Comings and goings in April

There are more comings at this time of year and it was comforting to see a pair of Hoopoes outside the kitchen window. I always associate them with the summer and we are still definitely in spring with the changeable days, but there are more warm days now.

The Osmia cornuta are finishing their life’s work, and as their colour fades I know I will not be seeing them for much longer.

The bees have no more flowers to go to on the “Accolade” flowering cherry, the recent high winds scattered the petals forming a natural confetti around it.

We have a flowering Malus which is now the place to go to see the bees. The Malus is in the foreground of the picture above but it does not do justice to the colours of the little tree.

The buds are a vivid pink and the colour of the flowers lighten into white as they open.

They provide everything the bees are looking for at the moment.

This is a carder bmblebee, the flowers attract all sorts of bees.

I also think the flowers provide a beautiful backdrop for bee photographs and the short height of the plant makes it more convenient for me. I would say this is a male Eucera longicornis, he has elegant long antenna, but I am no expert.

I think I have made a poor choice in the placement of these allium cameleon. I followed the spacing of the bulbs that was suggested but perhaps they were intended to be grown in the ground? Although I think they would get lost in my garden. Perhaps I just have to wait until next year and they will thicken up? Any ideas?

My Lonicera tatarica is in flower at the moment. This is one of my bush honeysuckles that I bought for the bees but it does not attract the bees like my Malus. However, it provides loads of colour, is drought tolerant and I have been able to grow several more from cuttings.

My Wisteria is coming into flower. The plant against the outbuilding is sheltered and is always the first to flower.

The first swarm arrived on the 11 April. It decided to settle on the top of the Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) tree. We have never had a swarm settle there and we hope to cut down the top branches to dissuade others to do the same. I was happy to let it fly but Kourosh insisted on climbing up to secure it.

All went well and they are installed at the bottom of the garden.

Spring 2023

Spring continues to be a much cooler and grayer time than we are used to.

The plants follow the season despite the clouds and our little flowering cherry “Accolade” has delighted us again this year.

Her flowers attract the female Osmia cornuta that are now busy filling up the holes in my bee houses.

Some prefer to be far from the madding crowds of the bee boxes and chose more select accommodation – like the drainage hole in my wooden window sill. The window is well inset into the house so her eggs will be safe until next year and she has made a beautiful job of filling the hole so that it is difficult to notice.

The Camelias have done well this year.

More than being just beautiful, they provide a sought after pollen for the bees.

The colour in the garden is being provided more by the tulips now, as the daffodils are fading.

I just have to pay tribute to the primula which light up the garden just now and self seed to appear in early spring. Granted, they do not appear in the most convenient places but they accept harsh treatment by being separated and replanted where they are required.

It is a time to wander in the garden and meet old friends.

It is a time to discover new shoots on plants that had been feared dead. My Salvia leucantha has survived its first year in the soil (protected by a fleece).

Fruit tree flowers are being examined for signs of fruit. I think this yellow plum is producing fruit this year but it is early days.

We made a discovery that although we have had our Ash-leaved Maple for many years, it was only this year we noticed the flowers full of buzzing bees gathering pollen.

Leaving the best news to last – a friend has brought us two loads of horse manure courtesy of his horses. The first load is already on the vegetable garden awaiting spreading and re-positioning and this is the second load placed strategically at the bottom of the back garden. I shall use it wisely.

Colour through the grey

At last some colour is coming into the garden with the spring bulbs. The water has returned to the little stream at the back of the garden and the daffodils we planted years ago are surviving and expanding, along our forest walk.

The front garden, unfortunately, has been chosen by moles as their new home. Soon the lawn will be getting cut regularly and we will have to live with the mole hills. Somehow brown circles are less noticeable than the brown heaps of soil.

More irritating is the appearance of lots of lesser Celandine everywhere in the garden. Even more irritating is that I suspect I have spread the seeds myself when I mulch the borders with leaves gathered from the trees growing at the bottom of the back garden. I accept the lesser Celandine there as it has always been there but it seems happier in the sunnier borders and quickly produces masses of little bulbils that are impossible to eradicate.

The bees used to ignore the lesser Celandine but now the flowers are in the light they visit them. A small compensation as the bees are spoiled for choice at the moment.

Our first plum tree has finished flowering but the second one has started and I see peach and ornamental flower trees opening in nearby gardens.

We decided to plant a new tub of bulbs this year. It is fun to look through the bulb catalogues in the autumn. We had decided to use scilla as the early flowers as the muscari of our previous pot had eventually taken it over. Kourosh was given more leeway with the colour scheme.

It certainly brightens these dull days but we did not get the progressive growth of the previous pot. Everything seemed to come up almost at the same time. I think it might have been partly due to the weather but the tulip “Stresa” seems particularly early.

