January 2022

The garden enters 2022 with trepidation.

Red Admiral butterfly, Vanessa atalanta

I took some photographs in the garden on the 31 st. of December 2021 – the last day of the old year. It was a fittingly bizarre day with a temperature of 17 degrees Centigrade (62.6 F) and bright sunshine for the second straight day in a row. There were butterflies on the flowers.

And of course the bees were out and busy bringing loads of pollen into the bee hives.

We were able to sit and read outside as the sun descended and the birds were singing like a spring evening. It is still mild but the temperatures are moving towards seasonal norms. I just wonder how perturbed nature will be this year.

In the meantime the bees take advantage of the fine weather and I thank Philip Strange for reminding me that buff-tailed bumblebees can keep up nesting throughout the winter even in the south of England. Thus the pollen on the bumblebees legs.

She did not gather the pollen from the Mahonia – I have only seen the bees take nectar from the Mahonia.

This winter, despite some frosty mornings, the Anisodontea has kept its flowers and attracts the bees on sunny days.

As soon as the flowers open the bees push themselves inside. They often try when the flower is not completely open.

At the bottom of the garden we have planted an Arbutus unedo. It is a poor spot for a tree with such lovely flowers that are much appreciated by the bumblebees but it has survived and is producing flowers.

The tree is commonly called a strawberry tree, for obvious reasons. I took the photograph of the fruit on the 13 December but there are no more fruits on the tree. The birds have eaten them and, although they look delicious, the fruits are somewhat acid and bland. They can be made into jam as they are not poisonous, but I could think of easier ingredients for jams.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I took all these photographs on 31 December 2022 in the sunshine and unseasonable warmth. In the evening I noticed one of our little green tree frogs sitting enjoying the sun inside a planter on the patio. It is two days later and he is settling down for another night in the same place. The temperature is forecast to fall during the night.

Shall I take him out a blanket?

Perfume and colour in the December garden


When the sun plays on the Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) tree the perfume expands over the garden and the bees descend on the flowers.  The flowers are just starting to open and are only opening slowly.


Have you ever been caught out by thinking an artificial plant was a real one?  There are some fake plants that, well placed in a shady corner of a restaurant or hotel, have had me deceived.  However, when I look at the Loquat I find that the fluffy stems that support the flowers look more as if they have been fabricated from a soft, synthetic velvet rather having grown in such perfection.  The leaves, on closer inspection, are a bit suspect too.  Rather too thick and shiny.

The most unusual is the perfume.  Extremely pleasant as it is, I find it reminds me of baby talcum powder and not of any other flower that I know!  It almost seems as if it is a real plant pretending to be artificial!

We are too far north for the tree to produce its delicious fruit but it is H3 hardy so suitable as decoration in areas with a mild winter.


The Elaeagnus x ebbingei is still flowering.  I must try and note next year how long its perfumed season lasts. I am growing this as a screen between the us and the neighbouring garden.  It is very amenable to being cut and I like to let it have a free form to give access to the birds and bees but it takes well to being pruned.


The winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is H6 so we are looking at a plant that will take very cold winters but reward you with flowers and perfume when there is some sunshine and warmth.


The honeysuckle is frequently visited throughout the winter by the buff tailed bumble bee (just to confuse me the buff tailed bumble bees have white tails in France) but I noticed this carder bee on the honeysuckle.  It interested me as it is a queen carder that I frequently see in springtime here.


It has a thick brown band at the top of its thorax and I had straight away thought of the brown-banded bumble bee (Bombus humilis) however, it does not match the description of Steven Falk.  I then checked on Atlas Hymenoptera – Les bourdons de la Belgique and I think I have found my carder bee as one of the three types that used to be found in Belgium although now they have practically disappeared.

Perhaps I should post this on my other site Bees in a French Garden to see if anyone can help me here.  But whatever their names are it is nice to see them in December.


You can tell that the bumble bees are finding plenty of pollen and so must still have a nest with young that they are feeding.  The young queens only need nectar to survive until they decide to make a nest.  The strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) H5 is a real hardy tree and the flowers are very attractive, if low on the perfume stakes.


