Tag Archives: style

“The Art of French Vegetable Gardening”

Curious thing – Donny and I went skiing in the Italian Alps about 15 years ago, and I came home fascinated with the cliff-hugging, terraced gardens I saw on the bus ride from Lake Como to Bormeo. So, I found a book on French gardens…

Actually, I am fascinated with both cultures – art, cooking, style, langauge and always thought I would see both countries more extensively than I have, by now. But, I married a man who told me we would “look” at things when we retire; until then, we would “do” them. So, Florence was never visited while I shushed down the training slopes of Italian Olympians.

How I made the leap from the envying the grape trellises of the Alps to wishing to copy the structure of Versailles is not clear, other than this beautiful book I ordered from one of my book clubs: “The Art of French Vegetable Gardening” by Louisa Jones.

It changed my view on how my garden should look; it changed it from a Midwestern row garden to a “potager”. It changed me as a gardener – in fact, I think it created me as a gardener.

The Spring following our return from Italy was spent redesigning the 18′ x 30′ vegetable garden of rows into the plotted, raised bed, perennial-bordered, 34′ x 41′ Big Garden.

It is both too big and not big enough, depending on my enthusiasm: too small in the planning stages for all I want to grow, too large in the creation and clean up stages, and again too small when the plants I could not restrain myself from growing overshoot their boundaries – something that happens no matter how carefully I plan. Actually, I will not take the blame for that – it has to be the wonderful soil I have cultivated.

At any rate, it is again time to inventory the seeds that can be resown from last year, plan the map, order more seeds, and start the babies on my garden shelves. I can’t wait – truly time to Spring Forward!

In The Garden (ITG)

Hanging on the knob of the door leading outside from my kitchen is a little wooden sign, rusticlly painted with carefree lilies and the words “I’m in the Garden” – must have picked it up at some herb festival  or other; can’t remember but it is clearly handmade and at $10 (or even $5), I provided a lot of profit to its maker. It is not my usual style, I could easily have made it for about .25, and my husband resisted its residency due to its, infrequent, prevention of shutting the door easily. 

I don’t know why, but I love it. It serves no purpose because I don’t move it to indicate when I am REALLY “in the garden”. But, it does have those purple lilies and cheers me up when I am not ITG.

I saw it tonight and realized that it is about time to put it away for the season – see, I take it down until I am ready to be ITG again – which really means I store it until after the Christmas decor is put away. I have a Santa to hang in its place (I have a real Santa collection (complex) so I need the knob…).

So, while I prepare for the holidays (another complex), the little sign will be in a box in the basement, next to the seedling bench.

But, I will still have ITG moments as I gather from the yard the makings of an Advent Wreath:  box, holly, cedar, pine, crepe myrtle berries, maybe even some hydrangea, rose hips, and crab apples – it is always interesting to see what is out there that will work.

Even before that, I will be able to find oak leaves for Thanksgiving and a few small pumpkins are holding up. It is just a matter of looking and imagining. That is the reward of the work – the beauty that can be retained in the “off-season” – when I am not ITG.