I think we appreciated this shot of colour in a particularly dull spring but we have had one sunny day with temperatures soaring into the lower 20’s this week!

The most exciting moment this week was seeing the male Osmia cornuta flying around the bee boxes. Perhaps Spring is coming at last?

I even heard my first cuckoo this week.

February continues

We have had some long-awaited sunny days. One day the temperature rose to 17 degrees Centigrade. Our old plum tree is flowering but we are back to the cold and overnight it drops so low that a thin layer of ice has to be broken from the birds’ water in the morning.

The grass has started to grow and the Speedwell (Veronica persica) has decided it is time to flower so there are plenty of blue patches in the grass for the bees. The bees do not stay long on each flower and I feel it must be such a little reward of nectar from each flower.

The Viburnum tinus is much more generous and provides a bountiful supply of winter pollen. We find it a very useful hedging plant and have it in several places in the garden. The plants in the shadier spots flower later and prolong the availability for the bees.

I planted three Cornus mas as I had read that the flowers were attractive to bees. They have just started properly flowering this year but so far the bees seem unimpressed. Still, they have very pretty flowers.

The Hellebores are starting to cheer up the garden and they are certainly welcomed by the bees.

Kourosh grows a Lemon tree in a pot. Although it is small it produced 52 lemons last year. It cannot stay outside in the winter so we bring it in to the spare bedroom. Last week we were so pleased with the sunny days that we took it onto the terrace for its mid-winter summer break.

We kept a careful eye on the weather forecast and put it back into the bedroom when the temperatures dropped again.

I’m sure it is looking forward to the sunshine as much as we are.

February 2023

After the longest spell of dull weather that I have experienced here, we plunged into the cold.

Some plants, like this Camelia protect their flower buds and remain in bud until hopefully the weather turns clement.

The Hellebores have suffered all summer from the excessive sun and heat with a lot of their leaves being scorched. The cold has further retarded their normal blooming time.

The Chimonanthus praecox has shrugged off all the contrarieties of the weather and has given us the most flowers it ever has. There have been plenty of twigs full of flowers to cut and bring indoors to enjoy the perfume.

Not all the Chimonanthus flowers escaped the hard frost but in the warmer days the flowers perfume can be appreciated from a distance.

Now we are in a warm spell and the bees are excitedly gathering pollen.

Every year I search amongst the hazel catkins for the red hazel flowers. They fascinate me and I find them so beautiful. They remind me of sea anemones. I have never managed to take a photograph of them that I am satisfied with. The petals resist the camera. I suppose the answer is to cut off a branch but it seems such a shame. I would appreciate any hints from photographers for next year.

So, after the gloom and the cold, I hesitate to believe that we can glide gently into a normal spring. For one thing, the soil is drying out and we have not had our normal supply of rain to help push the spring bulbs through.

A few more warm sunny days should lift my pessimism.

Dreich, dreich, dreich

After the hottest summer we have experienced here our cotoneaster bushes yielded smaller and fewer berries. They are all gone now. I hope the birds will be able to find some other berries or rosehips to keep them going.

The autumn was long and deliciously warm. A dream for gardeners and walkers. Then came the cold – to be expected in the winter but it has been followed by the most prolonged period of rain and heavy cloud that we have ever experienced here.

Photography in the garden has been constrained by the low light conditions.

The Viburnum tinus is flowering but there is not much time for the bees to get onto the flowers between the showers even though we have been having temperatures as high as 17 degrees Centigrade.

I like the relaxed style that this bee is gathering pollen. Comfortably ensconced on an old leaf of the winter flowering honeysuckle, she can give her full attention to gathering the pollen.

The Mahonias buzz with the bees when the clouds part and we get some light. Usually the Mahonias are full of bumble bees. I usually see the bumble bees on the Mahonias even when the low air temperatures keep the honeybees in their hives at this time of year. This year I have seen fewer bumblebees during these warm, wet days. I do not know whether the very cold spell we had before Christmas has sent them into a deeper hibernation or if they prefer to avoid the wet weather.

I have an anemone blooming early in December.

These are the buds of my flowering cherry tree on the 26 December2022. It has obviously decided not to give up the idea of flowering.

Our sole patch of snowdrops flowered on the 26 December 2022. This is their second year, so it is a success story – however minor. At least the snowdrops are in tune with the season.

I had given up on trying snowdrops and planted Crocus sieberi “Firefly” to take their place as my first early bulb. This year the crocus flowered nearby the snowdrops on the 3 January 2023.

It is not possible that the snowdrops pushed up to maintain their position as the favourite in the winter garden.

