a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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Highs and lows

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.


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Confinement continues in the garden

The Wisteria is starting to flower in the garden.  A very special time as the perfume greets you whenever you step outside.

(We have Wisteria in the front garden,too.)

We are going into our fourth week in confinement.  President Macron made his announcement and explained the measures to be taken on Monday night, 16 March.  We had realised France would follow Italy’s advice and we had started our voluntary confinement the previous weekend.  In keeping with the spirit of the confinement we have only made rare trips to the supermarket for provisions during this period.

We content ourselves in the garden.  The Victoria plum tree is in flower, or it was sold as a Victoria plum but the plums are not like the U.K. Victorias.

The large plum tree has already set a considerable amount of fruit.  The mild weather was favourable both for the flowering and fruit setting time.

I saw this white butterfly on some Honesty.  I thought at first a Cabbage White but seemingly the veined wings point to a Green-Veined White, even the veins are not green.

It makes a pleasing contrast with the Honesty for a photograph.

I was pleased to see clumps of this dark-leaved variety appearing, I received the seeds from a reader.  They suite the garden well and I let them self-seed so I will never be without them now.

This fumitory has found a corner in the garden and will also do a bit of self-seeding.  I hope I do not regret removing it because it looks so pretty.

The Bluebells have started flowering at the bottom of the garden, taking over from the Muscari which is just starting to set seed.  The Stitchwort is very welcome as a wild flower that blends in well with my intentional plantings.

The bee fly is not so welcomed by me.  It is on Thyme here and can forage for nectar in a large variety of flowers as it has a long proboscis and a perfect landing technique.

These little furry flies from the Bombylius are parasites of solitary bees and as I have mining bees in different parts of the garden, I know they will be on the look out for the bees nests to  lay their eggs.

The garden is getting more attention than it ever has and we are having more coffee breaks than usual.

It never leaves our minds, though, of the people who are flat-out caring for others at the risk of their lives.  We salute them and support them by adhering to the rules set out to protect all of us.


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A little rain

The garden has suffered from extremes of weather this year.  After beginning mild the winter closed with two weeks of freezing temperatures in February with temperatures dropping as low as -15 degrees centigrade.

Now fear of drought is the issue having had very little winter and spring rain.  It is raining lightly today with storms forecast so I am glad I have taken photographs of the trees in blossom.

The young pear tree in the front garden has been very generous with its blossom this year.

The cherry and the apricot in the back have been full of blossom.

The wisteria against the white atelier wall is full of flowers that perfume the back door area.  The wisteria in the front garden is in bud but without the additional warmth of a wall has not yet flowered.

All this beauty!

But practicalities call, the soil is now soft from the rain and it is an ideal moment for weeding before the weather deteriorates further.