a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

A pond for the garden


The rain has been more or less continuous this week but I am surprised that as soon as there is a break in the downpour the bees are out.

I suppose the Hellebores are ideally suited for this type of weather as the flower heads face downwards, keeping the pollen dry and making natural umbrellas for any bees caught out.

On Wednesday I saw the first bumble bee out for some time. She was very slow and obviously a young queen that must have woken very hungry from a dormant period. She walked over the flowers of the heather carefully taking the nectar.

It was not until I looked at the photographs, much later, that I realised that she was heavly infested with mites. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust say that these parasites may just be hitching a lift on bumblebees to take them to new nests and that they feed on nest debris. They suggest that heavily infested bumblebees could have the mites swept off them using a child’s paintbrush. I have never down this and I think it might not be so easy in practice.

The rain was forecast and we managed to get our pool in place in the hope of filling it with rain water. We have had a blue plastic sandpit hoarded for many years, and rather than buy a new piece of plastic we decided to reuse and recycle.

We already have a waterlily plant ready re-homing and the stone was placed to mark the spot.

This is our first real pond but we have already aspirations of what may breed here.

This photograph was taken in 2015 from “Many Happy Returns”. I hear our frogs at the moment but I do not see them.

This is from “A February of Contradictions”. These little green tree frogs or Reinettes (Hyla meridionalis) are ever present in the garden but I have never seen their tadpoles.

This photograph is from last year in “Persimmon and Saffron”, the little newts (Tritorus marmoratus) were hiding together under one of my pots.

If they adults are cute the babies are even cuter see July last year “Garden Visitors”. Will they breed in the new pond?

We do not see the salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) so frequently but I found this baby one near the Manuka last year “Back to April Showers”. Note the rubber gloves. The salamander can exude an irritant from its skin, I still like its sleek form and yellow stripe.

I do not expect to attract a European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) but if he has already come here (“There’s an Emys orbicularis, in the garden”) – why not?

So the rain continues to fall and the stones get piled around the edges to conceal the shape. In the middle of the pool the stone has already attracted some wildlife. You can just see two black marks.

I have never noticed these before and I think they are Devil’s Coach Horse beetles (Ocypus olens). They are detrius feeders and I can attest to the fact that they are not good swimmers. Never the less when we rescue them, flicking them onto the grass, we find them back on the stone or floating inanimate in the water the next day.

So the rain has filled our pond and we have been able to put the water lily in its new home with a few weeds from the bee’s water bowl. We would like to add some more plants especially something tall to attract the dragonflies but it is a bit early yet for that.

We will not be adding fish as they will likely make short work of any spawn or tadpoles.

Our robin was in good voice today and I am sure he feels it will not be long until springtime here.

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.

23 thoughts on “A pond for the garden

  1. It looks like you’re building a zoo. All those critters. Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OOh exciting. I have a pond too, the frogs have produced their spawn already.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, Great plans for your little pond. We found the earlier you get some “pond weed” growing, the better for the environment.
    We covered our pond with a black painted cattle grid to keep the raccoons out as they love the roots of the water plants.
    I do hope all the little creatures will come. You may need a beach for the small ones.
    I was aghast at the mites on the bumblebee. So glad you mentioned it I will be out keeping a very good eye on our many bumblebee visitors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We will make sure that there is a good stone pathway leading out of the pond so nothing gets trapped there. Emily in Cornwall, England has commented that she has frog spawn in her pond already. Amelia


  4. How do you spot the mites? I can’t see them. What do they look like? Do you need a magnifying glass? Beautiful photos and I’m excited to see your pond! Yay!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I call them mites as that is what I have read, but really you should think ticks like you would get on a dog. I have not included a close-up but you can see three ticks clearly on the left of the wing. Also you can just see more on the left and in front of her yellow band at her head. Emily in Cornwall, England commented that she has frog spawn in her garden pond already, so I hope I am not too late. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  5. They always say: if you want wildlife build a pond – in your case more wildlife. It’s on my to do list for 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I thought people were fairly relaxed about mites on bumblebees and just left the bee and the mites to get on?
    We inherited a pond with fish when we moved to our present house. The fish required continuous care so we got someone to take the fish away and converted it to a wildlife pond. It is rather deep and rather messy but we get frogs and newts and enjoy watching all of this. Our pond is too deep for frogspawn but I saw frogspawn about three weeeks ago in a local community garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s marvellous to have a pond. I hope you will indeed see lots of wildlife visiting it 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lovely pictures, I hope your pond will attract many of these animals !

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Are the mites on the bumble varroa mites?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No they are not varroa mites. What I have read is that these mites are not feeding on the bee but on the debris in the nest and need the bee to transport them to infect another nest site. The Bumblebee Conservation Association was founded by Professor David Goulson and is invoved in considerable research for bumblebees so they must know what they are talking about. Check out Goulson’s books. He is a good writer, they are not dry, scientific tomes about bees. The bumblebees I have seen infested with these mites do not look happy with them at all. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

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