“Yes, we will always have Paris…”

Tuesday  5.11.1999…Another…and our last, breakfast in Paris…even the gray and rainy morning is sad about our leaving!

Something to laugh about is what we need…off to the Pharmacy for Jeanine’s “torpedoes” and a special toothbrush I saw in the window the night before. The colorful and rather futuristic toothbrush stands on the bathroom counter…it has a handle that spreads and looks like a rocket ship ready for takeoff! My grandchildren would love these…

On the way we stopped at the Boulangerie for fresh bread…we found some wheat grain with nuts and raisins and apricots…spread some creme’ fraiche and…I gain another pound!  We take the Metro and then stop for a visit to the Musee’ d’Orsay. It’s early and already a que has formed so we went into the museum library, purchased a book for my sister, then toured a few exhibits…mainly enjoyed the building and structural/historical aspects of the museum…

Our first bus ride in Paris took us to the Galerie La Fayette…this is a remarkable place…

photo(41)everything you could ever need, you’ll find here…well, maybe not a car but you don’t really need one of those in Paris! We first went to the guest station and registered to shop…our gift was a stylish black logo shopping bag. NICE! Jeanine had been describing the market in the basement for weeks before we left on our trip so naturally we went there first…Descending on the escalator…I was consumed with absolute joy! Fresh vegetables, fruits, meats and so on…all BIOLIGIC [organic] were everywhere. I felt like the the village Mayor overwhelmed with sweets in the window of “CHOCOLAT”.

For lunch, we went to the gourmet prepared food section and chose tasting portions from vegetables saute’, poule and…oh, just too much to list..! Food was displayed so beautifully and artistically one wanted to try everything…and it tasted even better! A young man was putting out fingerling potatoes in a bin as a promotion for the farm growing this specialty item…posters were up announcing the event…and I wanted one. Jeanine was able to coax a young chef from the kitchen to give me one of the posters to take home.

Found the SANTONS in a huge gift area of the store and just had to give them a home…mine! The Santons shown below are just two that I have…each is handmade from original old styles and usually represent typical dress…using Provencal fabric…and chores to be done on a farm found in south of France…the ladies shown are collecting garlic and harvesting lavender…

photo(57)photo(58)

Bars of chocolate…stacks and stacks of chocolate…all perfect for our baking classes and then very difficult to find…so we add these to our shopping bags…a baguette bag made of burlap for keeping bread fresh, a covered butter dish, a cookbook and also a book on roses and by then…time to return to the hotel to pack before dinner…of course that did not keep us from quickly stopping again at LADUREE for an afternoon treat…along with some candied violets for cupcake toppings.

Once again back at the hotel, suitcases packed and ready to load into our taxi, we enjoy a pastis before dinner and spend time talking and laughing about all we had seen and done on our trip…all the people we had met, the stories and history and art and the joy of being together in a place we both love beyond all reason!

Jeanine and I have experienced so much together…we are sisters now and always will be. We share our lives through calls and visits and facebook…I always love the sound of her voice when I hear her “HALLO…” said the French way along with her attempt at a Texas accent. Carl loved Jeanine and we both miss him so!

We visit when we can and are planning another trip to Provence next year…but, we will always have our time together in FRANCE!

Here we are in 2010...
Here we are in 2010…one of our typical meals in her backyard around the pool…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A painting Carl did for me as a constant reminder of the Jeanine and Patricia trip to Provence!
A painting Carl did for me as a constant reminder of the Jeanine and Patricia trip to Provence!

 

 

Pinch me…we’re in Paris!

5.09.1999 Sunday morning…MERDE…!!!

Somehow the wake-up call and flight times were confused, we arrived at the Nice Airport only to be told that our morning flight to Paris had already departed, uh oh…so sorry, Madame! With all her Gallic attitude in tow, Jeanine went to the AIR FRANCE supervisory desk and spoke to a very lovely lady that was so sorry about our misfortune…we would have to purchase a ticket for the next available flight to Paris…for 1200 francs! Not to be dismissed so easily, Jeanine pitifully explained that an auto accident had made us late…there are always accidents…and we had been in one, a few days earlier! “Well in that case, Madame, let me see what might be available…” She got us on the next flight with no problem and no extra charge and here is your carte d’acces a bord… Of course, they were speaking in French and gesturing and laughing and talking about their villages and so on…ME, I would still be there!

VIOLA…three hours later we were in Paris…walking the streets!
The first thing we did after checking into our hotel…was to take off for a stroll along the Seine.  We walked to Notre Dame and stood in awe of the architectural achievement…across from there we found a little bistro on the corner of Rue St Michel to sit , rest our feet and have lunch…after lunch we  crossed the bridge and walked to the ILE de LA CITE’

Notre Dame along the Seine...
Notre Dame along the Seine…

Everyone, or so it seemed, was out enjoying spring in Paris on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. Sorbet was in great demand at all the little stands…but the wait was worth it for every delicious, luscious lick of  cool, sweet frais…

Walking along stone streets…just looking at the houses and old buildings…I could only imagine all who had walked those same streets and lived in the houses, the historical aspect of where I stood was astounding…On the corner of one building I saw a stone plaque with the words from WWII honoring the place…In that building, several hundred Jewish people were hidden from the NAZIS during the war until they could be secretly and safely moved to the countryside…Tears flowed and I could not move or speak for a while…that was just one of many memorials and reminders of a time in history we never want to forget…

Having been up since 5:00 AM, we were quite exhausted, didn’t want to miss anything, but knew we should take time to rest…we returned to our hotel for just a short nap…”Psssst, wake up, look in the window across the courtyard…there is someone sunbathing!”  As the setting sun was coming from the west, people had obviously mistaken their bedroom balconies for the French Riviera… there was a woman lounging, in the nude, by the window on the 2nd floor and another on a floor further up…While we were laughing at the bold sunbathers and staring out the window…a duck flew out of the pond and shrubs below in the courtyard…we turned to each other and said…”Duck l’orange…”! Well, you had to be there!

Around 5:00 we walked down the Rue Monge towards Rue de la Harpe where we were to meet Jeanine’s cousin, Renee’ and her husband…the elder, very smart, but retired Judge! Found Renee and she led us up some steep and winding stairs in a very old building to the top floor…my shoulders brushed the walls as we climbed…and their REALLY miniscule kitchen left me thankful for the kitchen I had just redone in Texas. Renee’ explained that they only used the place for sleeping in the city when they were visiting family…their “country home” was much more spacious! At their tiny apartment with windows facing the narrow street, we enjoyed an aperitif…champagne and plenty of amuse quelles…before going out to dinner at Polidor. The well-known bistro is one of the oldest and more typical one would find in Paris…black and white marble floor tiles, gleaming brass, old lace on the windows and at least a hundred different liquor and liqueur bottles displayed in front of crackled mirrors behind a huge polished walnut bar. We sat at long white cloth-covered tables…family style in America…and were served from platters ordered and passed around. Nothing, not a morsel was left it was all so good, so we used pieces of baguette to sop up any smattering of sauces left on our plates…While waiting for dessert I asked where the WC was located…in the back I was told, the door on the left as you enter the kitchen! Oh, dear…just a tiny cave with tile walls and a drain in the middle of the floor with foot holds that straddled the drain…a warped door that barely closed, no paper left…if it had in fact been there…and the smell…..eeeeuuuwww! Returning to the table I saw Jeanine watching my face for a reaction to my experience…after much laughter and a visit with the chef…we left to explore for a bit.

