a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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The colours of December

The colours of December are more subdued. The leaves fall in progression. The Liquidambar leaves are a gift whether they are on the ground or whether I have swept them up to decorate the borders where they hopefully retard the weeds and surely provide a good mulch.

The big Salix caprea or Pussy Willow at the bottom of the garden is still holding onto its leaves that have turned golden now and light up in the morning sunshine.

The Salix Alba “Chermiesina” catch the morning sun also and look on fire in the early light. I am not so happy about their mid-summer hair cut that left their lower trunks bare, but made the mowing easier. Hopefully, Kourosh will have a more restrained trim next year.

The Abutilon is still holding onto some of its flowers but the petals have become almost transparent with the cold.

The Hydrangeas are much more subdued but I like their dusky colours.

The Sedum’s colours have completely faded but hold their own against the pale blue of the Rosemary bush behind them.

The leaves of this Cotoneaster have turned an attractive copper. I’m not sure whether it is supposed to do this or whether it is going to die and this is its swansong.

Luckily, there are plenty of other cotoneaster bushes in the garden with plenty of berries for our blackbirds and thrushes.

This year we have added two Malus “Coccinelle” to the garden. I was pleased to see that in the first year the bees had plenty of flowers and now the nibbled “apples” show that they have been a success with the birds, too.

This is what we have been waiting to see. Our pear tree “Chanticleer” survived its first summer in the garden, which was extra hot and dry and has now its bright leaves. No fruit for the birds, yet, but perhaps next year.

The bright leaves in this photo belong to Diervilla rivularis (Honeybee). I was recommended this plant through the blog and brought two plants back from the U.K. in 2016 as they were not available in France at the time. I only bought two as they were quite expensive. The amazing feature is that they can survive at the bottom of my garden in the shade and dry. However, I say survive. In conditions like that it is not possible to have rampant growth! They are so pretty that I moved one this year to better conditions where it can be better appreciated. Certainly an interesting plant if you had a small garden and wanted a pretty little bush for a shady corner.

We had our first frost this week and some heavy rain has started. I will have to wait to see if the rain will wash away the bright colours of December.


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Return to the garden in March

After two weeks of holidays we were happy to see the garden again but it was at a slow, measured pace we gave the garden its customary “so good to see you” check over.  We have returned with a ‘flu the like of which we have not suffered from in many a year.

Even the dandelion clocks in the grass look good.

There is more red dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) than grass but that suits the Anthophora and bumble bees.  The Anthophora fly very quickly but look very similar to fluffy grey bumble bees – only there are no grey bumble bees (in France, anyway).

The Hyacinths where we sit at the front of the house smell delicious, overcoming our poor sense of smell at the moment and kindling the hope that soon all will return to normal.

We have missed the main pollen fest from the big willow (Salix caprea) at the bottom of the garden.

All kinds of bees are still visiting the tree.

There seems to be plenty to satisfy the needs of all comers.

The Hellebores have done well this year and are constantly visited by the bees.

In the vegetable garden the broad beans are doing well and are very attractive to all sorts of solitary bees.

I wish I could have stayed looking longer as I saw these two almost immediately.

Certainly the wild bees are wherever you look.

Our apricot trees are flowering and I am sure will be well pollinated but whether the weather will allow us to have apricots this year remains to be seen.  Temperatures of 21 degrees yesterday and 23 degrees today are warm for this time of year and we can have frosts up until May.

But the one thing that lifted our spirits was to find “our” Barbastelle bat was waiting for us on our return.  He had taken up his usual position behind our living room shutters.  He is only little, I would estimate about six centimetres from the back of his body to the tip of his head.  He has been visiting us annually for about four years now and we look forward to his visits, see “Many Happy Returns” for last year’s visit.

I find him very attractive and he does not seem to mind me taking photographs although I try to be as rapid as possible as it does disturb his beauty sleep.