a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

It’s hot!


This spring has been very mild.  Milder than we have ever experienced here.  We need a parasol to sit in the sun on the patio to have lunch.

First flowering Wisteria

The Wisteria has already started to flower on the atelier wall and the Carpenter bees are in their element.

Osmia cornuta mating

The Osmia cornuta have had perfect weather this year.  The males are all gone now but not before coupling with plenty of females.  The little chap with the cute white fringe in the photo above is the male Osmia.  The female was very compliant perhaps because it was warm and the leaf was very comfortable.

Osmia on box

The females are busy building their nests and putting on a great show for our friends passing in front of the bee houses.

Overfilled bamboo

Some bees are so enthusiastic with the tube filling that the tubes have a convex finish.

fly in bee house.JPG

The boxes also attracts other insects.  I am not sure what this fly is doing but I view it with suspicion as there are many insects that are parasites of the Osmia.

Wasp in bee house

This wasp may just be looking for a place to nest, or yet again to leave its eggs to hatch in a nest which will soon provide a delicious Osmia larva to feed the wasp’s young.

Andrena cineraria

I think this is a male Andrena cineraria as I have the females provisioning their nests under our big plum tree, as they do every year.  These bees are called mining bees as they dig tunnels in the ground in which to lay their eggs.


However, this year I am seeing many more of their cuckoo bees.  These bees belong to the genus Nomada and will follow a female Andrena cineraria back to her nest site.  It will then try to find the nesting hole of these mining bees and lay its eggs inside.  The action is just like the cuckoo who lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and so takes no further responsibility for bringing up its young.

Bombylius bee fly

The other insect I see often over the mining bees nest site is this cute looking fluffy insect.  It is not a bee but a Bombylius or bee fly which is also a parasite of the mining bees and other solitary bees.  Life is not easy for the solitary bees.

Bee on Forget-me-not

Our honey bees are having it easy at the moment with lots of nectar on offer.

Bee on Camelia

The Camelia is full of flowers and offers both nectar and pollen and a pretty picture for us.

Speckled Wood

The Viburnum tinus does a great job at the moment, providing nectar for all comers.  This is a Speckled Wood butterfly but it also attracts the queen Asian hornets which we try and trap before they can build their nests.

Orange tip

I’ll just pop in this photo of an Orange Tip butterfly on the Honesty in case people get the correct impression that I am besotted by bees.


I do appreciate the occasional flower that does not attract bees.  These tulips are almost white when they first appear and every year I say to myself, “That’s strange, I am sure  they were a deeper pink last year.”

Redder tulips (1)

After just a few days they take on a much deeper tint.

Ash leaf Maple

Elsewhere in the garden spring continues with the trees unfolding in sequence.  At the moment the Ash-leaved Maple is putting on its show.


I like the tassels and the leaves will shelter us from the sun at a favourite sitting place in the summer.

Plum tree

The big plum tree in the back garden is full of new leaves.

Tiny plums

In places the flowers have withered to reveal the tiny beginnings of the plums.  The question here at the moment is what will happen to the plums, apricots and cherries this year?  For the last two years the frosts have destroyed all the plum flowers or new fruits and we have had no plums.

Our daytime temperatures have been in the low 20 degree centigrade with blue skies but the night time has dropped to 2 or 3 degrees.




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.

27 thoughts on “It’s hot!

  1. Wonderful photos! I just wrote about bees today. We have to help those little guys. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is encouraging that so many people are becoming concerned about the problems insects are encountering. A lot of people think only of honeybees which we have to admit are really domesticated bees, whereas there are estimated to be 25,000 different species of bees in the world – all threatened with extinction. I think. like you do, that gardeners can take a lead in improving conditions. Amelia


  2. We have enjoyed a warm few days recently and the honey bees have been working the ornamental cherry tree blossom, you can hear their buzz when you go out the door.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Amelia,
    Looks like a fabulous run of weather you’re having, which is really benefiting all your insects – great photos of all the bees, Thanks and best wishes, Julian

