Nature Comes Back to Life

Dead Hypericum?

I am constantly amazed at nature’s ability for regeneration. Following the longest and most rigorous cold snap in 25 years, everything outside looked dead. I gazed out glumly on the brown, seared leaves of my shrubs and anticipated having to dig many of them up. Happily, I was wrong.

Not yet given up the ghost

In February, after a comparatively mild winter, temperatures plummeted well below zero and stayed there for a fortnight. We regularly saw temperatures of minus 13C and our neighbours in a frost pocket down the hill had minus 18C one morning. Prolonged frost equals drought. Even the hardiest plants aren’t going to relish these conditions.

I had long ago realised that trying to grow tender plants like oleanders here wasn’t going to work. So, with a mixture of trial and error and expert advice, I have mainly planted shrubs and plants that I know will survive even the most rigorous of winters. (See my post about dry gardening).

I say ‘mainly’ because I still make mistakes. A few years ago I planted some trailing ceanothus in a rather exposed spot. They don’t like frost. This is the result below. Last year they did really well and took off, as things do here after a few years if they don’t wither and die altogether. I was on the point of digging them out when I noticed some tiny green shoots on five of them. So they are still alive. The sixth, and most exposed, looks dead and I may have to sacrifice that one. And the survivors will take several years before they retrieve their former glory. I have learned my lesson. Next winter I will cover them with fleece when sharp frost is forecast.

Sad Ceanothus

Apart from that I have lost only one white buddleia – sadly, a present from a late friend – and possibly a sage plant, which I am leaving for the moment to see if it does come back. 

Everything is a little late this year, owing to the frost, but the sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures we are currently enjoying are helping things along. We lack the third and vital ingredient, though – rain. The brilliant clumps of violets studding the lawn are back as are the cowslips, although their numbers are reduced owing to the drought. The plum blossom is as resplendent as ever, like snow. And the hillsides are getting that fuzzy look just before the trees burst into leaf.    

Plum blossom in our back garden

For the birds, it’s as if winter never happened. How do they survive? Woodpeckers have been making their laughing jackass calls from dawn to dusk, redstarts are chasing each other madly around the trees and the sparrows are noisily chirping from the edge of the roof as they seek nesting places in the house walls.

The 'Des Res' with its own balcony

Just below the eaves at the front of the house is a large hole above a flat stone which juts out from the wall. The sparrows love to nest in there. We have christened it the ‘des res’ since it has its own balcony. The fledglings huddle on it together before making their first attempts at unassisted flight. The parent sparrows have a spring clean to get rid of the previous year’s nesting material, tossing it in cavalier fashion down to the gravel below, in front of our kitchen door.

 

 

 

I normally feel a bit depressed by the time we get to the end of winter. But with the clocks going forward last weekend, the lighter evenings and the signs of spring, I feel everything’s going in the right direction.

Copyright © 2012 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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10 Responses to Nature Comes Back to Life

  1. Spring certainly does cheer us up. And this March has been beautiful, if rather dry. We’ve lost our mimosa tree, as have most people round here. We’ve cut it back to about a metre off the ground and hope it might survive. The plumbago hasn’t made it despite covering and one of the myrrh bushes has shrivelled up, I think it’s dead. Sounds as though you have a lovely garden, good luck with the reawakenings in the coming months.

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    • nessafrance says:

      Mimosas seem to be common victims this year – what a pity. But as you’ve cut it back it might come back. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a myrrh bush – sounds very Biblical. Gardening is a challenge here and no gardener is ever satisfied with what they’ve got! But I enjoy it.

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  2. Evelyn says:

    It’s been fun to watch spring arrive…I can almost see the leaves unfurl hour by hour. The willow trees here are completely leafed out, others are quickly following.

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    • nessafrance says:

      It is lovely, isn’t it? With this warm weather, the plum blossom has burst out all of a sudden while our hazel trees are almost fully in leaf. Even if it gets colder, as it often does in April, it’s going in the right direction.

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  3. Steph says:

    I have a few severely sad shrubs – not sure if they’ll come back to life this spring. The winter certainly gave everything a hammering.
    Have your swallows arrived yet? Ours seem to be running a bit late this year.

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    • nessafrance says:

      I hope your shrubs come back – leave them a bit and see. It can take a while before they show signs of life. No swallows yet although someone nearby claims to have seen them.

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  4. My sage is a gonner too but like you I’m really surprised at what’s springing back. The Mallow looked completely dead but it’s got loads of shoots coming up from the bottom and both Jasmines are doing fine.

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    • nessafrance says:

      Often the top growth is dead but they spring back from the base or below the soil line. Our jasmine looked very sorry for itself but even that has shoots on it.

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  5. Jo Lamb says:

    Very familiar scenes Vanessa, the snow put paid to our lovely Mimosa (which had terrific growth last year) and my Aloe Vera plant but my Oleanders seem to have survived… we have seen many olive trees with frost burn but it’s very patchy and thank goodness ours are fine… the bamboo however suffered most and we had to burn a lot of broken stems, but it is rather vivacious so I’m sure it will replenish itself! Spring is finally here – hurrah!
    P.s. sorry I’ve not commented for ages, but your posts have not been showing up in Google Reader, although your blog is listed, now I get them in my inbox… 🙂

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    • nessafrance says:

      What a shame about the mimosas – they are such a lovely sight in early spring, although I always find the scent a little overpowering. People round here have lost bamboo but I think it will come back.

      No worries re comments – you always have masses to do. I have a feeling that when I changed the name of my blog it didn’t change for people who subscribed via Google Reader, but it’s beyond my wit to understand why. Thanks for subscribing by email instead.

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