We walked for over 3 hours while Andre gave us historical background on all the buildings, bridges and streets we passed. The Boulevard St. Germain, one of the largest streets in the area…or arondissement…was lined with very pricey shops of every type and we managed to look into most of them. We also saw several magnificent fountains and monuments and the Pantheon.

Finally, we could walk no longer…we were exhausted and it was time to go to bed! Renee’ and Andre left  and we found a taxi to deliver us back to our hotel.

5.10.1999  Monday morning in Paris…and a lovely sunny day ahead.

After our typical breakfast of cafe and croissants…the fragrance of the two will never leave me…we found our way on the Metro to Place de Madelaine, where we toured the early morning flower market and then a few shops. Jeanine wanted me to see one of her favorite places…Laduree…so we went there for lunch before our visit to the the L’Orangerie. We found that a table was available so we were seated right away. Looking around the well known patisserie, we observed “Parisian ladies who do lunch”…just imagine slim and elegantly dressed women sitting at antique tables being served sandwiches and pastries and chocolates…I gained a few pounds just watching them eat. Their Chanel, Lanvin and Yves St. Laurent and so on shopping bags sat on the floor next to exquisite heels.  Stopping on the way out, I purchased a box of sweets to take home, so hard to choose!

At the gallery was an exhibit of Monet’s “the Nympheas” along with other paintings and works by the artist. From the first moment that I stood in front of the Monet painting of “Water Lilies” in New York…at sixteen years old…I was enthralled with the artist and his paintings. What a spectacular moment for me to be able to stand in front of so much of his work…

For the rest of the afternoon we walked the Champs Elysees to the Arche de Triomphe…we saw the Hotel Carillon, the US Embassy and the Place de Concorde…there were many gendarmes and security people around the famous hotel and we learned later that there was a “special meeting” taking place…we thought they had heard Jeanine was in town!

Next, a boat ride…bateau-mouche down/up the Seine and later dinner and back to the hotel to think about the next day…our last hours in PARIS!

LATER…Oh, yes…”we will always have Paris…”   come back  for the final chapter!            Here I am with some very strong gendarmes near the Hotel Carillon...

Here I am with some very strong gendarmes near the Hotel Carillon…

Ahhh…hhh, Provence…still!

Moustier nestles against the mountainside...
Moustier nestles against the mountainside…

Early in the afternoon we arrived in Moustier and drove our little bug through the ancient stone streets curving through the village. Several little shops displayed colorful faience pieces along with typical provencal print scarves and tablecloths.  We had lunch at a cafe beside the rushing creek that ran through the center of the village…and then we shopped, of course!

We drove down the steep curving road that led out of the village and found our auberge rather easily, surprise…the place was lovely, and full of provencal charm…such  a pleasant and relaxing place…photo(19)It really looked just like the postcard we found in a village shop!

The gardens were beginning to   grow and iris was in bloom already so we took time to wander about the gardens and photograph each area…some weeds needed to be pulled and some lamb’s ears needed grooming so I just set to work. Robert, the proprietor, came out to see what we were doing and also get some work done…he warned me to watch for the asps hiding under the ears and lavender…WHAAAA???

This led to a few screams and then sharing a pitcher of pastis on the terrace with Robert. He told us his story and how he came to own the I and how sad he was because his son had been killed in an accident several years before he came to live in Moustier. There is a place in the village…Les Comte, where he usually takes his evening meal…He suggested we join him for dinner, although he was a bit worried that people in the village would gossip about him dining with two strange women. But, he got over it and we drove up the hill, through the narrow streets to the bistro/restaurant. The food was very good and even better when Robert paid the bill! Robert & Jeanine had lamb with a herb and honey sauce, I had a salad vert with tiny pieces of ham and a mustard vinaigrette. For dessert we shared a creme fraiche topped with blueberries and local meil…

On the way out of the village, Robert [pronounced RO BERE], showed us several spots we should visit, the falls, the caves, the chapel at the top of the mountain and a few art galleries. Back at the Iris, exhausted, we turned back the matlisse cover on the iron bed and fell onto the mattress…I tried to read for a few minutes but managed only a page before falling asleep.

5.07.1999        Friday morning…sun is glorious, birds are singing and photo(53)the view from our   little terrace is delightful…we decide to stay here and relax for another day. Jeanine brings breakfast on a big tray and we enjoy our bowls of cafe and croissants in delicious splendor….here we are, living in the moment as I had always dreamed about.

Maya, the great yellow lab who lived here with Robert, came and sat by our feet waiting for any crumbs to fall her way…a little bird hopped about pecking at the crumbs Maya shared.

Oh, my…We really should get moving…so into the huge yellow and blue tile shower, then we get dressed and put on our new and very comfortable Mephisto shoes…off to climb the hill to the village. Surprise! There is a marche that fills the streets…we find old postcards, herbs and a great handmade basket of purple grass… I still use the basket when shopping..! Winding our way through the shops is such fun as we pretend we belong here…we buy cards to send home and then find stamps at the village post.

The sky turns cloudy and seems to threaten rain so we walk back to our place. I manage to read for a while and Jeanine takes a nap…Robert visits a bit later and offers some herb tea so we sit and talk for several hours, learning more about him and the village…all the while soft rain gently falls against the canopy. He tells of Maya, who loves people so much she would often follow them from the Inn to the village and even farther into the mountains. One day she did not come back for dinner and Robert grew very concerned for there was a bad storm approaching the mountain…he went out to call and look for her but with no luck. Another day passed and while out looking for Maya some friends told him they had heard barking by a heavily rushing stream up in the mountains. As it turned out, she had spent hours hanging on a shallow ledge at the edge of a waterfall…the water was too deep and fast from the rain storm for her to cross back. Robert and some friends with the mountain rescue service found and rescued Maya…of course, the story is so much better and entertaining with Robert’s accent, gestures and noises to accompany the tale!

Before we knew it was time for dinner, but first a pastis…or two, with Robert on his terrace…he told us more of the sad story of the death of his son…we called and Les Comte for dinner is full…so we wait another hour and have some wine! Finally, around 8:30 we leave for dinner as they have a table for us…we park in the center of town, as if we belonged there! Walking into the restaurant, Robert made a grand entrance by knocking a glass off a table…it is a tiny place with very narrow space between the  tables…the few people left eating looked at us and clapped for Robert as he went back to the kitchen for a broom and dustbin…what a guy! We were impressed with his clean-up abilities! For dinner, Jeanine had goat and vegetables and I chicken with roasted vegetables.

