A springtime full of promises…

Walking through a deciduous woodland wonder, filled with daffodils and bluebells in early spring, is a magical experience…

photo(14)

A stand of budding deciduous trees under planted with drifts of daffodils and tulips create a symphony of color…and promises full-filled by nature for another year.

IMG_4154

A picturesque patchwork of flowers and foliage, sunlit clearings, spots of shade and a work of nature always in progress…

From branches of delight to the old-fashioned shrubs of spring, you’ll find a traditional feast full of blooms and fragrance…vivid pink blossoms of Oriental cherry, pale red buds, purple plums, and later, in time for Easter…dogwoods, a sure symbol of new life.

crabapple

Crabapple blooms ^ waiting for continued warmth, the buzz of pollinating bees and then the fruits of summer…Cut a few branches before they bloom to bring inside.

Breathtakingly beautiful spring displays of bloom…the annual transformation of bare branches into blossoms and leaves…cherry, apple, pear, viburnum, lilacs, spirea, mock orange and so many more…promises kept that lift the heart and inspire you to put on your garden boots and get outside!

Get your gardening season off to a good start…FullSizeRender(71)

Spread finished compost in garden beds and then rework your compost pile as needed…to really get growing strong.

Managing your kitchen garden/potager is as much about learning how simple it is to just do basic care & maintenance and then let Nature happen…This is one of the hardest things to do in an era of “instant gratification takes too long”! If you have created an organic kitchen garden, it should be a joy to just pinch and pick and keep watered…Oh, wait…you do have a potager, certainly?? The one shown below is a rustic example of growing in a country setting…my favorite. However, I promise, it is simple to adjust the plan to an urban environment.

IMG_3126

Such a clever use of space and raised areas along with a great group of herbs as companion plants...the garden ^ has been created on a 4 square basis. It’s a glorious spring morning, all is quiet in the garden and the woods behind the house except for an occasional birdsong…with longer daylight hours there is more time to enjoy routine tasks, to plan and potter in the garden…to share salad greens and spring peas…and soon organic eggs from my new flock…just getting started inside today.

I’ve reworked the old chicken pen to provide a safer space for containment if I’m away for a few days, otherwise, when old enough, they’ll wander the garden daily on pest patrol.

IMG_4181

The beginning of my new flock, the little chicks here, staying warm under a light, will stay in the trough until they are large enough to move into their new and improved living space…will keep you posted. ^

cutting

Promise of Posies…Do you have a cutting garden? In addition to my garden of perennials, roses, herbs and such, a separate cutting garden…if you have the space and the sunshine…is a must in order to create a feast of flowers, both annuals and a few perennials, for enjoyment in vases around the home and to share with friends. I often plan such gardens for clients and some years, if not too busy, for me. My planning started in January and planting/sowing of some seeds started late in February …

The cutting garden year starts with daffodils, tulips, drifts of blue scillia and narcissus followed by Iceland poppies, scented stock & wallflowers, iris, love-in-a-mist/nigella, sweet peas, and lime green euphorbia!

Late spring to early summer brings snapdragons, calendula, dianthus, sweet rocket, sweet william, woodland phlox, Canterbury bells, bachelor buttons, and a continuation of more sweet peas.

And mid summer into fall…drifts of cosmos and daisies, zinnias of all colors, Mexican sunflowers, summer phlox, salvias, dahlias, amaranthus, coreopsis, verbenas, coneflowers, and chocolate cosmos.

IMG_0626

With all of the above...easily planted by seeds, bulbs, cuttings or starts…you’ll have wonderful drifts of flowers and fragrant blooms to pick from spring to fall. Who wouldn’t  love that, even on a much smaller scale?

FullSizeRender(72)

Experimenting is a good way to learn about flowers, how they grow, how long they bloom and how happy they are living in groups as shown above…A few  years ago I created a small cutting garden of all white blooms and silver foliage which offers a variety of bouquets from my cutting garden. It was such a success I then expanded with many more white and silver plants with a Moon Garden design…in a July post a few years back.

leekSome favorite ingredients from the spring garden are leeks and a few “new” potatoes, freshly dug from their growing baskets…the photo above shows a very creamy version of delicious leek & potato soup. When I make this soup it stays more rustic and a bit chunky…as I do NOT have an immersion blender. But, that’s fine, just personal preference. Leek and potato soup, with a glass of wine, a baguette and piece of cheese, is a simple, inexpensive and delightful meal served very often in Provencal country homes…and, at my country home in Virginia!

