A Garden in Provence


Oh, my aching back!

A Garden in Provence

To tell you the truth, I thought I was through with gardening. I had done it all of my former life with a huge vegetable garden in Arizona and massive landscaping in Texas. I was out there every Autumn and Spring either planting tulip bulbs and pansies or red and white begonias in the flower beds. When I had a house of my own eventually, I had a small garden of flowers but mainly low maintenance bushes, 10 very prolific pecan trees planted by the previous owner, and a lawn I thought too large as I had to mow and water it. Every Autumn I was raking what seemed like tons of leaves and bagging them, gathering pecans, although many neighbors came by to help themselves, and pulling up fledgling pecan trees in the grass.
When I moved to Paris with Maurice, I gave a little sigh of relief. I love gardening, especially the results, but the labor was getting to me. In Paris all I had was two pots of geraniums to water on holders outside two windows. When we started building in Provence, I thought I would keep it all really low maintenance, with lavender plants, maybe a pot or two of flowers, lots of gravel and- a wish of mine- a “tunnel” with wisteria growing up the side to spread over the top giving us shade and a sweet fragrance in the Spring.
Well, life being life-and being married-nothing turned out like I thought it would. I do have quite a bit of gravel but we had to add unexpected plots of elevated and walled areas and some terracing, as the land drops off from our house. Maurice planted grass-sigh- around our pool and we have trees and bushes planted to help block views from neighbors into our yard or just to help the look of our yard. On a hill steeply going down to a further yard, we planted many santalina, rosemary and lavender plants to help hold the dirt in place. What I thought would be low maintenance has not turned out to be the case. The first year we had to water them once a week which did pay off as we now have really luxurious santalina and lavender growing. The rosemary was a little disappointing. I am used to it loving the heat and really doing well in the Southwest, but, so far, it is being outpaced by its neighboring plants.
Mrs. M., our landscaper in the beginning stages of our yard, told Maurice that not only do the lavender need to be trimmed of its flowers at the end of the flowering season, something I did last year-a wonderfully fragrant job-but so do the santalina. I haven’t counted the number of santalina plants as I don’t want to get too depressed, but I’m guessing there are about fifty of them. They have stopped blooming and are now all covered by what were once bright yellow flowers, now darkening into brownish yellow shades. I didn’t trim them last year and they did alright although they did get “holes” in the foliage where I guess the plant got too heavy.
So, every morning, trying to beat the heat, I am out there cutting off the flowers of four or five bushes a day so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I try to do most of it sitting down to save my back. I am using ordinary scissors to do the job with no problem. I sit next to the lavender which still attracks many bees hoping they don’t mind me sharing their territory. At the closeup proximity in this little microcosm, I see spiders-I don’t think Provence has any poisonous varieties-grasshoppers-some realy large-and a praying mantis or two. Lots of fuzzy, velvety bees, and, of course, my butterflies come to join me. There aren’t as many as there were when the santalina was covered with fresh flowers, but they still come for the lavender.
So, here I am, back at gardening, which is really a full time job but, other than a sore back and fingers at the end of the day, I have to admit that I am enjoying it.