As we were eating, an old grandpa shuffled in the door and stood quietly holding his umbrella…it was raining hard with rumbling thunder and lightening striking in the distance. By this time the restaurant had emptied and we were the only people left at a table…the waiter bowed and invited the old man to take a seat, he did and the waiter brought out a glass of wine and some bread…then a plate of vegetables. We watched discreetly as the little old grandpa ate his dinner and drank his wine…using exquisite manners, he used pieces of bread to sop up the juices on the plate…he had no teeth so we then understood why there was no meat on the plate. We asked Robert about the old grandpa…his was a sad story…Grandpa worked many years for the village of Moustier keeping all the stone streets repaired, he had a tiny house by the river and a family. When his wife died he sold his house and then the people quickly moved in when Grandpa was working, took all his things and never paid him the money they owed for the house. So, people in the village took care of him, sharing their shops and tables and homes… as he had cared for the village all his life…he has his meals at any place he chooses for he is always welcome, usually after the main dinner crowd has left did he visit the nicer places. How sad, but also how wonderful that the village cared for him and showed him such respect and love…

Robert and Jeanine...
Robert and Jeanine…

                                                                             5.08.1999     Saturday morning, cloudy and cool with a nice petit dejuner on the patio…I had to get strong coffee from Robert to entice Jeanine out of bed…it took a bit but soon she joined me outside. We sat enjoying the morning, talking to Robert and thinking how sad to leave this paradise! Robert helped us pack the car, we left many kisses and tears as we drove off toward the south and Nice… Jeanine often visits him on her trips home…and we keep in touch through e-mail…                                                                                 Checking the map, we knew there was quite an exciting route back down the   mountains toward Nice…Through the Gorges du Verdon we went in our little car with no nose and no butt! It  handled every curve magnificently. The Napolean Route was overtaken by a Mercedes driven by a Frenchwoman and a US navigator. Wow, the views were stunning…and the narrow road and drop off…uh, reminded me of Mosquito Pass over the mountains in Colorado down into Telluride…but only craggier and deeper cliffs, but that was my frame of reference for where we were driving. After a few stops for photos, we  found our way back to Nice and  finally found the Novotel at the AIRPORT…took the car back, explained about the accident…that only took TWO hours…got on the bus and arrived back at our “home” for the night. We massaged each others feet with lavender oil and went to bed, having left a wake-up call for 7:00 AM and a request for cafe.

photo(48)

 

5.9.1999   Sunday morning, MERDE!!! We missed the plane…?

                           Come back for more…we finally land in PARIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Still remembering our trip to Provence…

5.6.1999

Breakfast over we discussed finding the lady who had a lavender farm, and her own ancient still that she used to process lavender buds, stems and pieces into oil…but first, the lilac blooms were calling…photo(22)with our baskets and clippers, we set out to cut fresh blooms. Of course we had to spend a few moments sitting on a rock wall looking out over the countryside…such stillness, fragrance and beauty…Every little home had a vegetable garden beside the house or nearby, chickens and goats were clucking and foraging…

How much fun we had putting little bouquets together for Natalie to set on her tables…we found many different containers such as tiny glass vases, colorful pitchers and silver cups to use…some herbs were also mixed with the lilac. All very charming and so FRENCH!

Finding a good source for real Provencal lavender oil was one of the reasons for the trip, another was to study how lavender is grown…well, sorta! But seriously! Finding, Bernadette, the crazy lady, and her farm was another adventure…everyone tells you landmarks and rock piles and fence posts and houses as direction points. We felt somewhat like cars perpetually trapped in the go-rounds…but finally we found the correct field and then saw the barn and copper still…we had arrived. photo(33)

Bernadette took time to explain to us all about the process of distilling…just imagine using this old contraption…her son, Patrick, took us out to the field where the still sat and found a bucket under the tap filled with lavender water and the oil floating on top. Without any pretense of restraint, we squealed and dipped into the precious liquid and then began rubbing it all over our faces, neck, arms and hands…Whoa! That should keep the headaches and any pesky bugs away for days…it was delicious!

Back at Bernadette’s barn/shop, we spent a few hours testing and smelling her products…she had shampoo, face and hand creams, lavender oil and water for spray and soaps, all made on the farm without the added synthetics and preservatives used today. We purchased all we could!

The trip back to Natalie’s Auberge was much quicker and when we arrived, the goat cheese maker, Jean Michel,photo(25) was waiting in the bar/dining area. He wanted to show us his goats and his farm and how he made cheese…so off we went, following him down dirt paths, over hills and  ruts in the road filled with rain from the storm last night. We drove so far down a dirt path to his “house”…I was beginning to hear the sound of a banjo!! Finally the woods opened and there it was…a house with barn all together. Touring the barn we found it to be very clean with mama goats having breakfast on one side and the little kids on the other…Jean Michel took us inside to the area where he made the cheese, wrapped it in chestnut leaves and stored it before delivery to food shops. Everything… equipment, storage racks, walls, floor and buckets were spotless…of course we purchased a few rounds! We wanted to take some home but we knew customs would confiscate the unpasteurized cheese!

Back at Natalie’s we decide to indulge with one of the goat cheese rounds, some green salad, baguette and a pitcher of red wine. We took our “dirty” plates  to the kitchen and helped Natalie with serving her regulars. Monsieur Pierre heard the discussion about our visit to the goat farm and warned us that if we leave the cheese in the car, “it will walk away from the car…”It seems that little worms would invade the smelly cheese…huh??

The sun is warm so we sit outside drinking our wine while thinking how sad we were to be leaving this perfect little village and our friend, Natalie. We had no plans for where to stay for the evening so Natalie called her parents who owned an Inn near the Luberon Valley and made arrangements for us to have room for the night.

Along the way, we drove to the top of a small mountain in the parc de Luberon…there we could see the entire Luberon Valley and to the east, the Alps. Needless to say…it was remarkable and breathtaking…an occasion that the word…awesome…is truly appropriate! Further along the road we stopped again at a lavender field to take pictures and enjoy the fragrance. The earth between the rows of plants was very soft from the tilling and recent rain storm…the color of the soil a yellowish and red brown…very sandy containing many small bits of stone…so our theory for planting lavender in Texas was proven to be correct.

The village of Manosque was on the way to our Inn for the night…arriving, we found Bruno was at his shop…oh, oh…such a beautiful bottle of local Armagnac with honey…hiding under the table… that upon tasting it decided I could not leave without it! Strolling around the village, we came upon a battered wicker chair sitting along the side of the gravel lane…in its at the stuffed figure of an old Black man holding a sign that read Antiques. Opening the door to the charming little shop I heard the ring clink of a very old shop bell…which was for sale, perfect for the shop! A few crystal aperitif glasses of varying shapes and sizes, silver sugar tongs, a match striker and a very lovely, hand-carved  wooden box made in 1880… still sits on my shelf today lined with the village newspapers I used to wrap the stems…wish I could have packed a container, so many wonderful pieces I had to leave behind.  We left the shop and continued on our walk towards the square…there were several grandpas playing PETANQUE with their boules so we sat and watched for a while…a tradition one sees all over villages in France…park benches, plane trees, gravel course and grandpas in their berets playing, smoking, laughing and just enjoying the day.

Au Revoir to Manosque and back on the road…the farmhouses we passed in the villages through Forcalquier and Mane were so charming. There were flowers and roses in bloom and vegetables planted along little fences  by the road.

Around 6:30 we finally found the turnoff and drove down the lane towards La Bergerie…we checked into our room and spent a pleasant hour out on the terrace drinking pastis and reading more about the places we had visited. Dinner…nothing to be said but that it was awful, a real disappointment! In fact, the pie for dessert was so bad we could eat only the first bite….Jeanine stuffed both pieces in my purse and we later threw them in the woods…she didn’t want to hurt the feelings of Natalie’s parents.

Tomorrow we off to Moustier…we had heard about a place established near there by Alain Ducasse…where the Inn was exquisite and food sublime…we were going to treat ourselves!

