Spring Packs a Punch

Spring Packs a Punch

Missing France, the warm sunshine and spring flowers, it’s not long to go ... Here’s a slice of French printemps, straight from the heart of south west France. From the lovely Beth and her many friends and animals.

"D’you know, I love spring. It’s the season of rebirth when young plants start to appear, dainty verdant dots decorate branches, and insects start busying themselves for the coming year. And here in south-west France, it all happens a bit earlier than in the UK.

Since moving to our domaine, each autumn, I’ve religiously planted sacks of spring bulbs. A couple of hundred soon get swallowed up in our garden, but it’s worth the effort to see those sunny faces. Mind you, I have had varying levels of success with them.  

I swear the deer have a team meeting when I’m having a bulbing session in our non-fenced areas. Time and again, the morning after, my efforts have been reduced to a war zone. Delicate hooves have been busy during the night, winkling out my freshly planted tubers. The result is a stubbly mess.

Inside the garden’s confines, I have done better with varieties of daffs and crocuses, but sadly not with one of my favourite plants, the humble snowdrop. These are the little fellows that show first while most of the other bulbs are still snoozing.  

Our soil is clay-based and heavy, which snowdrops really don’t like. Despite trying to improve the texture with grit or sharp sand, they either haven’t developed at all or staggered out, faltering at around half their intended height. I think I’ll try using pots next time.

This year, I spotted our first daffs in January. Brave trumpeters, they heralded the new season with dazzling yellow smiles. The rest soon followed, along with swathes of purple crocuses popping up to join them. I adore their velvety petals.

All this garden activity has proved irresistible to hungry bees. They are currently taking a particular fancy to our chubby Muscari and sweet-scented Narcissus. Our Hyacinths too. Like me, they’re probably enticed by the plants’ characteristic alluring perfume that hangs in the air.  

Meanwhile, dog walks in the forest with Aby and Max, our two Australian Shepherds, have been a delight. The brooks are bubbling with fresh water, and our baby waterfalls are bursting with energy. There’s nothing the pooches love better than a wallow in those!   

While the evergreens always look perky, the deciduous trees have only just started to wake up. Twigs and branches are now peppered with buds ready to burst. There are similar transformations to the forest floor as Periwinkles are slowly unfurling. Soon, they will form vast pale blue carpets. It’s a gorgeous sight.

At this time of year, plant lovers in our fruit-growing part of the Tarn et Garonne have even more treats in store. The much-anticipated early blossoms. The thing to remember is that they don’t last long. Once flowering, all it takes is a few hefty puffs of wind, and they’re all blown away, so timing for viewing is key.   

Last week our weather perked up no end. The early morning mists dissipated on a gentle breeze, leaving azure skies and warm sunshine. With afternoon temperatures a pleasant 18º C (64º F), it was an ideal opportunity to take the dogs for a trek through the nearby apricot and plum orchards.

Nestled out of sight, well away from roads and buildings, hundreds and hundreds of these plants are lovingly tended by Monsieur Lavergne and his team. As the dogs mooched among the trees, my friend and I followed well-worn tracks. Goodness knows how old the orchards are. They have been farmed by fruit farmers for generations and are breathtakingly beautiful.

Young plum plants, still being trained over wooden struts and cables, were bursting with flowery vigour. Next to these stood the mature treasures. Trees planted in lines joined branches with their partner opposite to form endless arches and graceful tunnels.  

I’m no expert, but I imagine the trees are grown this way to allow the fruit maximum sunlight and ease of picking during harvest time. However practical this cultivation method is, it’s hard not to get carried away by the extraordinary beauty of what we were seeing.

Branch after branch was festooned with crepe paper blossoms, whites and with tinges of pink. The apricot flowers, their multiple stamens tipped with yellow pollen, were creating quite a buzz for sleepy bees. The blooms were as delicate as the fragrance they offered; light, merely a scented suggestion.

We browsed, wowed, gazed and took snaps. Thoroughly romanced by the magical scenery, we decided that, with the addition of trestle tables and country fare, it offered the perfect setting for a rustic wedding. And why not? There’s no doubt about it. Spring really does pack a punch in our pocket of SW France.
Thanks again Beth for this inspiring new piece (and photo), we look forward to more spring stories next month. Until then you can see Beth's lovely books and stories on her FatDogs website.