You Can't See the Village for the Market

A kaleidoscope of colors at the Aix-en-Provence
flower market. April 2011.
French markets overflow with colorful goods and good people. Visiting villages on market day is often high on the list of priorities for many travelers. You can easily build a "market-a-day" travel itinerary. I've been to many markets in Paris, Provence and the French Riviera. Indeed, it is great fun and the fresh foods, flowers and handmade crafts are especially appealing. The interaction with the vendors is both educational and entertaining.

After spending nine days in Paris in April, I looked forward to a week in the village of Aix-en-Provence. Aix is a convenient base for accessing the surrounding area—the Provence countryside and Luberon villages, the Mediterranean coast, the western French Riviera and the Camargue—no more than a two hour drive in any direction.

One of the most famous and popular markets in the region of Provence takes place in the lovely village of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. A river literally runs through the picturesque village.

My first full day in Provence was a Sunday and perfectly timed for the not-to-be-missed market day in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue! I saw the antique stalls, the spices, the fabrics, the flowers and everything else at the market.

Sunday market day in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence, France.
Vendor stalls line both sides of the river. April 2011.
After spending the morning browsing the market and enjoying lunch of chilled wine, fresh veggies, cheese and strawberries, it was time to take to the winding country roads. Driving past vineyards and rolling hills there were many choices for the rest of the day, but I opted to visit the villages of Bonnieux and Goult. 

These two Luberon villages were sleepy and practically empty on that Sunday afternoon. Wandering the cobblestoned streets, climbing rocky and precarious steps for vistas, it was a perfect day for getting lost in the maze of village houses. I could hear the laughter and attempt to eavesdrop on the French conversations among the locals as I passed the cafes.

Later in the week, I visited the bustling markets, in particular the flower market, in my "home village" of Aix-en-Provence. It was after the flower market that I learned a valuable lesson. I visited the flower market in the morning, then walked to a nearby cafe for a leisurely lunch indoors, out of the rain. 

After lunch, the sun was out and as I walked through the Place de l'Hôtel de ville again, the flower vendors were gone and the square had taken on a whole new vibe. Cafes and conversations. Strolling couples, families and friends. 

When the market packs up at the end of the day, the ambiance is entirely different. I've blindly traveled for years without stopping to appreciate this remarkable transformation.

Aix-en-Provence flower market on a rainy April morning.
A few hours later, the market is gone
and the same square is a cafe scene.
Aix-en-Provence. April 2011.
I sadly realized that I hadn't really experienced the true village of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue without festive adornment. The squares and streets that I saw were crowded with visitors and tourists. I didn't go inside the local shops. I can only guess that the streets were cobblestoned. I don't know anything about the historical buildings, monuments or beautiful architecture. For this trip, it was too late to return to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to really get to know her.

While the market was extraordinary, I am left with a feeling that perhaps I missed something even more extraordinary.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

My "Lazy Gardener Garden" in Spring

Gaillardia 'Burgundy' self-sows;
Achillea 'Moonshine' grows rapidly;
Annual Nigella 'Miss Jekyll' self-sows.
Welcome to my "lazy gardener garden" in late spring! In my attempt to minimize how much work that I have to put into all the different gardens, I am relinquishing some of the design control to Mother Nature.

This large section of garden is on the east side of the house where the light has changed as trees have matured over the last five years. Rather than agonize over what to plant in a section where the sunlight and shade ratio is still changing, I'm allowing self-sowing and rapidly growing annuals, biennials and perennials "do their own thing."

I used to call this section the "butterfly garden" but since all of my different gardens attract butterflies, that's not as descriptive as it could be. I've relocated some of my stellar sun-loving perennials, such as coreopsis and agastache, from this section to the front garden.

There is a revolving color scheme of blue, purple, white, yellow, red and orange from spring through fall. All plants are drought tolerant and deer resistant, though there are a few plants, such as rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', that must be sprayed with rabbit repellent.

Salvia 'Caradonna' (self-sows true to parent),
Homestead Purple verbena (spreads rapidly),
and nepeta (easily divided)
in April 2011.

Purple salvia and nepeta give way to yellow, red and blue in late May.
There are several varieties of gaillardia (blanket flower) in this garden. I can no longer say for sure what each one is/will be as they have been cross-pollinated and the resulting seeds can be anything from solid yellow, burgundy, deep orange, or bi-color. That is the risk of letting seeds go rather than propagating by cuttings. The offspring will not necessarily be the same as the parent. The gaillardia 'Burgundy' is holding color fairly well among the offspring, but the solid yellow gaillardia has not. Gaillardia 'Tizzy' (plants) did not return this year, but 'Tokajer' has returned though I've not seen seedlings of that variety.