5.07.1999 Along the road we stopped at Greoux, a little village of hot mineral baths where people from all over France come to for treatment.photo(47) But this day was the special Marche…quickly parking the car, we began our hunt…Provencal fabric by the metre, food of all sorts: olives, bread, meil, fresh fruit and vegetables, farm produce: lapin, hams, poule and roasted poule, herbs and spices, t-shirts and “stuff” one would find in an American flea market. We bought fabric to make cloths and napkins, tablecloths, t-shirts and some spices…and then decided to buy all we could find for a picnic on the way to Moustier… found a roasted poule, cavillon melons, frais and a boule along with a nice bottle of Rose from the village wine shop.

With Jeanine driving and me navigating, we went through many quaint villages and fields and fields of lavender as we began our climb into the mountains. Some of the village “streets” were so narrow I feared for our side view mirrors. Stopping often, we took pictures until we came upon the perfect spot for our picnic…a field of lavender!

We spread the cloth and set out our food…another dream come true! We ate and then napped in the warm sunlight…the tiny poule filled with thyme was delicious, we ate the berries and melon with our fingers and then finished the whole bottle of wine…

photo(26)   Then a French tradition…we smoked several Gauloises…with all that we were almost    in a coma…later, Jeanine said I was snoring, however her “gas” actually woke me it was so loud! We packed up, again, and found a phone booth in the next village…she called the Hotel BASTIDE, owned by Ducasse, to arrange for our stay…but it was booked full! they would have a room the next night, but…so sorry! The concierge suggested we try another place…L’Auberge Les Clos des Iris and viola…there was a place for us!

[Please come back for the next story of our stay in Moustier…one of the best times of our whole trip!]

Remembering our trip to Provence…

4.30.99…

It all started on the plane that early morning as we flew east on AA from DFW into the sunrise. The flight attendant literally dropped the biggest banana either of us had ever seen on Jeanine’s tray and then some sugar packs fell from his hands…landing on her rather adequate chest, of course. Well, he, the FA, was most apologetic  and gave us a bottle of Champagne to help us enjoy our long flight.

Arriving at Orly Airport, we found that our connecting flight to Nice was just long enough before boarding that we could get a cafe and croissant…the heavenly fragrance was more than we could resist. REAL croissants…in FRANCE…I was in heaven, almost!

Air France to Nice was quick and as we flew over the little Alps, still covered in snow, we saw several isolated small villages. Jeanine told me the story then of her grandmother crossing from Spain to France during WWII and the terrible time they had trying to reach somewhere safe in France. Her grandmother eventually found her way to Lyon where Jeanine was born years later.

Circling the Mediterranean over Nice for a while…the airport is small and crowded…we finally landed and found our way to baggage claim. I actually figured out how to deposit 10 francs coin into the slot for a luggage cart and rolled it over to the Eurocar rental desk…oh, of course, there was an error…”Madame, your car is rented for Paris, not Nice!” Makes sense, huh?! Well, Jeanine , with typical French indignant authority, finally got the ONLY car left on the airport lot! A Mercedes that looks like a roller blade boot that was too tired to grow up! We called her …”our petit caca” !! Taking a few extra minutes, we inspected her thoroughly to make sure there were no bruises or dents! We had our service agent record even the slightest scratch or blemish so that we would not be charged for any repairs when we returned the car!

Our little "petit caca"
Our little “petit caca”

Finally we were loaded and off on our adventure to Nice…the sky was overcast and all I could do was ahhahahah…moaning as we drove…the sea such an incredible shade of blue! All the houses and buildings stacked up into the hills, somehow managing to hold onto to their patch of rock…and palm trees mingling with cedars, pines and many other exotics. WHOA, where did that car from?? HERE, it is blow your horn and GO, always late to get somewhere!

We managed to find our way out of the airport and to the road along the coast towards Monaco…it was so hard to read signs as the navigator and look at everything around me! Traveling along two lanes on rock that hung out over the sea below, I was finally able to take breath when we pulled into the courtyard of our hotel in Beaulieu…see above photo.

After checking into the hotel, we left our bags on the bed and decided to drive to Monaco as there was plenty of daylight left…arriving in the old village we parked underground and walked up the steep hill to the balcony overlooking the MED. Tearing ourselves away we looked for a phone booth…1999 folks…and called home to let Carl and Lou know that we had arrived intact!

Standing in front of the Royal Palace, a suitable home for the lovely and regal, but departed Grace Kelly…we see such historical beauty. And secretly wish 007 would pull up to the casino in his Astin-Martin!

We walked and walked over the ancient stones and sidewalks and eventually stopped at a tiny cafe. So thirsty, we drank several bottles of water before leaving to find the car. It was time to go back to the hotel and have dinner…as it was served only at a certain time and if missed…well, too bad!

As we neared the exit of the underground parking we realized that the hill to exit was very steep…the car had a manual transmission…we were so tired but we must wait our turn to advance UP the hill, at least a 45 degree angle, to the street and we rolled ever so slightly backwards as she tried to accelerate and change gears, as one would do driving such a vehicle. OOOOOPS, a green Toyota, so close we could see the wrinkles in the woman’s face,  was suddenly under our bumper…we were kissed on the bumper butt! The lady in the Toyota could not move because there was another car kissing her butt! Jeanine valiantly tried for several minutes to move the car and get up the hill. Finally she did with a bit of transmission grinding and screeching and we drove along the cobble street until we could find a place to pull over and wait for the green Toyota lady. We had parked at a spot overlooking the sea and small boat yard…Jeanine and the GL began discussing what had happened when a man parked in the pull out spot came over and offered his cell phone so call the GL could call her husband.

At some point during all their discussion the lady’s daughter blurted out the fact that this was mommies’ third accident for the month! Unfortunately the only thing I could contribute to the whole event was a drawing for the accident report. Shortly, a little motor scooter ridden by a strange man wearing pink cotton SHORTS, a quilted zip up jacket, topsiders and a black helmet pulled into the gravel area…obviously not a great sense of fashion or style…he looked like a bug but he was GL husband! We drove to the Police Station and the people speaking French all went in to give their version of the accident…since I could not understand what was happening, I stayed in the little car and took a quick nap. Jeanine came out of the station red-faced and angry…it was all her fault was the conclusion…never mind that the other car was driven so close that it kissed our butt! Well of course we laughed all the way back to the hotel and joked about the strange little man on the scooter!

Dinner at the hotel was leek salad, lots of fresh, still warm bread, turkey breast with wine sauce, cheese, clafouti of red fruits and Chinese tea.

5.1.99…MAY DAY…  Beaulieu is just north up the coast from Nice toward Italy…the La BERLUGANE was where we stayed…Bonjour Madame…time for breakfast brought to the room on a tray with a tiny vase of flowers…Cafe, fresh baguette, butter, jam and kiwi…so nice to be in NICE! We took some pictures of the garden, packed the little car and left to spend the day exploring…My May Day gift was a fragrant bouquet of Muget, a tradition in France,  purchased from a vendor on the street corner…I have it still pressed in my photo book today.

We stopped in Biot, a small medieval village just north of Mougins,  to tour a few galleries and shops, then have lunch at a special place Jeanine chose, Restaurant des Arcades…she knew the owner, Andre, and chef! He came out and told us what we should eat for lunch and wrote the bill on the paper tablecloth. Such a treat to have fresh goat cheese salad, stuffed squash blossoms, grilled red peppers, tian Provencal…He, Andre, was so enthralled with Jeanine that he brought out a bouquet of flowers for the table and a bottle of Rose.

