People and Places
23 gardens. 10 days. And 17 garden lovers from Seattle and Vancover... with a 22 year old Alabama girl thrown in the mix to spice things up. I was the youngest by 30 years, and man did we have a ball exploring one end of Provence, France to the other. Thinking back to the tour, it is still a mental whirlwind of green with the sound of trickling water and the smell of lavender. But never fear, we always had a supply of bread, cheese, and cold rosé to keep us going. In the words of one of our French hosts, "Baguette in the morning, noon, and night! It tis not a meal without a baguette!"
Oh the inconceivable thought of a meal without a baguette!
So what did I take away from all these contemporary French gardens? The leader of the tour asked me that same question at our farewell dinner, and I racked my brain for a fancy smancy design insight that would really knock his socks off. But as I sat there thinking and sipping on some rosé, what flashed through my mind were the faces of the garden owners we had met along the way. I fell in love with the people who were in these gardens everyday and the stories they had to share. And I realized, that's what a garden is really all about, isn't it?
We met one designer/owner who has an award winning and widely known garden. He met us and began immediately reeling off facts and flinging his arms and walking very briskly through the garden. He seemed in a hurry, disconnected to us and to the garden. As a result, I felt very uncomfortable and confused in his garden. The garden lacked a story, a vision, and a passion for the place and the people who would enter it. Although a place may photograph well and win awards, a garden should be extremely more powerful as an experience than it is in a photograph.
On the other hand were designers and owners who could have made me fall in love with a flat plane of dirt because they were such wonderful story tellers. They welcomed us at their garden gates with giant smiles. They told us the history of their house, their town, and the creation of their beloved gardens. They talked to plants like the plants could hear them. They knew every bloom time and the reason for every view into and out of their garden. Their gardens had heart. Although we often discussed the successes and failure of some of the design decisions, each one of these gardens had succeeded in my mind.
I took a sketch book around to all the gardens and often found myself jotting down little tid bits that really spoke to me as a garden lover. I will be posting several snap shots of these people and what they taught me. Gardens are about people, and I think we met some of the loveliest of garden owners that France has to offer, and I am so grateful they take joy in sharing them!
I am still in France until the end of October. I will be doing a whirlwind tour, chasing gardens and meeting more lovely people. I am hoping that maybe the good Lord will grant me the power to speak French in my sleep one night. But until then, it's just me, my backpack, and google translate.
Au revoir for now!