Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Not So Secret Gardens of Leran

When I happened to be traveling in France a few years ago, I was reading a book called "Educating Alice: The Adventures of a Curious Woman". The author, Alice Steinbach, travels not simply as a tourist, but immerses herself with a local expert to experience a sense of place, if even only visiting briefly. Ironically, I came to the chapter on the secret gardens of Provence at the very time we were staying at Joan and Drew's French country house in Vaison la Romaine in the Luberon of Provence.

In the tiniest villages of Provence, behind unassuming doors on narrow lanes or screeching motorways, Ms. Steinbach was introduced to secret worlds. People passionate about plants and the relationship of plants and personal well-being, poured their hearts and souls into these hidden treasures. There are no doubt those secret places in Leran, but I do not know them...yet. But I have seen the doors.

Down the lane from Rue du Four are the unattached garden plots. They are sacred grounds to those that care for them, some having constructed elaborate garden sheds and others more humble structures. These plots, while a short distance from the village, are deeded to village houses, and are sold with a house. They run along the river, and clever mechanisms pump water for flowers and vegetables. There is always a chair or two and a little shade. The fruits of individual gardener's labors are evident as they cycle back and forth with daily baskets of produce and flowers.

Other villagers take advantage of morning or afternoon sun and adorn the entrance to their maison with inviting wisteria, geranium, roses, succulent or even small citrus trees. 2 litre bottles of water are often propped next to the flower pots, ready to be poured to quench a thirsty plant. (Click on the pictures to enlarge).


Anonymous said...

There must be something "instinctive" about wanting to grow things from the instinct Luke doesn't have...but admires in others. When I was in England in '77, I was on a train from London to Canterbury and as we went through the countryside we could see the most beautiful rose gardens in the back yards of even the smallest homes.

I couldn't stop thinking of the movie "Mrs. Miniver" because the blooms were so huge and beautiful. I can still picture that scenery as if I'd seen it yesterday. As always, your pictures have captured the lovely and the ordinary things that we sometimes forget to notice in our "too-fast-moving" world. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

To me this is what I find most beautiful about Europe, the way they make sure to always plant window boxes or gardens wherever they can. Love it!