.19

The Hellebore leaves provide good cover for the little “Rainette” tree frog but It was hardly weather to sun bathe but perhaps he too felt the need to get out.

old smaug

But too often this January we have had to retreat inside to the fire.

 

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.

25 thoughts on “A new year starts in the garden

  1. Your wonderful photos show harbingers of an early spring, south of the Loire. How welcome, as the barn owl must have thought, Bienvenue!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad to see your post Amelia, and so was my best friend in Massachusetts who has cold and snowy weather! You made two people in the USA very happy today with your spring pictures. Our hummingbirds visited again today, this time a pair. Got to go out and buy sugar! 🙂 And the hellebore are just about to bloom here near Seattle. I painted Ian’s home gown bird house gourds today, we will hang them up tomorrow. 🙂

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  3. Lovely post. We are still very cold in the Alsace, your photos show spring will come soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This should cheer you up:

    Toronto, ON Weather

    Updated on Sat Jan 26 5:05 AM

    -11C

    Feels like-21C

    No snow today though. All “gardening” indoors now, and will be for some time.

    TOm aTKINSON

    Cats: Hepatica (2009-present), bArLeY (2007-2017): “the spirit of the dead will survive in the memory of the living”

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  5. Good to hear from you and to see your bees out and about! My neighbour has a mahonia and it looks as if for a second year no bees will come to it as the weather has either been too cool or wet or both. It’s only by the coast where the weather is more gentle that the bumblebees get out on to the winter flowering shrubs.

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  6. Good to hear from you Amelia, I was beginning to think something was amiss. We, too are experiencing a very cold winter already. But it is good to notice all the positive signs of spring to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love seeing such beautiful pictures of life in your garden, even when it’s at its quietest. I know very well just how inviting that fire is too!

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    • I was looking in the Chiltern seed catalogue and they have a special “tortoise mix” and I could imagine you being excited to try that for your tortoises. Only I am not sure how you would be able to get it delivered. Amelia

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  8. Hello Amelia,
    Wonderful to see your bumbles and honeybees out and about and your frog! in January.
    Great signs of spring around the corner…
    Best wishes
    Julian

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    • I cannot remember seeing the tree frogs in winter before, perhaps it is because it has been quite wet. Yesterday I swiped at one when I was weeding, thinking it was a leaf and I felt so sorry for it, but I do not think I hurt it. They move so slowly when it is cold. Mind you, I would not call them overactive in the summer either :). Amelia

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  9. How lovely to catch up with what is happening in your garden but are you sure that was a wasp’s nest in your bird box? Looked very much like the “nid primaire” of an Asian Hornet. Perhaps one left over from last year and the queen was killed before she could finish her first nest (bit early for this year but it depends on the temperatures down there). A lucky escape perhaps…..

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  10. We have had, unfortunately, experience with Asian Hornet nests. Even the first ones are more solid and larger than the papery wasp nests we find around the garden. It is always a triumph to find a little one because it can be popped into a small bucket in the evening and dispatched overnight in the freezer. Last year was pretty bad for the hornets here. They are so difficult to see once they are in the trees. Amelia

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  11. Hi Amelia. Glad you and Kaurosh are safely back home…and glad to see your bees are thriving as well. I look forward to your posts. Have a grand year.

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  12. Your log fire looks wonderful. Best wishes for 2019.

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  13. It was great to see your blog mentioned in an article about Asian hornets in this month’s BBKA News! “The site is a delight to read”…. and the photography “superb”. Hope you get some extra followers as a result so that they can enjoy your posts too.

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    • Thanks for letting me know! I’ll try and share about the bees, it is good to comments from more experienced beekeepers. I don’t take the BBKA News as the foreign rate is quite expensive and I already take two French magazines, although I found the BBKA News articles of a very high quality when I did manage to get my hands on some of the issues. Amelia

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