a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


Bees in the trees

Flowering Plum

This is my favourite time in the garden when my plum tree is in flower.  It heralds the official opening of springtime in the garden.

Bee gathering plum pollen

It attracts honey bees in their hundreds to fill the canopy with a constant motion and buzz that adds to the cloud of its special bitter sweet perfume that floats over the garden.

Bumble bee in plum tree

The bumble bees like to take the top flowers but this one has fallen asleep and stayed for the night amongst the flowers.

Carpenter in plum tree

The carpenters have been very active early this year and visit the plum tree as well as the spring flowers.

Goat Willow

The plum tree is not the first tree to provide pollen to the bees.  We have a willow at the bottom of the garden which I think is a goat willow (Salix caprea).  It is an old tree which we have inherited but it provides the much needed pollen very early in the year.

Bee flying to catkin

At this time of year it is mainly honey bees that come and load up with the pollen.

Wild bee in willow

There are also wild bees like this one and bumble bees that need the valuable pollen.

Apricot blossom

The apricot blossom just doesn’t do it for the bees.  It comes a poor third choice when the plum and the willow are flowering.  I have a feeling that the apricot tree produces flowers at intervals so that it can increase its chances of fruiting in case it produces flowers when there are not so many pollinators around.  I’ll try and keep a closer eye on it this year.


The spring flowers provide colour in the borders.

White daff

And the daffodils brighten up a day when a thick grey blanket of cloud covers the sky and prevents any chance of a glimpse of the solar eclipse.

Hellebore (1)

The Hellebore provide lots of pollen too but it seems to be more appreciated by the bumble bees.

Bumble bee in hellebore

The bumble bees are difficult to see in the Hellebore but their loud buzzing gives them away.

New plum flower

Baby plum tree’s first flower

My plum tree is so important in the garden that I can’t quite imagine the garden without it.  In the summer it provides a cool parasol to dine under.  Its strong branches can support a swing.  It even has its own bee hotel!

That is why we were excited to notice what looked like a baby growing in the hedge nearby.  We looked after it and planted it out last autumn.  We were not sure if we had been looking after a “foundling” and that it would turn out to be another tree but this year it has flowered for the first time.  The flowers looks the same as our plum tree and it has flowered with it at this early time, so we are very happy that the plum tree is not on its own any more.


More plum blossom

Plum blossom

Plum blossom

I thought by the time my twigs from the plum tree would open that the rain would stop and let me get out into the garden.  Not so.

Plum tree blossom

Plum tree blossom

Even the plum tree outside has started to flower and still it hasn’t stopped raining.  The first flower has appeared on the ninth of February, the apricot too has opened its first flowers. They are a month earlier in opening than last year.

The temperatures are mild but not mild enough to allow the bees to come and forage on the flowers for any length of time.  Are they going to miss their usual feast?

I just have to appreciate the plum blossom inside.  It is strongly scented with an unmistakable base of bitter almond.  Plums and almonds are related, both of them belonging to the genus Prunus .  It may not be obvious from their fruits but the perfume of the plum blossom is a give away.

The Mason bee nest construction continues indoors but I have also some time to test out the camera on the peach flowers in the vase.

Plum Blossom 50 mm

Plum Blossom 50 mm

My Canon 50 mm gives me clear shots of the blossom if I crop it.  My blossom is practically white and only the buds are pink tinged.

Plum blossom close

Plum blossom close

I am trying to get closer in to the flowers so I have reversed the 50 mm lens here.

Opening blossom

Opening blossom

I like to see the arrangement of the stamens as the flowers open.

The uncut version

The uncut version

With my lens reversed I get close enough to avoid having to crop.

Panasonic version of plum flower

Panasonic version of plum flower

This is taken with my old Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ18 which can get really close up.  Not bad for a point and shoot camera that will probably cost just over £100.

Comparable Canon crop

Comparable Canon crop

I can get about as close by cropping the Canon 50 mm photograph by a huge amount.  I would say value for money the Panasonic Lumix is the winner.

Stop Press – my twig cuttings of our sole peach tree have just started to blossom.

Peach blossom

Peach blossom

But it’s still raining!