Another white, perfumed flower still blossoming is the Osmanthus heterophyllus “Goshiki”, I should really take a cutting to see if I could start another plant but this one is shaded by a wall and I am not sure whether it would stand the summer sun.


It seems that most of my very fragrant winter flowers are white but now I have the Mahonias I love the splashes of yellow that they are providing.  “Charity” is the most prolific but the two “Media” are close behind.


The Anisodontea el rayo continues to flower and attract the bees but now some of the leaves have taken on a copper tint.  When I first saw the colour change after some cold nights I thought that was the end of the flowering season but the buds were unaffected and went on to open and flower.


I tend to forget the heather.  I am still surprised that it does so well as I had got it into my head that I would not be able to grow heather in my chalky soil.  However, the E. x darleyensis varieties that I have survive very well but I could use them more effectively but I am not sure how.  Any good placement ideas that have worked for you?


For colour, if not for perfume, the cotoneasters brighten up the garden in all weathers.  A seasonal picture to wish everyone a happy Christmas.


Even if you feel more like these primroses that have popped up as if to say “Is it spring yet?”


Back to the garden

gdn nov 2013

I’ve never seen the grass so long.  We’ve been with the family in the U.K. for a month and it has rained a lot both in the U.K. and here.

Potager nov13

I managed to tidy the small vegetable plot before I left and it looks sadly empty.  In the bottom right hand corner there are rows of saffron bulbs that I dug up about this time last year after I had collected the stigmas.  I stored the bulbs over the summer and replanted them at the end of August.  I thought I had lost them all as nothing appeared until I saw some tips in the middle of October.  This was very late as they usually are in flower by October, however, my six bulbs that I planted in 2008 have now become 77 little plants.  It looks as if I will have to wait until next year for the flowers.

Garden 13

The medlar tree is full of fruit and provides some interest in the back garden.

For the rest I feel that the autumn is not a good season in the garden.

Euonymus europaeus

At least the spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) provides colour in the back.

Persimmon fruit

The Persimmon tree in the front garden is the only tree to give me red and yellow leaves of autumn, as well as the fruit.

Strawberry tree

I think I am missing the bees.  We have had little sunny weather since our return and I rushed out to take these photographs while the sky was blue.  I can always count on the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) to attract the bumbles bees when we have some sunshine.

Arbutus unedo

At least our birds haven’t been hungry while we’ve been away.  The fruits are edible but I have never tried them as I’ve read that they do not have much of a flavour.

Carder bee

There are a few stray cosmos left in the front garden but everything looks washed out.

I think I will have to put more effort into adding some interest for the autumn next year.  I have already started thinking of next summer and I have under-planted the trees in the back hedge with geraniums to add colour and keep down the weeds.  I have tried an on-line nursery here for the first time and I am awaiting the Elaeagnus angustifolia that I have ordered from them.  It is only a small bare root tree so it might be some time before I will know if the fruit will ripen here.  It does have a common name in France and is called the Olive of Bohemia.

Clathrus ruber
Clathrus ruber

This fungus comes up regularly where I have mulched the plants with wood chippings.  I find it very attractive as the lacy top is bright red and it appears from a cream coloured, egg shaped body that pushes out from the soil.

Bottom of garden

Another project for this winter is to add interest to the narrow strip of trees at the bottom of the garden.  Trying to take inspiration from Beth Chatto’s book “Woodland Garden” I want to introduce some shade loving plants.  I already have some Ruscus and spring bulbs on the edges.  In the summer everything will have to fend for itself.

Sparkle in tree

Of course, I am also trying to improve my photography.  Do you see the sparkle in the top right hand of this photograph?

Subtle sparkle in tree

I think I prefer the more subtle effect.  I’ll have to wait for more sunshine to try for more sparkles in my photographs.

I got this tip from a great blog I follow Focused Moments.  I think Rachel could have started a craze in WordPress with her great photographs including a point of light.

Tall Nepeta

I also have a puzzle in the garden.  This long straggly flower is supposedly a tall Nepeta but I wonder if it was wrongly marked or I picked up the wrong pot in error.  Granted that I should have found a sunnier spot for it but it must have grown to about two and a half metres tall.

Nepeta flower head

Does anyone recognise this as an autumn flowering Nepeta?