We found a wonderful little shop, La Maison de Lucille where we bought so much for the shop I had to eventually buy a new suitcase to get it all home….oils, soaps, placemats, chair cushions, napkins cigalle and such!

Lunch in Biot
Lunch in Biot

Nearly 5:00 already and time to get to Cannes to meet our friend Camille…so off we went!

[Come back for more in a few days!]

AAAHHH….Cannes, what a place to be. We were there before the festival season so we found a little seafood restaurant  along the MED was not too crowded for dinner. CHEZ ASTOUX   [still have my tiny ashtray]  sits along La Croisette, the famous avenue of Cannes where the festival takes place. In a  seafood coma after dinner, we decided to take a long walk along La Croisette, searching for celebrities…but since it was dark and we could not recognize anyone we left that area and walked over to the well-known Hotel Carlton for some picture taking.  With all the walking and food and excitement we soon grew tired and drove back to Camille’s apartment in Cannes. A glass of white wine on the balcony overlooking the sea and we were soon drifting off to sleep…

5.02.1999

After another nice breakfast, we headed out to find our way to Grasse, the perfume capital of France. The fragrance in the blending and distilling areas was overwhelming, but still pleasant…I bought some heart shaped soap, which still sits in my bathroom today, and some room spray. Oh, my…time to eat again so we found a place to walk and breathe fresh, unscented air along the Place des Aires Arcade. We ate salad and bread and then for dessert…Jeanine had fromage blanc and I had a piece of tarte tartin. Deciding to take a  drive along the mountain road where we had heard there was a wonderful place that made hand molded soap in lavender, mimosa and rose scents… we went in search of our little car…along the road we saw bright yellow mimosa in full fragrant bloom  growing wild along the road, just in time for the Mimosa Festivals going on throughout the valley. photo(28)

Found the little house where soap was being made and the owners welcomed us into their workshop…umm…m…m the scents were, I guess, heavenly is all I can say to describe what I felt…the sweetness was clean and fresh rather than heavy and cloying. In the photo I am sniffing the lavender growing in the road circle garden bed…it was just starting to send out bloom tips. How much nicer it would be to have such lovely traffic circles at home to guide us on our way…

Driving down the mountain on the way back to Cannes, we stopped many time to take pictures of small villages and many vegetable gardens growing on every hillside.

Another evening of wine and good conversation on the balcony,  cheese, bread and fruit and then to bed! It was 1:00 AM!!

5.03.1999

Breakfast, ummmmmm…cafe au lait was divine! Loaded the car and went off in search of a bank to exchange money…how efficient the tellers were…and then off towards the next place we wanted to visit…Aix-En-Provence. We rode through the center of the village and read signs posted that the Market or Marche would be open the next day…and most of the shops were CLOSED!! So off we went in the direction of Manosque. Sighting our first field of LAVENDER, we pulled off the little road to take pictures…here we are just so happy to be amonst the fragrant fields we dreamed of for so long. Jeanine sniffed the air and said…”there is thyme growing nearby…”! Together we walked down a dirt road and found an old stone farmhouse [Mas] with a field of thyme and and wildflowers growing in front…isolated and perfect.

photo(42)For several years we had laughed and talked about finding such a field of thyme…for many reasons but one in particular we both wanted to do more than anything else…we just had to “pee” on the thyme! You cannot imagine the fragrance! So after that relief, we ate  a baguette and some cheese sitting in the field…We finally had to leave our dream spot and drove off to find the road to Manosque…which turned out to be very winding and lined with stone houses and more gardens along the way…We walked the stone streets around the ancient village and found several wonderful shops actually open for business. So many beautiful old quilts and linens were stacked on armoire shelves just waiting to be treasured and used again. Oh, how I wish I had not hesitated about buying a fabulous old creamy white quilt, made in the village years ago…I had always imagined one just like it on my bed. The price was actually very good but I just thought I should  not spend the money…I have dreamed of that quilt for years since and still wish that I had just bought it then! Lesson learned! Very few places to stay so we drove around for a while and finally found a NOVOTELL, which was clean and well-appointed. After breakfast it was time to head back to Aix-En-Provence…so back down the mountain we went!

The driving was quite difficult down the winding road in pouring rain…but finally we arrived at Aix passing by the dolphin fountain on our way to the market…the rain stopped and the sun came out to play. Markets were just opening so we walked around the tents and found some honey [meil]. A sweet little grandmere gave us a discount and told us that her honey was much better than anything in America…she was so right. It had been collected from her bees having fed on mainly lavender blossoms.

We shopped along the Place and went crazy for a bit…Le Olivades for scarves, Mephisto for shoes I love, Chapeaux AX for a handwoven hat I still have and wear…so much to explore. The ancient fountains and doors and buildings were breathtaking in their beauty. The rain came back as we walked but we kept going, not wanting to stop no matter how hard the rain or how soaked we were! After a lemon presse, we headed back to Monasque for a second time. Our directions to a little place we had planned to stay were vague at best…so we stopped along the road at a little shop to get better directions.

photo(27)Here I am with Bruno, the shopkeeper selling wine, cheese, honey, jams and other provisions…we bought some lovely Rose, pate, Calvados and a bottle of Absinthe I still have in the French cabinet. Bruno insisted we taste his delightful Rose, so we did. Notice the scarf…still wear it. He gave us some very clear directions on how to get to the tiny village where we were expected for the night.

In the Alpes De Haute Provence and Revest-Des-Brousses area we found our little Inn…Natalie, the Innkeeper, chef and owner was expecting us. Our room was on the second floor so we dropped our bags and headed back to the dining room for dinner. Natalie lives at the Inn with her children and prepares lunches and dinners daily for villagers, cares for her garden, her horses and is restoring the Inn, herself! Her husband, a retired fireman, works in Marseilles and commutes to the village for weekends. There are only ten families living in the tiny place and two groups have not spoken to one another in over 50 years . An old feud about tree limbs hanging over a stone wall and shading tomatoes…or something like that!          Dinner was simple but done well…a provencal salad plate, goat cheese omelette and homemade lavender sorbet. We, Natalie, Jeanine and I, sat for hours in front of the old stone fireplace talking and listening to stories of the village…the old copper pot hanging from one of the rustic beams in the dining room was used by a traveling Priest, from Banon, to baptise the little children in the village…the local church had been vandalized and nothing was left of the sacraments…the young Priest hitchhikes up to the village every Saturday to hold Mass and then finds a ride back to Banon. We enjoyed a few glasses of her very potent thyme liquer and asked how she made it…90% grain alcohol, add lots of thyme and let it sit for two months. Then make a sugar syrup and divide the alcohol mixture into two bottles…add syrup and a bit of water to fill the bottle…let them sit for another two minutes and the viola!photo(20)

The Inn sits in                                                  photo(21)

the village square…

 

 

 

 

 

Jeanine, Natalie and me…my hat is the one I purchased in Aix…

It’s late, we have dined and enjoyed almost a whole bottle of thyme liquer…but such a special evening with our new friend, Natalie! off to bed and a night of rest finally! She snores…and the church bell rings and the cigalles chirp and the scent of lilacs in bloom drifting through the open window helps me drift off…

5.5.1999

Wha! HUH?? Le Cock is making his presence known this morning. I told Jeanine that the cuckoo clock I had seen downstairs was not keeping the right time and was making noises at the wrong time…she laughed and said…”There is another cuckoo bird in this room, silly! That is a cuckoo bird and they live around here…” Oh, duh!

