a french garden

Mid January in the garden

21 Comments

The constant rain that was the garden’s lot before Christmas has eased up.  The temperatures have only teased around zero from time to time and the sunny days are rare but something that brings cheer.

When the sun does shine it is not the flowers but the willows (Salix alba “Chermesina”) that light up the garden.  I planted them in January 2014.

I was so optimistic about the effect my Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus praecox) would have in the garden when I planted it in February of 2015.  I planted it not too far from the back door so that I could enjoy the perfume.  It took util last year to flower and whereas the perfume is striking sampled from close, I do not find it wifts any distance as do my other perfumed shrubs.

It did not start flowering until last year and I find at this time of year the flowers become damaged in the rain.

Perhaps it is not happy.  I admit it is in a fairly shady spot in the summer and if any one has any ideas how I can improve its performance, I would love to hear.

The Winter Sweet cannot compete with the density of flowers on the Viburnum tinus which started opening in December.

All these flowers attract the bees and provide very valuable pollen.

Quantity is important when attracting pollinators and although the Anisodontea is still producing flowers of a very good quality, they are not attracting the number of insects they do in the summer.

This large clump of heather (Erica darleyensis) is always well visited but I have several other newer and smaller clumps around the garden but they do not receive the same attention – just yet!

Only the tips of the Mahonia are in flower now and the berries are beginning to set.

I thought the Japanese Medlar (Eriobotrya japonica) would have finished by now but I could still smell the perfume and found several still flowering bunches in the more sheltered areas of the tree.  It has been flowering all December and is worth its place in any garden solely for the perfume.

As one plant finishes its flowering season another one starts.  This primula is a bit quick off the mark.

But the prize for precocity (or stupidity) goes to the apricot tree – already in flower.  We planted our fruit trees as soon as we bought the house, with little knowledge but great enthusiasm.  I wish we had had the knowledge at that time to look for fruit trees more suited to this area.  We bought them tempted by the pretty pictures on their labels.

Our plum tree, we inherited, although it was very small and it flowers very early, it usually provides a great source of pollen and nectar for the pollinators and very good eating and cooking little plums.  It seems as determined this year to get going as soon as possible.

The winter flowering honeysuckle will keep the pollinators happy until the early fruit trees are in flower.

The bushes are not too high and so provide lots of entertainment watching the bees gather pollen.  The honeysuckle roots fairly easily and we have taken cuttings to give us now five bushes around the garden.

At the moment there is a lot of blue Speedwell (Veronica spp.) in the grass and the bees visit these tiny flowers.  They must have good nectar as this bee looked quite comical pushing its way into a flower that was not completely open.

I was surprised to see this wild bee on the Speedwell.  You can see how small she is as she fits comfortably into the little flower head.  I tried to see what she might be as I had managed to catch sight of the slit at the end of her thorax so I suspected the Halictidae family.  Steven Falk writes that bees in this group often nest underground and some have communual nests and even primitive eusocial communities.  So she could possibly be a fertilised queen getting ready to start her new brood.  Or are they like the bumble bee queens that come out of their shelters during the favourable days of winter to restock on fresh nectar?

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.

21 thoughts on “Mid January in the garden

  1. Brilliant photographs – your garden looks so vibrant 🌿

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    • We have had no real cold this year and the garden is opening up for an early spring. However, there is plenty of time here yet to have ice and snow which can cause a lot of damage. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

      • Same here … a very mild (though wet) winter. My children are still hoping for snow but we haven’t had any here for three years.

        My grandpa used to say “if there is enough rain in autumn to sink a duck, the rest of the winter will be all mud and muck.” …. it’s definitely been a wet autumn and a muddy winter ☔️

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  2. It’s wonderful to see the flowers and bees from your winter garden. It’s a hopeful prelude of good things for the future–from under our mantle of snow. Sometimes, if we’re concerned about fruit trees blooming too early (as I am with this year’s mild season) I’ll prune them late, just before the buds swell, to buy some time for a later bloom.

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    • I’d rather have some cold weather early on in the winter to hold things back. We lost our apricots and persimmons last year to a late cold spell. Amelia

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      • We don’t even try for apricots and persimmons. In fact, it’s hard to know just what to plant these days. Climate is certainly changing. Mostly we try to plant what works, primarily through cuttings and foraged/gifted seeds. This year will be the first that we have no major construction projects–the year of the garden. I’ve been hording bulbs and seeds, heeling them in, waiting for the chance to start having flowers. I can hardly wait. Everything has to be hardy, deer resistant, and perennial.

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        • It takes time to see what works in your garden. Every garden has its own micro-climate which is affected by its local soil, humidity and whether it is sheltered from wind or sun. I have my favorite plants that are usually the ones that are happy and successful growers. Once you find the things that work you can often add variety by widening the different sorts you grow. I find cotoneasters and salvias work well for me and I have plenty of different ones to choose from.

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  3. Great to see you have some blue skies at home at last after all your wet weather,
    Best wishes
    Julian

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  4. The willows look stunning in the first picture. Do you coppice them?

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    • They get cut back to stumps every year. They look a bit ugly at first but as you can imagine with willows in the spring, it does not take long for them to put on growth. I keep the larger cut branches for using in the garden. They would grow very easily if you just stuck them in the ground but I do not need them anywhere else. Amelia

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  5. We have switched from endless rain to sharp frosts but I suppose that is proper winter weather. Interesting to see a solitary bee out foraging.

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  6. Sorry I should have been clearer. By solitary I meant she is not a bumble or honeybee. The rima as you say means either Halictus or Lasioglossum and also female. So most likely an overwintering fertilised queen from a primitively social species. Might be worthwhile watching to see if she appears again. It seems very early but then you are further south. Here I have seen queens (Lasioglossum calceatum or albipes) in March and what alerted me was the presence in a flower bed of a soil volcano with a hole in the middle and eventually I saw the queen going in and out. Sphecodes began to hang about as well.

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  7. Japanese medlar is what I know as loquat. I wold not have guessed that without the Latin name there. I had no idea.

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    • I do try and add the latin names to the plants for just that reason. The common names of plants vary from region to region in the same country and as I get views from all over the world, I use the latin names so that everybody knows what I am talking about. Amelia

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      • Exactly, that is what proper nomenclature is there for.
        Now, I sort of want to look into these mysterious medlar things again. I intended to grow some in the next few years, possible planting them next winter. It is something that I know nothing about. I am not impressed with loquats, since they can grow wild here. They grew wild at my former home. I intend to get just one tree of a garden variety, rather than the sort of seed grown tree that I am familiar with.

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      • I mean loquat as in Japanese medlar.

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