A House in Provence Chapter 8


I obviously have a thing for door and windows. This was a lovely one in the village of Goult.

A House in Provence
Chapter 8
Landscaping

Because of the four foot drop out our back door and back porch we realized that we had to hire a landscaper. It was going to be a huge job requiring porches and steps all over the place. Our property was actually divided into two sections with half of it a good 25 feet below our house. Someday I wanted to have some olive trees planted there as well as a vegetable garden and we would need some sort of steps to get down there. We were also going to have a swimming pool installed to help us make it through the long hot Provencal summers. Several people suggested that the pool be put down below. I admit that it might look better but I didn’t want it to be a big production to get to the pool on a safari just to go swimming. I wanted it to feel like it was part of the landscaping attached to the house.
A landscaper was recommended to us by the girlfriend of one of our new neighbors, this being a guy, an artist, who was building his house himself. I had gone in and looked around and really liked the design of it. We could see an interesting sculpture he had created from our kitchen window. He and Maurice didn’t hit it off very well, though. The first thing he said when meeting us was that they had built our house too quickly, that the foundation wasn’t going to be good. We found out he was going through a divorce so maybe that made him crabby. Eventually he wasn’t able to finish the house for whatever reason-lack of money or just a job beyond him- and he sold the house. The new owners had to completely dig out under the house to fix a drainage problem.
It turned out that the landscaper was a woman wearing ankle high work boots with socks, short shorts, a muscle t-shirt and a really great tan. She did a lot of hiking in the area and she looked like she was in incredible shape and her hand shake was one of those that had me checking for broken bones afterwards. We liked the plans she came up with and she was very affordable so we hired her. She was going to trim some of the big trees around our house, replant some old olive trees growing here and there and get some porches built.
The people who would be putting in the pool were concerned with the stability of the soil and dug several holes in several places to check it all out. If it wasn’t stable enough, some sort of support beams would have to be installed to support the pool so it wouldn’t go sliding down the mountain. This, of course, would add greatly to the cost of the pool.
Another thing that was new to me was the way the various porches would be built. I assumed they would just pour some cement and that would be it but, again, if we wanted cement immediately we would have to have support beams adding to the cost. What they do is build the walls of the porches, fill them with dirt and then top that with small pebbles. Then, a year or two later, it can all be covered with cement or some sort of paving stones.
The first time it rained we had a lake in front of the house. Because of the pile of debry and rocky conditions, we couldn’t even get in our garage so that had to be taken care of too. It was depressing to look out the window and see all that had to be done. I had to keep in mind that a year from now it would probably all look great.
We were told to go to a nursery and look at some plants. I was expecting to see all sorts of varieties that I had never seen before but they all looked like plants I was used to in the States, plants such as photinia and oleander. One tree I really like in this area is the Parasol Pine. They have such a wonderful sillhouette, especially as you are driving into the Cote d’Azure. I like the way several of them join together looking like a cumulous cloud on the horizon. I mentioned them to our landscaper but she wasn’t too happy about them. She wants the landscape to look natural with the same vegetation already growing on the surrounding hills. I think I’m going to stand my ground, though. It is going to be our yard, not hers. Cherry trees do really well in Provence and I would love to have at least one planted by our house too. Wysteria grows everywhere in France and we are going to have what they call a tunnel, a curved frame, that the wysteria can grow up and over providing shade and a lovely sweet fragrance when the purple flowers are in bloom.
I had pictured quite a few trees in our yard but trees and swimming pools don’t mix, not if you don’t want to spend most of the day skimming out leaves and blooms out of the water. We are trying to come up with creative ways to have trees, along with the relief of shade, as well as a pool. We may just have to have man-made shade for the most part, at least near the area of the yard near the pool.