a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

The picture window

19 Comments

Our French doors leading into the front garden might be considered picture windows as they give us a good view of the garden. However, I think they could be called picture windows as Kourosh uses them to take photographs of the birds that visit the patio.

We are getting more and more birds visiting the patio.

On one side of the patio we have a large stone trough which has been there for many years. To cut down on watering, I have started to grow succulents but so far I have had only a moderate success with them.

The trough has not an exactly regular base and so a little cave has been formed on the bottom right hand side. Wrens are insectivorous, so I imagine it must form an ideal mini habitat for lots of invertebrates as it is visited regularly by the wren.

The Latin name for wrens is Troglodytes troglodytes meaning one who creeps into holes or a cave dweller. It is very appropriate for the timid wren. In French the common name is Troglodyte mignon. Mignon in French meaning cute or sweet, which is again very appropriate.

This week a pair of Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) were caught bathing in front of the picture window. The male has a black cap and the female a chestnut brown one. The water certainly attracts all the birds which means we have to fill the trough up during the day as they soon empty out the bath water.

The clump of wild fennel is full of seeds now which attracts the birds like this little Warbler. I do not think it is just the food, I think the birds feel protected in the cover of the fennel stalks.

The birds need to feel safe and sheltered.

This has made me feel that if we had more cover on the patio we might attract even more birds up close. I now feel it is worthwhile to increase the pots at the “picture window” and use larger sizes of pots to keep the plants moist.

I am making a start here with the lemon tree, new orange tree, Salvia leucantha, Jacaranda and winter heathers for later.

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.

19 thoughts on “The picture window

  1. What wonderful photos! Troglodytes troglodytes is definitely my favourite Latin bird name!

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  2. Water, food and shelter – the bare necessities of life (as the song goes). And what wonderful life you have there!

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  3. Always lovely when you co-exist with these little wild guys.

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  4. Will the potted lemon tree survive outside through winter? We are contemplating a “dug-in” greenhouse that would let us get a jump on the garden, and perhaps remain mild enough for a lemon tree. Sometimes we do miss the advantages that our old California climate offered. Ah, lemons.

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    • The lemon tree gets brought inside to an unheated bedroom if temperatures go around zero but it does not like its time inside at all. Last year was very mild and some nights we protected it with a fleece when we could see the cold snap was just a blip, so it was only inside for a very short time. Nevertheless, the little tree gave us 35 lemons last year! We have been told that lemons are the most susceptible to frost of the citrus trees. Kourosh has grown some wild type oranges from seeds he collected in Spain and he has planted one of these outside. It will stay in the ground and be protected by a fleece when sub zero (Centigrade) temperatures are expected. We find the wild orange juice as good as the lemon on fish. If you can keep your greenhouse above zero I see no reason why you could not keep a potted lemon. Amelia

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      • Yes, that California climate! I lived most of my life in the southern part, but also some time in the bay area. An orange tree in the garden was totally normal and common, particularly if the house was older than 1970. Developers bought orange groves and turned them into small lots for new houses, but often kept one orange tree per lot. Lemons can survive in the south of France if they have very protected site, preferably against a south facing wall. Otherwise they need to come into a space that is protected from frost. I may try one in a big pot this year ….
        bonnie in provence

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      • There are some little lemon trees in the garden. I thought they were weeds…but they looked oddly familiar. I guess the compost doesn’t get quite hot enough to kill lemon seeds. I’m tempted to go out and pot them, looking forward to a time when there will be a greenhouse (though it’s a few years off.)

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  5. love the wren. I don’t know if we have warblers but they are quite adorable too. You can grow jacaranda? When I lived in san diego I loved them, they are street trees there and unimaginably gorgeous. Not frost hardy, really. Here in the Vaucluse we have far too many Pies.
    bonnie near carpentras

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    • We love Jacaranda trees and the one in the pot has been germinated from seed, so we are a long way off being overwhelmed by blue blossom :). The Jacaranda tree will keep the lemon tree company when it gets time to shelter from freezing temperatures. Amelia

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  6. Lovely… and so quick to upload!

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  7. The second to last photo with the red breasted warbler and the orange flower is charming! I’m surprised about keeping a Jacaranda in a pot as they are large trees here. Yours will be a delight if it flowers.

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  8. My favourite is the photo of the blackcaps. They are so beautiful with their ” his and hers” caps.

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