IMG_6111The tightly trimmed boxwood motifs in such gardens as those of Versailles are what usually come to mind when one thinks of French gardens. But I think of roses, especially roses that climb and then spill over, like fountains of color.P1100280P1070598P1100144

A rose arch…Sigh!

P1100279Not everybody has space for a garden like Versailles, but even humble houses in tiny villages–with no yards at all because they were built by/for people who worked long days in the vineyards and fields and who really didn’t need to pile it on when they got home–have found a few inches of dirt in a crack between house and street (because sidewalks are rare and who needs them anyway when the streets themselves are only wide enough for one vehicle at a time), and from such miserly roots climb the most magnificent, flamboyant roses.P1100245P1100200P1070845IMG_5093

08.MAY 12 - 29Roses are a thing around here. Winegrowers plant them at the ends of the rows of grape vines–pests tend to hit the roses first, like the canary in the coal mine, and the vigneron gets early warning that action is needed. The rest of the time, they look pretty. Win-win.P1100247P1100243

Roses aren’t alone. Wisteria’s moment has passed, but other delights are on full display.P1100286P1100139

A bougainvillea! On a protected south-facing wall. Though it’s true it’s been years since we had a cold winter.


The fragrance is intoxicating. The lavender is bursting open, though even closed it perfumed my clothes when I brushed against it. The first oleander have arrived. That means summer. So does the buzz of a lawnmower somewhere in the village. Birds, so many different birds, making a marvelous chorus, even all night long. The lizards have been busy, too, darting from under a flower pot to behind a shutter to under a rock. They are as comical as cats–I should film them; do you think lizard videos will go viral? P1080890P1080889An impressive passion fruit vine. I don’t know whether the variety that grows here is edible. I loved passion fruit in Kenya. Two kinds: smooth orange ones with unappetizingly gray yet sweet, delicious insides and rough dark purple/green ones with orange innards, a little more tangy. I even learned how to crack them open. You cradle them in your hands and gently press your palms together until the shell just cracks with a satisfying pop. Too hard, and you end up with mucus-y seeds all over. When the shell is cracked, you pull the halves apart gently, then suck out the slimy insides. It took a while to get past the esthetics, but now I can’t pass up passion fruit.





40 thoughts on “Overflowing Flowers

  1. Please film the lizards. I can’t promise viral but you have a devotee of them right here. I just love lizards. And flowers. Always flowers. What a charming post this was 🦎 🌹 🌸

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  2. It’s definitely been a year for roses – I had the most gorgeous blooms last month. Now they are looking a bit bedraggled though, they need a bit of pruning and spraying, but no doubt they’ll recover!! I’ve been trying to grow the edible variety of passionfruit for a while, right now I have a pot of seeds in my greenhouse, hoping that they will germinate!!

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    1. Thanks for the tip! There are so many books to check out. I have a book about gardens by Gabriel Fauré (more famous as a composer, whose Cantique de Jean Racine is one of my favorite works ever).


  3. How in the world do you start those beautiful roses in such teeny tiny spots? I would love to know the secret! They are breathtaking, as all your photos! Here when I attempt to plant a rose bush, the first step is to dig a big ol’ hole to accommodate the root ball…and I have never had a rose plant grow as gloriously as what you photographed. No matter what extra nutrients I add. How is it done?

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      1. I know of one village south of Carcassonne where the local town office has been giving people rose plants so as to make the town prettier. It’s been ongoing for a few years, but from the size of the climbers, I suspect they’re starting with established plants, perhaps from nurseries.

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  4. I used to think of roses as being quintessentially English and difficult to grow. I’ve completely changed my mind since buying our home in France. We have more roses than almost any other flower and they do so well here. Lovely post and lovely photos.

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  5. Those wonderful roses bring back childhood memories. My mother’s beautiful roses in the garden. Alas, we didn’t live in the city as we do today.

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  7. I love seeing mature roses tumbling up and down buildings. I always wonder what they are and think I would like to plant them in my garden if they have lasted all those years. I have never seen plumbago trained to climb a house like that…very tempting…the color is so beautiful. And of course I just love seeing all the doors…that yellow one caught my eye. I don’t know how I have missed out on your blog all this time…I so enjoy it…

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  8. I too was amazed when I first came to France at the roses growing out of tiny holes, and being really healthy and floriferous. There is of course lots of soil right under the paving, and I suspect the roots are very widely spread. There is a village in the Herault that has a wisteria planted in a tiny patch like that, and it is trained on the houses all the way down the street. Its old, the trunk is very substantial, and it must be happy.
    bonnie in provence

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  9. Having a rose bush small enough to put in a small crack is easier than one would think, or at least, for me it is. Recently, my mother died and our daughter took clipping of her rose bushes, which had belonged to mother’s grandmother. We dipped the clippings (8) in root hormone from Lowe’s garden shop and planted them in Miracle-Gro potting soil, watered them with a sprinkler (soda bottle with sprinkler cap) and now, six weeks later, four have put out beautiful leaves and three of the others are showing promise and one died. Not bad for a couple of novices….lol… Waiting a while before transplanting them to my garden; my daughter’s will go into a pot for when she and her husband return from a duty station.

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