a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Highs and lows

17 Comments

For the first time the first buds of our Wisteria in the front garden have been frozen. On the second of March I took a photograph of the first flower buds. I should have realised, as they normally flower at the beginning of April, that it was much too early. These first buds have now been freeze dried and crumble to the touch. The front garden looks strange without the Wisteria, They will flower again later in the season but it is never the same as the first flush of flowers before the leaves.

The Sophora japonica is typical of so many of the trees. They look O.K. until you examine them more closely and see their first leaves and shoots have been frozen.

Nothing has been seriously damaged, I don’t think. In fact, I am very proud of how the plants have stood up to our yoyo temperatures this spring. We have been having warm sunny days with temperatures going into the high 20 degree Centigrade with bright blue skies. Then we have had a few nights with temperatures going into the negative.

Some trees are tougher and can take the variable spring temperatures. The Elaeagnus umbellata is a very hardy, easy small tree that the bees love. I bought several small plants for 1euro70 in 2017. Now they are three to three and a half metres tall and I have changed their position from time to time as they have grown, to provide screening. The flowers are perfumed, what more could you want?

Actually, I also look for drought tolerance in my plants but the Elaeagnus ticks this box too. The rainfall has been up and down this year too. At the beginning of the year everywhere around us was flooded because of the heavy rains. Then the rain stopped and we have had no spring showers. The Cerinthe that usually produce flower after flower are not so productive and the leaves are yellowing. I notice the Anthophora starting to shop around the other flowers although the Cerinthe is his favourite. The ground is rock hard.

So we have started the year with floods but I just hope the rest of the year will not be as dry as last year.

There are so many flowering trees and shrubs. Our Amelanchier is a mass of white blossom.

No bees, though.

Not so the Malus or flowering apple, planted last autumn.

It too is a mass of blossom.

But the difference is that the bees love the flowers.

The flowers are very similar to our Golden Delicious apple tree that is in flower just now. The flowers of both Malus varieties are perfect for the bees but we can only handle so much fruit and the flowering variety is putting on a stunning show.

In fact, there is so much in flower at the moment, like the Lonicera tatarica.

Even the tulips that I would say do not attract bees have found favour with this little wild bee.

So what do bees do in the springtime when it is warm and there is an abundance of food?

They swarm!

We have had ten swarms in the garden between the 20 March and the 8 April. Please do not say we should practice swarm control. We only had three hives capable of swarming and we divided one of those. We could be responsible for say three but these are not cast swarms and are a good size.

We do have a lot of large rape seed fields around us and I have a suspicion that a professional beekeeper could have put his hives nearby and his swarms are coming to us.

It is either that or perhaps we are on a crossing of ley lines which is supposed to attract bee swarms? See Bees and Energy (Ley?) Lines by David Cushman.

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.

17 thoughts on “Highs and lows

  1. The tips of my hydrangeas have turned black. I checked my newly planted orchard – there is some browning, but I hope they will grow through it. Another sub-zero night coming here this week….

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    • I think if the temperatures do not fall under 2 – 3 degrees below zero from now on the trees will be fine. In fact, these cold snaps might reign in the plants that are too over enthusiastic. Amelia

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  2. The article on the bees and ley lines was very interesting. Our weather in Canada has been up and down this spring too.

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  3. I read that nasty frosts were headed for Europe, and crossed my fingers that your garden would not be among its victims. Weird weathering… what can we do? In Alaska, after a record-breaking warm March, they’re seeing record-breaking cold. What’s a beekeeper to do? (Though, it seems that you can sit tight and collect the swarms.) Could be ley lines, but my theory is that the bees get a whiff of your gorgeous garden, and decide that that is the place for them.

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  4. I think creatures do know energy lines and we have named them ley lines. We are on a bird migration route and maybe you are on a bee migration/ movement line..!

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  5. Love the Malus and Amelanchier. Sorry about the Wisteria.

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  6. Are bee swarms dangerous? I think I’d be likely to stay indoors.
    April is such a great month for blossom. Lots to admire.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bee swarms are not normally dangerous, in fact, many swarms go unnoticed. They are often difficult to see and can look like a shadow in the tree or a darker patch on the trunk. However, if you were accidently to blunder into one or decide to remove it by chasing them with your hands – then you would have a lot of angry bees to deal with and probably be stung. The problem can arrive if they group on an inconvenient place – like in front of your door. In that case you need to contact a beekeeper. April is great for blossom, bees and us. Amelia

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  7. The weather here is still very cool and we expect a frost tonight, fingers crossed that the wisteria buds survive, also the pear blossom. On the positive side, I saw quite a few Anthophora plumipes today despite the cold wind and lack of sun.

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  8. I’m sorry to hear about the frozen buds of the wisteria! The weather is getting so strange! Hope we both get more rains soon. What a lovely honeysuckle that is. I’m going to look it up, along with learning what a “ley line” is. Very enjoyable post. Thank you!

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    • Everyone tends to think of honeysuckle as that trailing variety that can be very invasive in the garden. In fact, there are bush varieties that behave as shrubs and are very easy to grow and not at all invasive. Amelia

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  9. Such a shame about your wisteria. I think it got too warm too early this year. I read that many wine growers in France have written off the bulk of their vines for this year. We had a warm spell in early February followed by a very hard freeze, but I should be thankful that our spring has progressed rather slowly since and there have been few casulaties!
    Your apple blossom is beautiful. The bees clearly know where the best flowers are! 😉

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    • Although we love an early warm spring it seems devastating for the garden. The vineyards here have been damaged but only here and there for the moment. A friend who grows vines explained that if the first flowers are frozen the vines can throw up secondary flowers sometimes but these secondary flowers never produce the same quantity of grapes which lowers their harvest considerably. Amelia

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