a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Gardening is patience


Distant willows

One of the brightest sights in the back garden in the winter is the morning sun shining on the willows, about half way down the back garden.  They light up the garden when there is very little else but it is now time for their annual haircut and I was reflecting on how long it can take to get the required effect in a garden.

Salix alba January 2014

This was what they looked like in January 2014 in my blog https://afrenchgarden.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/onward-in-january/

willows up close

This is what they look like in February 2019.

The garden takes time to take form.

Comma butterfly.JPG

It takes time for the winter flowering honeysuckle to get to a size to attract the butterflies like this Comma,

Clouded yellow butterfly.JPG

and the Clouded Yellow butterfly (Sorry, Brimstone, thanks to my sharp readers)

Bombus pratorum queen

and the bumble bees, even in February.

Male Osmia cornuta 22.2.19

I saw our first Osmia cornuta on the 22 February.

Osmia cornuta 23.2.19

Now the bee boxes are patiently searched every day, waiting for the females to emerge.

2 male Osma cornuta 23.2.19

Sometimes hope turns to disappointment when the emerging bee turns out to be just another male emerging.

They will need plenty of patience to keep up their enthusiasm until the females will eventually emerge, often in mid-March.

hazelnut flowers

There are signs of good things to come.

Hazelnut flowers close

This year there are a lot of flowers on the hazelnut tree but whether we will eat many or not remains to be seen.  The red squirrels around here keep to the areas with pine trees.  We are not in these areas but I have a feeling some of them spend an autumn break in our garden when the hazelnuts ripen as the hazelnuts disappear, shells and all, every year.

Wild bee 23.218

We have plenty of wild bees in the garden too this spring.

Sharing dandelion.JPG

It is not just the garden plants that give plenty of nectar.  The dandelions are great for all the bees and this one is also being shared with a clouded yellow butterfly.


But already the mining bee nests are being patrolled by the Nomada bees that are “cuckoo bees” and will lay their eggs in the mining bees’ nests so that their eggs are provisioned by other bees just as the cuckoo is brought up by other birds.

N0 2 arrives.JPG

But patience can be rewarded as the sheep in our neighbour’s field has discovered.  Number two lamb took time in coming and was a bit smaller.

It was worth it.JPG

But the tired face says that it was all worth it.






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.

35 thoughts on “Gardening is patience

  1. Your blog is a jewel. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your patience is really being rewarded with so much life!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful to see (even if it leaves me envious.) I’ll consider it as coming attractions –what we can expect, in eight weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely spring images. So much business going on in your garden and I love the lambs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The bees in the hives in our garden all came out for the first time this year to play and work on Valentne’s day. I have seen about five bumbles in the winter honeysuckle so far and two ladybirds. No butterflies of any kind. Your photos are excellent, thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It must be very exciting seeing the bees for the first time after the winter. I am glad we have these short warm spells throughout our winter that allows ours to come out for short flights. Amelia


  6. Hello Amelia, lovely spring photos – wonderful to see so many bees and butterflies out and about so early in your garden.
    best wishes, Julian. (PS Might it be a Brimstone, not a C.Y? We only occasionally get Brimstones here, and I’ve never seen a CY)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Amelia, I live in the Creuse and we have experienced similar issues to you, in converting a hay meadow into a garden, over roughly the same time period.
    I just have a comment on your latest blog – the yellow/green butterfly is a brimstone and not a clouded yellow.
    Also, if you are interested in bumblebees, then try the paperback “A sting in the Tale” by Dave Goulson. It’s a bit technical and it’s about British bumblebees.
    Guy Barnish

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for that! I must admit I find the yellow butterflies very annoying as they seem the “flightiest” of them all. Dave Goulson is my hero and I have read “A sting in the Tale”, “A Buzz in the Meadow” and “Bee Quest”. It has not helped me much to identify the bumblebees even with the help of my other hero’s book “Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland” by Steven Falk :). I expect you get some interesting flowers popping up in your garden from “nowhere”. Amelia


  8. Lovely to see the lambs. Do you ever invite the sheep in to munch the grass in your garden?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The willows do look stunning in the sunshine, your patience has been rewarded.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love your bee hotel. Muma sheep does look knackered!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Enjoying your spring, while we wait for ours. It will come. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Five years is not all that long. Some of our redwoods took thousands of years to mature.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The bees are very active here now that the sun is shining. There have been bees on all but the very coldest, windiest days this winter, the fact that there are more Arbutus with their autumn and winter flowers seems to have attracted them. You’re right it does take time for a garden to mature into the garden we envisaged when it was planted, but then somehow you are surprised.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t have any Arbutus in good places at the moment, it is such a lovely tree. I think your garden must be less of a surprise, I do wish we had known more about gardening when we started. It has been so hit and miss. I think the basic design of the garden is the most important but the most difficult stage. Afterwards it can be advanced in a more hit and miss fashion as you gain knowledge and feel for your garden but the basic layout is difficult to change. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s very true. As a garden designer it is always harder to decide for ones own garden and as you know I changed the layout of my garden when the box moth caterpillars devoured my box plants. When you started your garden you didn’t know you would become passionate about bees which has obviously had a huge influence on the design.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Bee box. That reminds me – ours fell off the wall in November. I’ve kept the ‘sealed’ tubes under cover. Need a new box, and to get the smell of shop off it quickly. A day or two under water might do it… or wreck it… Any other ideas, Amelia?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Very interesting as always. Osmia cornuta was first recorded in the UK in 2014 but since then there have been a few more reports so it may be establishing itself here. I wonder what your nomad is, it looks a bit like Nomada fucata, what do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly does and it is the same one that I have seen hanging around the nests of A. flavipes in the same spot. However, it does not have a yellow spot on the scutellum nor yellow spots on the thorax. It looks more like Nomada leucophthalma. I have caught and photographed one close up, the one in this blog is not so clear. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Have you seen the host?


    • I have not seen the host this year but I have seen both A. flavipes and A. cineraria nesting under this big plum tree in roughly the same area. I could also have got my A. flavipes mixed up with A. clarkella whose parasite is N. leucophthama.


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