But it does make you think.

Snow in a French Garden

We have been having a cold spell which has kept me out of the garden. It is not just the cold but the grey skies and lack of sunshine has left the leaves unraked. It is a job I reserve to keep me occupied in the garden when it is sunny.

Yesterday afternoon we had snow. The flurry did not last long and it had melted before the morning.

The Hellebores were covered with snow but are showing no sign of flowering.

This will be the first really cold weather for some of the new plants. The Azara looks like a mini Christmas tree but is hardy enough as we have only been having lows down to a minimum of minus three degrees Centigrade.

I have to thank Kourosh for these photographs because I stayed by the fire.

Leaves and flowers in November

Our Ash trees along our border are the first to lose their leaves and our Liquidambar the first to glow with autumn colour. In the foreground of the photo above, the Anisodontea is still producing its pink flowers and is still being visited by bees. Today the rain has stopped but there is not much sunshine.

The Eriobotrya japonica is full of flowers and attracts lots of pollinators, while the leaves of our white Mulberry tree have turned yellow and started to fall. This tree has been grown from seed. We hope it will produce tasty white mulberries that are very sweet. There are so many varieties of mulberries but they are not well known and it seemed the only way was to grow one from seed but it is not a method for the impatient gardener to replicate.

Stretching taller than our garden wall, the blue sage is visited daily by the bumble bees.

The pink sage close by is also visited by the bumble bees that pierce the long flower from the outside to reach the nectar. This piercing will be reused by the bumble bees and also facilitate an entry for the honeybees.

This honeybee is on the sage leucantha but the hole she is using will have been made by a bumble bee.

There is something else making holes in the flowers.

It is so little that it is difficult to tell what it is. Possibly a Painted Lady but I don’t think November is a good time to be a caterpillar. I have never seen a caterpillar on the sage flowers before.

At the moment I am raking leaves for the compost and sorting out the borders. Our old Veronica had died completely on one side and we felt it was well past pruning and hoping for new growth.

Out came the old plant and then we discovered a self-seeded new plant growing at its side. We have enjoyed watching the bees on the flowers of the old plant so we were pleased with this phoenix successor. In fact there were a couple of other little seedlings in the roots so those were potted too. Just in case!


From the middle of November we have been having rain, at last. That means less days sitting watching the garden in the sun and more time viewing it from the inside.

At least the Lagerstroemia is getting enough rain to drain the leaves of their precious nutrients and allow the dry shells to fall. Gradually the bark is becoming mature and starting to peel.

The Salvia leucantha is still going strong, and with the bees and its long stems in constant motion, it draws your attention as soon as you look outside.

The saffron has been harvested and although I did not think it was as plentiful as last year my harvest was 5.5 grams against 3.8 grams of last year.

We had an unexpected harvest from our Acca sellowiana or feijoa bush this year. Perhaps it was just the very hot summer but it was the first time that our plants had given fruit. We had planted them as the pretty flowers attract the bees and had not really expected them to give fruit and we were surprised at how good they tasted.

Our Eriobotrya japonica is in full flower at the moment but I can only smell the lovely perfume when I go to the bottom of our garden which has not been so frequent in this rainy period.

The flowers attract a lot of pollinators including the Asian hornet. I just hope the fruits will manage to set before we get really cold weather as we had no fruit last year.

Although this year we had hardly any apples or pears, at least our Malus has given fruit for the birds.

The birds come to have a bath even in the rain, so this is something else that we can watch from the window. I think this is a female black cap (Sylvia atricapilla).

Autumn Salvias

In the back garden the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) has changed to its autumn colour and today the leaves are falling waiting to be gathered in for composting.

My Hydrangea from the Savill Gardens in the U.K. is keeping dusty pink flower heads, the soft colours in keeping with the autumn tones.

In the front garden I am still enjoying sitting outside and eating lunch on a small portable table as the big one has been stored away as we felt the warm weather could not last – but it has.

Our Salvia leucantha growing in a pot in the patio supplies us with plenty to watch as the bumble bees love it.

The carder bumble bees are Kourosh’s favourite.

The hummingbird hawk moth is a constant visitor and has the right equipment to get to the nectar of these salvias.

This bright blue salvia is in a pot too but will get put into the garden as soon as it has finished flowering.

This salvia has a beautiful flower.

I find it grows too tall. The wall is about two and a half metres. I thought it might grow less when I moved it to the front garden last year as it gets a lot of sun here. It has grown just as tall in its new position and I just think it looks leggy. Any suggestions?

We are still waiting for proper rain to give the garden a good soak after this hot, dry summer.

Nothing is the same this year and now our spring flowering Prunus “Accolade” has started flowering.