Outside the window, the sky is so blue and you can still see the moon and again the scent of lilacs fill the air, so heavenly. We get out of bed and take turns bathing in the family tub at the end of the hall…you have to step in the tub and sit on the seat…it is a very low ceiling. We walk downstairs to find breakfast and there is cafe, fresh bread, jam and superb homemade lemon yogurt…taking our food over to the front window covered in half lace curtains…we sit and watch life in the village happen…

[More tomorrow about the lavender still and the goat farm…]

Born on the 7th of July…

JULY 1stmostly sunny, no humidity, 75 and gorgeous…the forecast for the next few days is more of the same. This can’t be Virginia!

Come into the garden

It’s so easy to lose yourself amid the fragrance, colors and ever-changing beauty of summer flowers in all their glory. I indulge my passion, or obsession, for a whole day: in the early morning hours taking time to stroll through the garden, admiring the flowers and foliage.

Clippers in hand, I often fill a basket, or better yet a bucket of water, with blooms while they’re still cool and fresh. Just a few flowers or foliage will add colorful touches anywhere in the house…I’ll put stems of daylilies, yarrow, oriental lilies, roses, daisies or herbs in an old bottle, teapot, pitcher, glass jar and any other interesting containers in the cupboard.

 It’s so simple to find something in the garden to snip…it might just be a bunch of fragrant fresh lemon thyme or rosemary grouped in a little pitcher on the kitchen window sill or spikes of luscious lavender for the tiny vase on my bedside table or lamb’s ears and artemisia in an old enamel coffee pot…it’s fun to be creative!

 

Later in the afternoon, it’s on to gathering petals from the heirloom roses for drying, for baking Rose Petal Scones, or to make potpourri…Always wait until the sun has dried the petals before trying to pick.

 While collecting seeds or seed pods from early flowering plants such as love-in-a-mist, columbine, poppies, larkspur, hollyhocks, sweet peas and so on I also wait ‘til early afternoon on a dry sunny day. Then I place them in a paper bag or envelope [no plastic] marked with the name of seed and date collected… and store in a cool, dry place…where I’ll remember them for next season!

All my plants grown from seed are heirloom varieties…which is why I can collect and use seeds season after season.

           Note: always store seeds in paper bags, envelopes or glass jars…never in plastic bags as they will turn moldy.

 

    A FLOURISH OF BLOOMS

Everywhere I look the garden is splashed with color…along the front border, densely packed plants smother the earth in an undisciplined fashion…frothy Lady’s Mantle, Georgia blue veronica, alyssum and red salvia by the front steps…filly pink hollyhocks [seeds a friend brought me from England], vibrant purple lavender stems, fresh white Shasta daisies and re-blooming daylilies create a happy jumble of cottage garden radiance…all against a background of hundreds of rose blooms.

 Image

 

HOLIDAY…This July morning means sunshine, early coffee on the porch, more blossoms, a little work, 4th of July food and usually some fireworks along the river.

Independence Day, almost my birthday…I remember 4th of July as a child of the 50’s…family reunions, gathered in the shade of magnificent old pecan and hickory trees…with endless wooden tables sagging under the weight of platters of fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, pickles, sugary ice tea, fresh lemonade, homemade rolls with freshly churned butter, frosted chocolate layer cakes, lemon meringue and berry pies…and huge watermelons

from our patch chilling in washtubs filled with chunks of ice. Oh, and swimming in the pond, 3-legged footraces, a softball game in the wilting afternoon heat…all a prelude to the real excitement of the holiday… endlessly turning the crank on the ice cream maker, catching lightening bugs and running around in the dark with sparklers…perfect moments, one after another…

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME…A few days later, WOW! What a SURPRISE!

My birthday gift was just delivered, 6 tons of flagstone…By 9:00AM several friends, all early risers, had also arrived to surprise me with their HELP in setting the path and small patio. I had been working on a design for a moon garden…as I am a Moonchild…for the side yard.The centerpiece of the moon garden is a small flagstone patio with a path leading around to the front yard.

We had so much fun lugging the stones around and fitting them together…just like a big puzzle party. Lots of good food had been prepared by my friends, too!  Much later, under the full moon, we sipped a nice chilled white wine as we relaxed, laughed and talked of our day. We had actually created and finished all the stone path, patio and outline of the moon garden design that day!

With every full moon since then, I look at my patio and path and thank the stars for my wonderfully generous friends…and their strong, much younger backs.

 

One of the dishes we enjoyed that day, that Jeanine prepared…A Magical Midsummer Feast…This is such a lovely, refreshing way to serve shrimp…

   Shrimp Salad with Mango…or papaya

For 2 servings use a pound of LARGE fresh shrimp, cooked with some lime and mango peels. Cool shrimp on ice, not in refrigerator as this will cause shrimp to dry out and get tough.

Cut up mango into small cubes a few minutes before serving the dish, add shrimp and rosemary* vinaigrette and mix lightly.

One could serve as an appetizer or on a bed of salad greens as a main course. Decorate plates with fresh rosemary and a curled orange slice. You’ll need a good baguette to slice and mop up the juices…and a crisp Rose´ de Provence.


    *Rosemary Vinaigrette

The amounts are approximate as I rarely measure…

½ to ¾ cup good olive oil                        1/2 cup red wine vinegar

3TB. Dijon mustard                               2 cloves garlic, chopped

¾ cup fresh orange juice               Salt and pepper and a handful of chopped rosemary…

Mix/whisk together all ingredients except the oil in a deep bowl…slowly add the oil while mixing. Store in a jar in refrigerator…you’ll love this with other salads as well.


Mid-July…A nice sunny morning…it’s time to cut back roses and many of the perennials that are finishing their first bloom flush.

After a good trim, I’ll use a Bar-B-Q skewer to aerate around the root zone and top dress with some good compost and water deeply or wait for the expected rain storm tonight. Time to make sure there is a nice thick layer of shredded hardwood mulch around all the planted areas. The mulch will keep the soil moist and cool and keep any weeds from sprouting. Doing all this now should allow me to be able to relax and enjoy my garden…wel-l-l, there’s always some deadheading and watering, of course, but that’s part of the fun/enjoyment of relaxing in the garden.

 

Speaking of deadheading…

Yaghhh, scary for some gardeners, but it’s nothing more than trimming off spent blooms.  Armed with sharp pruners and some basic tips about keeping plants neat and blooming all season long, it’s time to advance confidently into the garden.  When blooms start to fade, brown, curl or otherwise look bad…that’s the time to trim them off, encouraging more blooms to form.

 How to deadhead shrubby plants with many small flowers such as coreopsis, mums, feverfew, alyssum, asters, and daisies? Well, trimming one flower at a time would be rather time consuming! So, with a pair of old-fashioned grass shears, I just grab as much of the flower stalks as possible, avoiding any buds, and CLIP. Don’t worry if you get some of the foliage, it’ll grow back. Actually I trim indigo spires, salvia greggii, mealy blue sage and verbena this way, too.

Shrubby plants with large flowers such as phlox, coneflowers, zinnias, yarrow, rudbeckias and hydrangeas…use hand pruners, cut off each spent bloom at a leaf node, down on the stem where new growth has started…do not snip off flowers like MORTICIA!

