a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Colour in April


Border in front gdn

This part of the front garden border provides lots of colour near the house but I have not planted anything there for years.  I first sowed forget-me-nots in the garden over ten years ago and that one sowing was all that was needed to ensure their appearance every spring.  Sure they will have to be hauled out later in the year as they get untidy, but it is nice to see them again in spring.  I am getting a bit worried about the white alliums though and I think I might have to be more severe this year.


Kourosh flung a handful of Honesty seeds in front of the green plastic composteur and that has created a bright screen that I expect will be self perpetuating.

Male orange tip Anthocharis cardamines

The Honesty is very popular with all the pollinators and I see a lot of orange tip butterflies on it.

Showing off-001

This is a male Anthocharis cardamines.  They look so good against the purple petals,  I wonder if he is just showing off.


The purple Iris outside the front walls are beautiful and provide lots of colour but I have a difference of opinion with Kourosh here that they create too much work.  After the flowers have past I find that Iris stems provide ideal nursery spaces for all sorts of weeds and prevent efficient strimming along the base of the wall.

Choisya Sundance (1)

Contrary to the Iris, is the Choisya “Sundance” which is in flower just now and is a workhorse.  It gives you perfumed flowers and the yellow, evergreen foliage light up the winter garden.


Another impressive evergreen is my Lonicera tatarica.  It is in flower just now and survives in a dry, shaded spot in the back garden.

Camassia in pots

I don’t keep too many pots, but I love to have pots of Camassia on the patio at this time of year.  They attract a lot of bumble bees, so as soon as the sun is out in the morning we are out with a coffee and the bees are on the Camassia.

Carder in Camassia (1)

The queen bumble bees make a lot of noise as they go about their morning tasks.

Anthophora in Camassia.JPG

The Anthophora bees are frequent visitors too.  This could even be a female A. plumipes as we have only the grey females here.

Victoria plum tree

In the back garden it is the Victoria plum tree that attracts the bees at the moment.

Andrena fulva in plum tree

I am pretty sure that this is an Andrena fulva.

Bee in plum tree

However, this one I am not so sure of, but it might be an Andrena flavipes or Andrena nitida – see comments.  All comers are very welcome on the plum tree.


Another flower attracting all comers is the thyme.

Thyme and tulips

I started this thyme off to cover a difficult patch between two tree.  I had already tried other options but this is thyme taken from patches growing wild in the garden and I have supported it by covering the edges with wood chip.  The tulips are from a previous idea and I’ll let them fight it out themselves as they seem pretty determined.

I am very happy with its spread and I am considering using it in other places to inhibit weeds in sunny spots.


This is a clump of self-sown Cerinthe.  Probably the biggest draw for solitary bees in the garden at the moment.  It is so thickly sown that it has completely suppressed weeds (well the nasty ones, I am not counting the borage and a bit of fumitory).  So, I cannot ask for more colour or more bees from this clump of flowers.


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 “Colour in April

  1. I wonder whether thyme could cope with clay soil? I have been looking for a ground cover plant for my mother’s garden and you’ve made me think thyme might do the trick.


    • My soil is sandy and very dry in the summer and never gets waterlogged. If the clay soil stays wet then the thyme might not work as well. I also use Hellebore and they work here in sun and in the shade. I am always on the look out for ground cover plants that do not run riot. Amelia


  2. I haven’t seen any Orange tips yet but I seem to have plenty of Brimstones. I am so impressed how you can identify all your bees. I have to say I agree with Kourosh, the irises look lovely along the wall.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I cannot identify all the bees I see. Some are more distinctive than others. If I really wanted to identify more, I would have to catch them and preserve them so that I could look at all the intricate details that allows you to identify them. I have not quite got the heart for that yet. Amelia


  3. Love the honesty. It is such an important early food plant and beautiful when seeding!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Camassias in pots is a good idea; I love them but it is too dry for them in the garden, maybe I’ll try a few next year. What do you do with yours when they stop flowering?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The ones in the photograph were left since last year in the same pot. I think I may have to repot them this autumn, though. I have also a larger aluminium pot with some caerulea and cusickii that I planted up in autumn 2017 and are just coming up again. I have not been as lucky with the ones I have put in the ground but it was a very dry area. Some might have survived and I am keeping my eye open to see if any survive. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I just got a bee and butterfly house and was looking for plants that would attract them. Your post was perfect timing to read for some ideas. Thank you


    • I’m sure you will get a lot of fun out of your new house. You do not say if you made it yourself or bought it. I have found I need holes or bamboo tubes at least 10 cm (4 inches) long to attract bees and some of the bought houses are too narrow. The plants to attract bees vary greatly according to location, so now is a great time to check out your parks and gardens nearby to see what is working well in your area. Amelia


  6. Beautiful pictures, especially of the orange tips.
    In the UK, Andrena flavipes would have much more distinct abdominal bands, your picture looks a bit like a UK Andrena nitida.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks Philip, I can see light white hairs on other photographs on the abdomen but certainly not distinct banding so I think you must be correct. I love to see the bees full of pollen but it does not help us with identification. Amelia


  8. What a great variety of life! What resources do you use to identify the plants and animals?


    • Obviously the web helps but for the bees it is Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk, as there is nothing to touch it in Europe. He also has a web site. For the birds it is Guide des Oiseaux de Poitou-Charentes et Vendée. Butterflies is Butterflies of Europe, Tristan Lafranchis and http://www.papillon-poitou-charentes.org. Of couse, I make mistakes and I get a lot of help from my readers. Amelia


  9. Someone who used to work where I now work part time used to toss seed of honesty about. He collected it while available, and tossed it out where he thought it would be nice. Since he has been gone for several years, the honesty is becoming less common. I intend to collect some seed this year, just so that it does not disappear completely. I will not be there long enough to make much of a difference, but perhaps I can keep it going long enough for someone else to take over. I do not know who started the tradition, but it is a good one.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lovely, Amelia. Saw out first orange-tip in the garden today (in Dorset). RH

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We seem to have more butterflies around at the moment. I think it must be this very mild spring. Amelia


  12. Love all of these gorgeous photos. And glad to see the bees are thriving in your garden! I’ll have to try the Camassia. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never grown it though it grows well in the US’s Pacific Northwest. Thanks for the post, cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

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