In France, time spent in a garden is part of la vie quotidien – part of how daily life should be lived.
And don’t we miss it! We fly back home from France and yearn for those Sunday lunches under the vines. Miss our morning coffee sipped out of doors, or pine for a glass of wine with friends under the stars. And why? Because gardens in France are rooms made for living in, and so often our gardens back home are not. But it doesn’t take much to create a French chambre en plein air of your own.
Where to start?
Only a small section of your garden needs to be devoted to la vie quotidien. In fact, if you have a large garden, section off a small area with a vertical trellis or two. Or use a row of garden beds to simply create the shape of a room.
Lavender is a must. It’s as French as berets and baguettes. An olive tree wouldn’t go astray either. It doesn’t have to be large or advanced. In essence, French cottage gardens are homely creations, and always a little riotous. They are gardens for living in, not toiling in. Steer clear of delicate, exotic plants and opt for hardy, everyday specimens like oleander, rosemary, and the like. And don’t bother with flowering annuals. A few geraniums here and there will provide a splash of colour almost all year round. And let everything grow as it will, whether spilling out of a garden bed or climbing a wall.
One special item you might like to have in your French garden is a beautiful Anduze Urn. These planters originated in the town of Anduze over 400 years ago, and have been gracing French gardens ever since. Their simple ornamentation and inverted bell-shape are the epitome of French chic. Traditionally, Anduze urns were placed against garden walls or either side of a doorway, but place yours where ever you like.
Down to earth
Somewhere there should be stone. If not flagstones or crazy paving, then a rockery or stone edged garden bed will do. Rough render on a brick wall will produce the same earthy effect. And walls can be painted one of those sun-bright or earthy colours we associate with the rugged outdoors: ochre, yellow, or cream.
Table and chairs
Outdoor dining is the raison d'être of a French garden. In old France, outdoor tables and chairs were invariably made of beautiful, hand-forged metalwork. It was prone to rust unfortunately. But not any more! Today, metal garden furniture in the French style is readily available. Every curlicue and scroll is hand forged, just like their antique cousins, but this new furniture is made of galvanised steel which will never rust. Cane is also a favourite but it perishes quickly in the pein air, unless you haul it in and out as required.
And that’s it. A few chairs grouped around a pretty table, an element of stone, a few plants in an urn and all the rest left to grow wild, and you’re done. What drew you out of doors in France will call to you again. Only this time it’s waiting just outside your own back door.
KW: Please put a link from Anduze Urn to the Yardware product page for these urns.