 Long stem flowers on tall stalks or grassy foliage such as daylilies, larkspur, foxgloves, hostas, irises, daffodils, and agapanthus: simply cut back each flower stem with hand pruners as close to the spot where the flower meets the foliage/leaves…at ground level.

 Deadhead or ‘dress’ reblooming lilies by removing spent bloom stems at the ground, don’t allow them to set seed pods.

To ‘dress’ daylilies, society garlic or chives, gather their green leaves together into a ponytail and pull the yellow foliage off from around the bottom of the plants…sort of like running your fingers through your hair.

As for lavender…when you want to collect stems, inspect bloom spikes and cut them when they are just coming into bloom and before they over bloom. Cut on a dry, late morning when the oil has risen and the plant’s moisture content is high.

ROSES…not to be confused with pruning…deadheading roses means taking off spent blooms. With sharp, clean pruners make the cut at a 45° angle sloping downward toward the center of the bush. The cut should be made at a spot on a stem after the first set of 5 leaves, directly above an outward facing bud or leaf node…a node that points away from the center of the shrub.

WHEW! Got it? REMEMBER, where you cut back is where new growth happens.

 photo(24)

    SUMMER DREAMS…

Um-m-m, lavender, just caught a whiff from the big pot of the herb by the back door. Sublimely fragrant, soothing, invigorating and rich with healing properties, lavender has been cultivated from the beginning of recorded civilization.

 High up on the sun-drenched plateaus and hills around the mountain of Mont Ventoux in Provence, lavender grows in abundance, both cultivated and wild, where few other plants will grow. I don’t have to live in the south of France to enjoy the sweet smell and subtle beauty of lavender…much as I would love to though…I just plant it everywhere I can find a sunny spot.

  Lavender thrives in my garden filling the air with the scent I adore. I’ve planted several varieties: Munstead, Hidcote, Spanish, French and my favorite, Provence which is now almost 4’ high and gloriously blooming…for the second time this summer.

 Many clients tell me how much they want lavender…would love to grow it but can’t. Usually they over water or plant the herb in soil that is too heavy and poorly drained. While ‘researching’ lavender fields in Provence a few years ago, I discovered a way to plant and grow lavender that is very easy…

 PLANT IT RIGHT…dig a hole to fit the size of the container, but wider. Make a mound in the hole with 50/50 soil and pea gravel. Soak the plant inseaweed water while preparing the hole. Remove some of the peat moss and compacted roots from the root ball. Sit the plant on top of the mound and spread the roots…and whatever root ball is left…out and over the mound. The plant should be sitting up high…back fill hole with soil and gravel mix and water well with seaweed water.

Mulch at base of plant with rocks or pot shards or broken tiles…this keeps moisture and humidity from turning the plant gray at the base where it can rot. HANDWATER every other day the 1st week, every 3 days the 2nd week, and twice a week just until the plant starts to put on new growth. PLEASE NOTE: obviously you do not need to water if it rains during this time…monitor amounts of water carefully.

This method of planting also works well with rosemary…another herb from the Mediterranean that appreciates being planted in a loose, well-drained soil situation. 

PRESERVING THE TASTES OF SUMMER

Turn a bumper harvest of fruit into jams and jellies to enjoy the flavors of summer throughout winter…celebrate the bounty. Making jams and jellies might seem a bit old-fashioned, but it is such a delight to pick a jar from the shelf on a cold winter morning and spread the sweet taste of summer on freshly baked biscuits.

Aside from typical fruit jams…I love making something special for my Rose Petal Scones…

To make  LAVENDER JELLY…

…Place about 4-5 lbs. of washed and chopped organic apples in a large preserving pot with 2 tablespoons of lavender buds, freshly picked or recently dried, and add a few handfuls of blackberries……Add 6 cups of water and simmer until the apples are very soft……Spoon the contents of the pan into a jelly bag muslin, set over a bowl, and allow to drip overnight.

…Measure the liquid and allow 1 pound of organic sugar for every 2 cups of liquid……Place the apple liquid, sugar and another tablespoon of lavender buds in a preserving pan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. …Turn up the heat and bring mixture to a rolling boil. Cook until setting point is reached, then pot in small jars.

    I usually finish off the top of the jar with a wax seal before adding a lid…or fabric cover.

 

MIDSUMMER TASKS…any newly planted trees and shrubs that have not yet had time to develop a deep root system should be watched carefully for signs of stress. Water deeply, about an inch, once a week and keep well mulched.

For ROSES, continue to provide extra water during prolonged periods of hot, dry, windy weather; always give them enough to saturate the entireroot zone…a minimum of 1” per week.

For PERENNIALS, cut back to encourage more blooms, top dress with compost and water deeply…1” per week, typically.  Watering is especially important at this time of year if you’re pulling weeds or spent annuals from around existing plants…this simple task can be deadly for plants and is  responsible for allowing hot dry air into the soil and root zone of plants…this can eventually kill a plant. So remember to water well after weeding or pull weeds only after a rainfall.

     NOTE: Find saffron crocus bulbs to plant by late this month.Check with Kristin at Brent & Becky’s Bulbs

GRASS ROOTS…With an older mower…if it’s hot and dry, remove the bag from the mower and allow the cut grass to act as a moisture-retaining mulch…OR, if you have a new style lawnmower with a mulching blade, you’re already doing this.

 Staying Cool…A hot dry wind is blowing and moving in the tops of the trees while I’m trying to water my potager…as I move the hose to the back yard I find the guineas and little keats, too, frolicking under the sprinkler by the watermelon vines. Who said they were stupid?

 The summer garden, or my potager, is bountifully productive in July…it is utopia for natural predators and beneficial insects…windfalls are left for the birds while flowers attract bees. I dug in goodly amounts of my homemade compost to increase fertility, a process made easier by my large three-bay compost bin at the end of the garden. Kitchen waste, weeds, grass clippings, wood ash and debris from the potager and perennial garden beds are composted along with surplus leaves from the comfrey that I grow to make liquid plant feed…

There is no more succulent vision for me than vine-ripening tomatoes…from huge juicy heirlooms to cherry sweet 100 globes to yellow pear. No garden is too small to grow tomatoes, and there is no such thing as too much. Not only are they decorative, they can be trained to grow in a vertical space or a container of choice. Even large hanging baskets can be used: certain tomatoes will produce a crop happily in a big iron basket…they just need consistent watering and feeding.

Tumbling tomatoes droop and sprawl…for color, pest control and better flavor…I mix French marigolds and spicy globe basil into the basket…and, the hanging basket can be moved anywhere there is sun. But the best part…biting into a sun-warmed, fresh picked tomato wrapped in basil leaves.

 KNOW IT, GROW IT…Figs…give in to their temptation…voluptuous and sweet with velvety soft skin… and within, pink to scarlet fruit. Fresh from the tree, a perfectly ripe warm fig is a sumptuous treat.They flourish in the Mediterranean where they often grow wild.

While in Provence, I actually saw fig trees growing out of cracks in old stone walls. Ancient tradition permitted travelers to refresh themselves with a fig or two from any tree they passed.

Sun is essential for ripening figs. They also need well drained, organic, ‘not too rich’ soil, and tight growing conditions. In fact, if the roots are not constricted or confined in some way, leaf and branch will flourish at the expense of fruit, so treat them harshly when planting.