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You have inspired me to check my neglected bee hotels to see what is about!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gosh that is warm for March. Keeping the bees busy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your wisteria is so early! And so many leaves already! You are several weeks ahead of us despite some warmer weather here too at last.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Apart from all the interesting bees your post is also telling me how the weather patterns are changing. Your garden is about a week ahead of mine for all the flowers you mentioned. We’ve had a cold winter and spring, this last weekend has been warm but really that is the first really warm weather and even now we are predicted to have night temperatures hovering around zero.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find that very strange. I feel normally you are ahead of us. Our winter was wet but had few days below zero and I did not even cover the broad beans, planted in the autumn, which are in full flower. I think this must just be an exceptional year. Water and warm temperatures has pushed the garden forward. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for the natural history lesson Amelia and as usual your photographs are a joy to view. Your mention of trapping Asian Hornet queens is of particular interest to me as there is a hot debate about whether to do it or not. The issue is the number of non-target species caught but that is never balanced against the damage done by the hornet’s predation. Have you noticed any decline in insects since the arrival of the hornet?

    Liked by 1 person

    • At the moment trapping the gynes in early spring and late autumn it is the only way to limit the spread of the Asian hornets over here. We trap and we do catch a lot of flies. They look like the black house flies to me but I am not an entomologist. It is not generally recommended to trap constantly as the nests reach such proportions that it is useless catching workers when there are about 2 thousand at a time in the nests. Each nest can release 400 gynes (fertilised queens). These huge nests need a lot of protein to keep up their numbers and I cannot see that it will only be honey bees in hives that they take, although they are easy prey. I have heard that 70% of their needs comes from domestic bees but I have no source for that estimate. The frelons are very visible in autumn preying on the insects that feed on the ivy flowering on hedges. Otherwise, it is very difficult to see them without a focus of available prey. I have never lived in France before the hornet arrived in force, the first nest was noticed in 2004. I would not like to be a professional beekeeper in France at the moment. Amelia


  9. The Osmia cornuta is a very beautiful insect and your picture of the mating pair is very striking. One was spotted in London last week I believe so they are coming across (despite Brexit). I am also very fond of the A. cineraria and saw my first this year just this morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like the idea of Omia cornuta living in the gardens in the U.K. I hope more come over to make spring even more colourful. I am seeing a lot of A.cineraria around the garden at the moment, I do like them! Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ashleaf maple sound prettier than boxelder. They grow wild here, just like they do in most regions, but they are not a desirable tree. It is hard to believe that they are related to bigleaf maple, which is our only other native maple.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It started life in a plant exchange and my friend thought it was a tree peony (?) and was keeping it in a pot. When she discovered her error she asked us if we could give it a home. It took us ages to find out what it was. So far it has behaved impeccably but I will take your warning to heart. Maybe our dry soil keeps it in check. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I did not mean that as a warning. You might like it. years ago, we actually grew three cultivars of it at the farm. (It was not my idea.) They were purple (bronzed), gold and variegated. I think that they would have been nice pollarded.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. We have troubles with yellow jacket wasps–both because they deliver a painful sting, and because they prey on our honeybees. We handle this with yellow jacket specific pheremone traps, early in the spring, to catch the queens. Do they have such a specific trap for asian hornets? I’m not out to eliminate all the yellow jackets. They, too, are pollinators. But our traps get a jump on them, and keep the garden area and apiary safe. Perhaps a little more science could single out your invading pest.

    Here, we still have snow. Your photos are a welcome sign of what’s to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is what we are waiting for here! A specific trap! Last year Chinese researchers identified the pheremone that attracts male Asian Hornets. If that was commercialised it could be used in the autumn and would gradually reduce the hornets in a proper eradication programme. Over here the French government largely did and does ignore the problem. There is no commercial (i.e. money) drive to find solutions and the government is not understanding of environmental problems. Sorry to grump. Amelia


      • Grump away. Here the government does not ignore the environment. No, there’s a target on the back of every effort to save the planet. It takes all of us to push for ways to live benignly on the planet. Keep up the good work.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Great observations and photos. I love the Andrena and Nomada relationship – and they’re also real lookers. You inspired me to spend the afternoon reading about bees.

    Liked by 1 person

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