IMG_0485    Last March, springtime in Texas, with my French sister, Jeanine, we made Chicken pie and picked fresh salad greens from her potager! See how lovely the tiny bouquets are from her early garden of blooms.

alone holly

She keeps watch over the new flock…

26b7d7622f8a33d4d10b4057eb72d922

Happy Spring picking!!

Special hello and thank you to a blog reader in Texas, Felicia…she happened upon Jeanine at a local garden center and recognized my sister from the blog!!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

A certain je ne sais quoi…

                         A post of a different color…it gives you a another viewpoint.

FullSizeRender(24)

My friends know I have long been enchanted with all things French...the history, the language, the lifestyle, the elegance and simplicity, the furnishings, the decor, the passion and reverence for time worn pieces passed from one generation to the next, along with the rustic allure and charm of the countryside. Very few know why…

This great love and deep appreciation took root as a bookish 12 year old after reading The Diary of Anne Frank… I began my quest to find out all I could about World War II and especially the role of the Resistance in France, which, of course, led me to read many other books about the sacrifices made by other countries and their heroic people who fought and died during the Nazi Occupation of much of Europe! There were so many intriguing stories…Historical fact and fiction of Europe along with books about American history became my companions as I traveled the world through their words.

Traveling for the first time to Paris & Provence in 1999, I was thrilled to be walking the ancient and historic streets I had imagined and read so much about. On the Il de Cite’, Jeanine and I were standing in line outside a small ice cream/sorbet shop when I noticed a stone plaque on the building across the walkway. I walked over while Jeanine ordered for us and found a passage engraved on the stone…loosely remembered…”In this place Jewish children were hidden during the occupation of Paris.” So there I stood, thinking of all the historical events, this very thing I had read about, tears streaming, I thanked God for the people brave enough to fight the Nazis.

While living in the mountains of Colorado in my late twenties…I met a lovely, gracefully aging lady from France who happened one day to walk into my design shop. We talked and talked, she sharing about her home in Provence and why she was living in Colorado, me sharing how much I loved listening to her. She actually lived near me in the Evergreen Meadows east of the village. Enthralled with her accent, her soft, silvery gray hair styled into a bun at the nape of her neck, her blue eyes moist as she spoke of Provence, she asked if I would help with a party at her home. A few days later, excited by her invitation to visit, I followed the directions up the mountain canyon to what she called her rustic home…well, she personified grace and elegance and her home was very much a reflection of just those qualities. It was a home filled with timeless treasures, flea market finds beside the patina of well-loved furniture, enchanting vignettes of china pieces, copper and crystal, and a host of charming antique curiosities…peeling, cracked, and chipped! Her garden…a tangle of relaxed and carefree sunny blossoms. I was there to plan a Bastille Day Celebration for her which turned out to be a rather spectacular yearly event. We remained friends, sharing our love of France and gardening for several years until…Well, and then I moved away…

Living in California...This antique silver box was a thank you gift from a great French lady who became a client while I lived and worked in California. She hired me to design and completely furnish a large condo unit she had purchased in Century City….all while she was still in Paris. We spoke on the phone, weekly, through her daughter who spoke English.fullsizerender101

Working for Madame, as I called her, was such a great experience…every selection and design element was presented and sent by courier to Paris…she would look over the details and then exclaim as we spoke on the phone, often as late as 9:00PM…’how very French this will look and how did you know so easily what I would like…’ That was the easy part, putting the “LOOK” and “STYLE” together. Getting the fabrics and wallpapers and  work and built-ins done and furniture installed in time for her first visit was the challenge. Another French friend, an antique dealer from Pasadena, in the last few weeks of the process, found many pieces from Paris markets that I used to furnish and accessorize the space that became a warm and gracious home filled with color, pattern, art and great spots for relaxing. I still remember her first words as she walked into her home away from home…’Oh, c’est magnifique!’

fullsizerender99

 

And, it happened again…Many years later later I met, by chance, my transplanted French sister, Jeanine, shown above on the right. Once more, I fell into the French of all things…talking, laughing, sharing so much. We began with our love of gardening, then we began cooking together and teaching others about cooking the French way, and then on to our trip to France where we evolved into sisterhood. We enjoy a rich history filled with wildly sumptuous meals, captivating & playful adventures, and an enduring deep friendship. I think back, that hard lump in my throat, of all the memories spent together, the four of us…her husband, Luat, and my late husband, Carl… and all the others who came to enjoy time spent eating and drinking wine while gathered around the pool. We still visit, text every few days and travel when we have time..that will never change.

img_2431

Quoi de neuf? Our get-togethers over good wines and cheese and a baguette fresh from the oven were often the perfect ending for our day spent in the garden, our time to talk, to laugh, to relax and to sometimes cry…

So now you know and understand a bit more of how my life has been deeply influenced by …all things French.

