Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gardening At Last & Quinn's Big Adventure

March's blue and balmy days were followed by a month of almost constant rain. It was a good time to plant a lawn, which we did in our upper garden, but any other kind of gardening was out of the question. May arrived with variable weather, but just enough sun and warmth to make us long to put our hands in the dirt. Here they say that you really must "respect the Frost Saints," who are known to visit as late as May 15th. Planting tender plants, including tomatoes is tempting fate. In the past we have always found this admonition difficult to reckon and follow. This year it has proven justified.

Earlier in the week we jumped in the car and drove down the hill to visit our new favorite nurseryman, Carl. We passed fields of wheat and safflower beside rustic stone farm buildings. The day turned into a scorcher. We loaded our trunk with annuals to fill out our pots and headed back home for our first real day in the garden since spring sprang.

One advantage of all that rain was to turn our world green. As we drove past hedgerows, the extravagant verdant growth filled our view. I gave up trying to count the number of greens in the landscape.

Back at home we began in our front garden. Over a wickedly cold winter several of our jasmines died and so our fence is not quite as covered as before. You can peek through into the private terrace and entrance to the house.

Roses of three varieties climb up over a wooden trellis on the outside of the studio wall and Virginia Creeper covers the rest of the wall nicely. Iris, butterfly roses, herbs, anenomes fill in  the small border around the perimeter of the garden and violet campanula are beginning to tumble down the low walls. We filled our central planter with pansies for early spring. I wait to transplant it with lobelia and more cascading summer plants. Carl tells me it's still too early.

We invited two new trees to live in our terrace. They are different varieties of Japaneses maples. One likes the sun and the other prefers a lot of shade.The two sides of our space are completely different in the plants they can accommodate as the sun baths one half most of the day and visits the other half only briefly in the morning. It makes it impossible to have a geometric scheme so we've moved all the roses to the sunny side and bought some hostas and other shade lovers for the other. The trees will grow up eventually, hopefully providing, at last, that over-grown look I'm so very fond of.

The maple on the sunny side has the added bonus of bright red stems. It will give a little pizzazz during the long winter months.

The bigger garden project takes place at our plot of land on the other side of the castle, a five minute walk from the house. At the far end of the church is a road that leads uphill. Along the way are several "workman's gardens" as they're called. Our house sits in the middle of the village and while we have the lovely terrace and it's small garden in front, there is no land at the back. We own a very nice piece of land along the defensive walls of the city and just below the back walls of the castle.

Most of the gardens along the way are dedicated entirely to vegetables. Here you see Mr. Villette's garden. He spends most of his time here during the warm seasons. He is 87 this year and growing his rows of onions, potatoes, tomatoes and carrots keeps him fit and lively.

We are more interested in growing flowers and our garden is unique along garden row. We developed the geometric side a couple of years ago and each year it becomes better. Our compatriot, Catherine the librarian, the only other gardener along the road who favored flowers, has sold her garden to someone else and we watched as all the perennials were ripped out and replaced with neat rows of vegetables. We now stand alone. We get lots of comments and a few side glaces.

There are still a lot of holes to fill in yet. I like a garden that shows a minimum of dirt. Many of our plants have come back but in the dahlia bed, only one plant survived the winter. I will need to plant many more.

What is our new lawn used to be a large vegetable patch maintained by a neighbor. He has gotten his own garden now, so we were free to have our will with it. The lawn is in it's infancy, but will, once established, provide a place for football, badminton and a swing set for the kids. Our hedge has doubled in size since we planted it in March, but will not be mature for another year or two. Once full-grown it will provide complete privacy, as it reaches to 8-9' tall.

Our bank of white irises are glorious this time of year. I wish they would last all summer, but alas, their beauty is extremely transitory.

We planted these linen flowers last summer and they did absolutely nothing, so we were quite surprised at their profusion and charming blooms this year.

This is another plant that is giving us much pleasure this year, and quite unexpectedly as we don't even remember planting it and certainly it has never bloomed before. If you know the name of it, thank you for letting me know what it is!

Columbine reminds me so much of one of my dearest friends who died too young and too long ago. I think of him every time I see these little beauties, also so much more abundant in the garden than in years past.

If you're a snail, why not be this cute? Neither Rick nor I could bear to remove this little guy with his pretty yellow shell striped in elegant black.

We have spent many happy hours in the garden during the week. One thing that is really marvelous there are the lively birds. There is a rouge gorge (like a small robin) who comes and visits us, very curious to see what new things we are doing. There are lots of other birds swooping and gliding around. One very busy mother has her babies hidden in a hole in the defensive wall. She comes and goes feeding them. You can hear them peeping inside, but they are hidden from view.


This last week Quinn had his first camping experience. He is part of a class of three and four year olds at a wonderful bilingual school in Paris. Each year, including the very youngest tots, they have a spring field trip called "Classe Verte." The children spend three days and two nights with their class in Burgundy. We told some of our relatives in California that Quinn would be off with his teacher and classmates, horse-riding, hiking, nature walking and observing and all without his parents. Their response was "BUT THAT'S CRAZY!" It does seem, if nothing else, brave of the teachers to take it all on. Apparently, however, it turns out very well for all concerned and building self-confidence and independence in the children is one of the goals of the school. Quinn was so excited with his backpack and sleeping bag. He learned to groom the ponies

and took a ride through the countryside.

There were lots of animals at the center where the class went. He loves goats.

The children do seem happy and content and full of spirit in the photos taken by the teachers. I love the little girls with their wreathes, looking like woodland fairies.

Quinn seemed very grown up when he stepped off the train after his three days away from home. He was sun-baked, grubby and full of beans.


  1. what a wonderful post about your gardenning and improved plot. I love the way you describe all flowers in their development and your projct about.
    I knew Quinn had his first camping experience because Emily wrote me some words recently. You know, we French are very used to this ! Ancelin went skiing in Pyrénées with his form last december. All our daughters, nephews and nieces had similar expriences at different ages and it was always nice. Why people are so amazed by that ? Do they fear anything ? Do they think children could be sad or anything else ?
    It is always adapted to the age and very well run by teachers and sometimes parents who go with them. Our daughters did the same at 8 or 9 during 2 weeks ! Now it seems it is too much expensive !

  2. by the way, the flowers you mentioned, are they "coeur de Marie" ?


  3. thanks for your visit at my blog and your kind comment!
    I love to watch those gardening pictures, makes me dream a lot...
    (I just have a balcony.)
    The blue flower is so lovely.