The French Country Garden by Louisa Jones

In a previous post, I gushed on about my turning point in gardening – a ski trip to Italy.  I know, I know. It was January and we saw no gardens… But on the bus trip from Milan to Bormio, my jet-lagged self struggled to stay awake so I would miss nothing of the views. Lake Como is probably the prettiest place I have ever been and that is something for me to say since I also adore Jackson Hole, Lake Tahoe, and the Canadian Rookies. And, that is before I think of places with beaches…

Despite being tired, I was mesmerized by the tiered gardens that clung to the mountain sides. Bormio is in the high northern edge of Italy just below Switzerland – we are talking serious Alps. I am not usually afraid of heights, but skiing here literally gave me vertigo – like if I were to fall, I would not stop soon.

So, how in the world did a gardener conquer this steppes – by cutting stepped tiers into their side to create level rows running perpendicular to the mountains’ slope. I was fascinated!

I had yet to read “Under A Tuscan Sun”, but I knew I wanted to grow everything I had eaten: arugula, heirloom tomatoes, basil and so much more. I was entranced – a  foodie was born!

Upon returning home, mid-February found me hunting down instruction on how to have, if not exactly an Italian, at least a European-inspired garden. Having already been to England years before, I was also trying to read  Gertrude Jekyll’s and Vita Sackville-West’s originals (difficult).

So, how did I happen upon a book by Louisa Jones? Titled “The Art of French Vegetable Garden” wasn’t the thing – it was the photography. But , this book changed my world, gardening-wise. I still turn to it each winter to get through a grey period.

Leap forward to Tuesday:  I drop by a new local library to grab a stack of gardening books. This is an old habit – I will take home anywhere from 5-20 books to peruse through March. In the pile was “The French Country Garden” – I didn’t make note of the author, but I figured I would enjoy it for the pix alone, if nothing else. Guess who wrote it? Louisa! I have been fooled before into thinking a particular author sounded like her only to check names and be wrong, and disappointed.

So, what is so special? The photography of course, but the lessons on garden design! Experience can teach me what plants will do what when but american vegetable growing is about production and not necessarily beauty. I am happy to have a few less tomatoes if I can have sunflowers too. The look and feel – the inspiration – of my garden is just as, if not more, important. I am feeding my soul not just my family.


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