 

Over many decades, I have collected vintage pieces from France,  and a few from Italy and England, that filled my homes around the country, reflecting the gracious marks of time and use, along with an occasional whimsy that inspired conversation. My heart fills with love for these everyday objects that were made to last, with the charm of the French way…to care for, to use and to lovingly pass down to the next generation…who will hopefully appreciate their passage through time.

 

img_2010
Holly says hello…

cerise 3Cerise loves her time spent in the lavender fields…one day I’ll see them again with her and Jeanine.

 

 

 

“Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship.”  Elsa Schiaparelli

March…a time of awakening, lions & lambs & spring cleaning!

 

When the countryside awakes in early spring, the fields and deciduous woods glow with drifts of naturalized daffodils…dancing & fluttering in the breeze, these early flowering bulbs, the color of spring, emerge like hidden treasures. Forsythia, pussy willow and pink star magnolia blooms follow, the sweet signs of spring. Everything is clear and fragrant, life and nature…as certain as the moon and stars!

img_4100

Springing into action…time to take advantage of warmer weather to begin pruning, planting and mulching. Already my garden is a spring bouquet of daffodils, forsythia, magical white snowdrops, tiny purple iris, winter honeysuckle, blue rosemary buds, creamy star anise, and winter jasmine’s cheery cascade of sunny blooms on naked green shoots…everywhere I walk, fragrance is abundantly sweet. It is sheltered by woods and enriched by years of leaf-mould and compost…a joy to work in. Suddenly the wind begins to blow, oak treetops swirling like a mixer and I find it difficult to work…my favorite garden hat…found at a little shop in Aix-en-Provence…blows away across the yard and into the woods. Chasing it, I stumble, fall and thankfully land in a pile of leaves I had raked away earlier! Struggling to stand, I check everywhere and find all is well…of course, tomorrow the bruises and aches will make themselves known!  The joys of aging apparent, even though I’m in good “shape” for my age!

 

fullsizerender98

Spring is traditionally the season for fresh goat’s milk cheeses…and all over southern France the farmers’ markets will be bursting back into life after the winter break. I love the individuality of a goat cheese from different farms…some rolled in ash, some wrapped in chestnut leaves soaked in brandy or bourbon, some allowed to form a slight rind or crust. Crottins de Charvignol, a French classic goat cheese, available at fine fine markets, is a mainstay favorite for cooking or crumbled on a salad.

Refresh your home for spring…March is typically a month for spring cleaning, a time to sweep up dust in the corners, along baseboards and bunnies under the bed.A good time for moving around furniture a bit and cleaning all wood surfaces with lavender or lemon oil water. I use only natural products…lemons, vinegar, baking soda, borax and essential oils…never synthetic sprays for fine wood pieces! It feels so good to give my home a fresh look and fragrance that reflects the change in season. **See past years for much more details on natural cleaning.

coffee-window

Watching the garden transform from bare to beautiful…while planning a new planting area! Friends often ask me…”Why do you have so many blooms in your garden in late winter and early spring?” My reply leaves them puzzled…”I design gardens and landscapes with a long season, almost year-round, of blooms and fragrance. Both are very important aspects of any garden. Puzzled because they don’t really know that much about plants and just buy what they see that they like…then get mainly plants that they see  blooming in spring and nothing much more as the seasons unfold!

Garden design is not an exact science, it’s an emotional response to colors, textures, shapes, scent and bloom…for me it is also about experimentation, flexibility and inspiration! Typically I base a garden around a few simple things…good shrubs and plants, evergreen and deciduous, focal points, paths, and structures…and most of all a design that suits the site, the climate and the needs/wants of the gardener. Many layers of planting add depth and a long season of bloom resulting in a garden that excites, invites and soothes the senses!

Love these diverse structures for the garden…both have a rustic feel to some degree, perfect for a cottage garden.

creekbed

Dry creek bed…This is another very important aspect of designing a garden…planning for rain and run off! This shows using a simple stone swale to carry rainfall from downspout winding through the yard to the street. I have designed many expansive dry creek beds for clients that wind through a landscape and eventually end in a small pond. Consider this if you have drainage issues before you start planting a garden.

It’s late, the wind is slowed down a bit and time to think about dinner for Holly and me and which wine I want to open…til next time!

be039d95-e0a8-4f82-b157-01c0c259fccf Woof from Holly!! Love from Patricia