I planted a fig tree in my front yard in a spot that gets sun till about 3:00 pm and is then shaded by a big pine. I added just a bit of compost and then surrounded the roots with medium sized rough rocks before backfilling the hole. It got watered somewhat consistently the first year when rain was sporadic and then seldom the following year and now gets by on what nature provides.  Figs are also suitable for planting in containers to grow around the porch or patio. Remember not to use too big a container…their roots prefer to be constricted.

 Perfect fresh figs are such a divine treat and so beautiful, it seems a pity to cook or dry them…I use the blemished or very ripe fruits for those recipes. I love figs fresh from the tree, or served on a blue glass plate with a delicate creamy mound of goat cheese mixed with chopped walnuts, a drizzle of honey and orange zest!

Anyone blessed with a crop of homegrown figs might choose to make fig and lavender jam, a fig tart, or fig focaccia with bacon, mozzarella and mint…all deliciously seductive.

The only trouble with figs is the pesky habit of their little seeds that get stuck between the teeth.

 

TRUMPETS OF SUMMER…Lilies, with their elegantly flared and scented blooms, play a lovely part in the summer garden. Spring has bulb stars, but when other plants are wilting in the heat, flamboyant lilies step onto the garden stage performing with great talent. They offer a delightful fragrance, strong color and a bountiful harvest of blooms for cutting.

Lilies are among the oldest garden plants having been cultivated for over 3500 years. They were grown and used by ancient civilizations for food, medicine, cosmetics and religious ceremonies. Lilies are classified according to their geographical and horticultural origins and their flower forms…There are hybrids and Asiatics and Orientals and Species and more than I can keep up with.

Most people are familiar with the ‘lily white’ Easter lily grown and sold by the thousands each spring…and then sadly left neglected on the porch or at the cemetery to dry up and die in its plastic foil wrapped pot.

 Distinct Personalities…Some blooms may be shaped like trumpets or like tiny turbans with petals curled back on themselves. Flowers may flare out horizontally, open upright, appear to flutter, or hang inverted in tiers from candelabra-like stems. Their colors span the spectrum in every hue but blue…from palest celadon and fiery copper to all shades of pink and yellow and burgundy. The faces of many of the lilies feature freckles and some have throats streaked with sulphur yellow…AND, their names…regal, mysterious and quite enticing…Casa Blanca, Black Dragon, Standing Ovation, and Stargazer.

One of my favorite combinations is frothy bronze fennel with orange tiger lilies.

 Variety Show…Lilies offer a diversity that makes them at home in many different sites; perennial borders, woodland gardens, rock gardens, containers, cutting and cottage gardens. They look best planted in clusters of three or more; average height is somewhere between 3-6 feet.

 Growing Lilies…Lilies are fairly easy to grow and will often naturalize given the right cultural conditions. Plant the fleshy bulbs in spring in absolutely well drained soil, where there is good air circulation with a partly sunny exposure. Lilies like moist, loose or loamy soil that has been amended with good compost…I usually toss in a handful of rock phosphate as I plant. For a random look, most bulbs should be planted twice as deep as a bulb is tall, in groups of 3-5 spaced about 12-18 inches apart…circles & ovals…no lines! Mulch well and water deeply around the roots when Mother Nature doesn’t. Lilies do well when under planted with low-growing companions as their roots prefer some shade.

I have discovered by experience that some of these lilies do better growing amongst some mostly evergreen shelter such as southernwood or my favorite, bronze fennel. The foliage protects the long lily stems from the wind and their blooms are majestic emerging above these fluffy fragrant herbs.

 Pot up some lilies in a container for the patio, given their beguiling beauty and fragrance; you’ll soon succumb to these irresistible blooms of summer.

‘SHOW ME YOUR GARDEN… and I shall tell you what or who you are…’I’m sure my garden reveals much about me…each plant, structure, stone and whimsy in my garden says something about my life…whether it was chosen because it evokes a special memory, reminds me of someone, celebrates a friendship or simply adds shape, color and texture…something from my design background.

For instance, there are the roses, phlox, lilacs, spirea, four-o’clocks, tomatoes and much more that remind me of my grandmother’s garden where I spent so much time growing up…the rusty red and coppery plants for my red-headed friend, Beverly, in Oregon…the lavender, rosemary, thyme, fig tree, and poppies for my French sister, Jeanine, and our trip to France…Oh, the gorgeous purple blooms of the catmint that Karen helped me plant…as well as the iris and larkspur from Suzanne…all the wonderful stones and fossils that Bear and Dougal helped me collect from the pastures and roadsides…the glorious field of wildflowers for my dear friend, Lucy…the towering sunflowers that light up the garden for my grandchildren…and most of all, the absolute joy the garden brings me for my daughters… for gardening is a love, an expression that comes from the heart.

Such personal choices and sharing are what makes a garden so special…from riotous cottage gardens to serene and orderly spaces…it’s the ‘gathered flowers in a Mason jar’ versus the ‘perfect arrangement in a crystal vase…’

 

THE DOG DAYS of SUMMER…that time from late July through early August. A period marked by lethargy and inactivity…the sultry part of summer occurring during the period that SIRIUS, the Dog Star or brightest star in the sky, rises at the same time as the sun…

 

Growing with the seasons…I’m awake, listening to the rain tattoo on the roof, thinking that my plans for working today with the potatoes should be put off to another day when the soil has dried. Oh, but I know there are lots of sweet and tender peas ready for picking…quite tasty raw, in salads or lightly steamed with butter! There is, however, something very special about hot, buttered peas with newly dug potatoes. So, I laid out a few “stepping boards” in the garden and forked up some stunning baby red potatoes that I will add to my peas!

 Some Alpine strawberries are also already red and juicy…waiting to be picked!

          Remember to top off the birdbaths with fresh water daily, especially during really hot days.


Dance by the Light of the Moon…Tonight, the full moon is so bright I don’t need a lantern to wander through the new white garden. My Moon Garden, full of white blooms and silvery gray foliage, is intriguing every day…but enchanting by moonlight. In the evening, flower shapes seem to standout and throughout the garden silver foliage twinkles, glimmers and reflects the glow of the full moon. Strolling through the fragrant shimmering garden I find fireflies and lacewings fluttering about. The sweet scent of white lilies, jasmine and roses float on the warm July night air…

 

 So many friends asked for the recipe…

 ROSE PETAL DROP SCONES

SIFT2 ¼ C. Unbleached flour

           2TBLSP. Sugar

            ¾ tsp. salt

            2 tsp. baking powder

            ½ tsp. cinnamon

ADD…4-5TBLSP. Butter and blend until it resembles coarse corn meal

STIR IN…1/2 cup ground pecans into butter mixture

Combine in small bowl…1 cup of heavy cream, 1 tsp. rose water and ¼ cup of chopped rose petals [organic only]

Preheat oven to 425…add liquid ingredients to the dry and stir to form a soft dough. Arrange dough in heaping tablespoons on lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer scones to rack set over wax paper.

Make icing…1 cup conf. sugar

                   1Tblsp. Rose jelly mixed with ½ tsp rose water

Whisk together till smooth, add a little cream if icing is too thick. Drizzle icing on warm scones. Should make about 2 dozen. THESE ARE SO-O-O-O GOOD!

 

Please enjoy reading about July in my garden and then share with friends on facebook!