a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

A stowaway


The saffron has just about finished now and I am only getting two or three blooms a day. I took this picture on the 21 October 2020 to show the average daily “harvest” I was getting at this period.

I always leave collecting the saffron until late afternoon so that the bumble bees can enjoy them before I pick them. However, after I collected flowers, I got busy and left the bowl until the next morning.

In the morning I started to open up the flowers and put the pistils to one side to dry. Then I saw my stowaway!

A little bee was in the saffron! At least this time I can be sure of my identification down to the family level. It is a female from the Halictidae family as you can see the groove or rima at the end of her abdomen. She is likely a Halictus scabiosa as I see them frequently in the garden.

She had slept inside the saffron all night in the dining room and was still sleepy in the morning when I discovered her.

She had the intention of passing the night outside inside the flower until I had picked the flower with her fast asleep inside!

She flew off quite happily with a little bit of encouragement from me.

She could be an over-wintering queen.

I wonder if I will see her in the garden next spring?

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.

16 thoughts on “A stowaway

  1. What beautiful and fascinating photos! The bee is wonderful. Do you cook with the saffron?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How lovely, especially that first photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very determined bee – lovely pictures!


  4. Hello Amelia, Lovely series of photos , and how fortunate you are to be able to grow saffron well enough to harvest your own! We tried once and failed miserably, are you self sufficient?
    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

    • This year I got 2.4 g. Not a huge haul but I am self sufficient. I use it in rice but not everytime I cook rice, although it can be used to decorate even white rice before serving. I have had better years and it is weather dependent. Amelia


  5. Our Saffron has just finished too. We had a very good harvest this year and your photos of flowers could easily have been our flowers. We planted our Saffron in 2017 (10 plants, then ten more in 2018) and we now have enough to last most or all of the year. We grow it on sandy loam on our allotment in Norfolk.

    We too have had bees sheltering in the flowers – I had to return a female Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae) when I picked a closed up flower with her inside.

    I wrote about Saffron on my own blog in 2018. It includes a link to my favourite saffron recipe, Carrots Braised with Cumin, Saffron and Garlic, which goes well with home grown carrots and garlic. (See https://www.jeremybartlett.co.uk/2018/10/15/saffron-crocus-sativus/).

    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    • I started with only six bulbs that were a present from a saffron producer in the Limousin. They made lovely fruit jelly (as in Jam) flavoured with saffron. I found your article on saffron very interesting. Amelia


  6. I’ve never been a saffron fan–but I love the idea of a stow-away bee. We’re coming up on our last opportunity to work with the bees, before winter settles in. We haven’t been in the hives all October, too cold and wet. It will be interesting to see how they’ve set themselves up for winter, during our neglect.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m sure your bees will have done all they can to settle in before their long winter. Amelia


  8. That’s a very pretty bee, I see in Falk that it makes it to the Channel Islands but not the UK mainland

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My ‘saffron’ bloomed in spring, along with the common Dutch crocus. It looked just like saffron . . . but I did not trust it. I suppose I should have tried it. I just let it sort of naturalize and bloom. I still have no idea what it was.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have had flowers blooming out of season. Even now I have seeds coming up as if it were spring and not autumn. Maybe something in your weather “confused” the saffron? Perhaps time will tell and it will start an autumn flowering. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

      • Such confusion is common in such a mild climate, but I would not have expected it to be so regular, as if it were natural. I gave them away, without identifying them as saffron or another species. I would grow them again though.

        Liked by 1 person

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