The prolific, self-sowing gaillardia can result in different colors
and heights due to the cross-pollination of the varieties. 
Blooming in April and May in the "lazy gardener garden":

salvia 'Caradonna' (self-sows true to parent)
allium 'Purple Sensation' (bulbs have multiplied over two years)
nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' (easily divided; minimal self-sowing)
'Homestead Purple' verbena (spreads rapidly by runners)
achillea 'Moonshine' (matures rapidly; divide every 3-4 years)
gaillardia (multiple varieties; some self-sow)
salvia greggii 'Navajo Red' (has produced offspring from seed that are true to parent)
salvia 'Black & Blue' (spreads by runners and easily divided in late spring)
salvia farcinacea 'Victoria Blue' (matures rapidly and am hoping for seedlings next year)

To bloom in summer:

monarda 'Jacob Cline' (spreads rapidly by runners; needs more moisture than the other plants)
ageratum 'Wayside Blue' (self-sows and spreads rapidly by runners)
crocosmia 'Lucifer' (corms grow rapidly and can be easily divided)
achillea 'Terracotta' (matures rapidly; divided every 3 years)
shasta daisies (divides easily; some varieties self-sow)
rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' (self-sows)
laceflower (self-sows)
marigolds (some varieties self-sow)
orange cosmos sulphureus (self-sows)
echinacea 'Sundown' (hasn't performed well for five years)
agastache (some varieties self-sow)
asclepias tuberosa (self-sows)
ascleplias incarnata (self-sows, but takes years to bloom; more moisture)
hypericum 'Sun Pat' is shrub-like (minimal self-sowing)
amsonia hubrichtii (self-sows)
verbena bonariensis (self-sows)
Russian sage (self-sows, but is new to the garden)
bronze fennel (self-sows too much; must deadhead)

Because I allow the plants to self-sow and spread, there is minimal care and maintenance. I let the seed heads stand until the following spring, when I cut them back at one time, divide any mature plants and transplant seedlings. I rarely provide supplemental water unless rainfall is scarce when the transplants and seeds need a good start. Since I allow the self-sowing of seeds, I don't use mulch except around the base of new plants. Mulch on top of the ripened and fallen seeds would prevent germination. In spots where the soil needs boosting, I work in amendments (organic compost) and sow seeds of filler plants such as nigella for spring and marigolds and cosmos for summer.

Less maintenance for the gardener means more time to enjoy the flowers (and work on the other gardens)!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Better Homes and Gardens® Subscription Winners

Thank you to the 773 unique visitors and 360 subscription visitors who read about the new website and contest here on my blog.

The blog readers who entered the contest were (in numbered order):

  1. Bloominganne
  2. FlowerLady
  3. Alison
  4. Pam/Digging
  5. Jen
  6. Tina
  7. Sue Ellen
  8. perennialgardenlover
  9. Southern Lady
  10. Meems
  11. Joey
  12. Molly

The FIVE winners of a 1-year subscription to Better Homes and Gardens® were determined by a random number generator:

Winning numbers were computer
selected using RANDOM.ORG

Congratulations to:

(2) FlowerLady
(1) Bloominganne
(9) Southern Lady
(4) Pam/Digging
(12) Molly

To claim your subscription prize through a secure, private message, please use the "Drop Me A Note" link on the left sidebar of my blog (beneath my Facebook photo). Include the following information:

Email Address

The contest prizes are awarded by Better Homes and Gardens®, Meredith Publishing. The writer did not receive payment for the article or contest. Words by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

A Chance to Win a Subscription to Better Homes and Gardens®

The fresh, clean look
of the new
BHG homepage.
(click image to enlarge)


Gardens. Home. Food. Aren't we all hungry for gardening, decorating and cooking ideas—not to mention gorgeous photos with all the details?

When the staff at Better Homes and Gardens® asked me to preview their newly designed website, I happily agreed. As a former marketing strategist for a software company, I know that when it comes to using a website, it is all about a great customer experience. Plus, they offered to give FIVE of my readers a 1-year subscription!

The top five new features of the redesigned include:
  1. a fresh, clean design
  2. new slideshow formats
  3. easy-to-use navigation
  4. bigger, beautiful images
  5. daily updates
The new slideshow format impressed me with the ability to easily advance through the slides. There is also an option to select a slide by clicking on a "see all" thumbnail view of the slideshow gallery.

See a garden inspiration? It is easy to save the photo to your BHG member space as well as share it with your friends. The new slideshows boast larger images so that you can see all the details.

Garden slideshow view.
There are now three ways to navigate
  1. From the top bar that lists the favorite topics. Hover over the tabs to preview the channels.
  2. From the side bar groupings, you can click to the most common topics.
  3. From the search bar at the top of the page, type in your search term. The recipe channel also provides a quick find menu.
The website is updated daily, so that you can view the current "Top 10" popular topics for each channel as it changes throughout the day.

FIVE of my lucky blog readers will win a 1-year subscription! How? Take a look at the new, then leave your comments here on my blog. I'm going to draw five numbers to select the winners, corresponding to the numbered order of the comments.

Enter as often as you like through midnight EDT, Sunday, May 22. I'll publish the names of the winners on Monday, May 23 with instructions on how to send your contact information to me to pass along to the folks at Better Homes and Gardens®.

Good Luck!

There are now three ways to navigate the BHG website.

No payment was received by the writer for this review. Words by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Images courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens®. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Let It Sow, Let It Sow, Let It Sow

Nigella damascena (Love-in-a-Mist) is a prolific
self-sowing annual.
Do you love the idea of drifts of jewel-box flowers in shades of blue to purple? Start with a few seeds from nigella damascena 'Miss Jekyll Blue' and just let them go, let them sow! A year later, you're likely to have a thick, mass planting of this sweet flowers.

Want proof? Take a look at the nigella in my garden in May 2010.

Nigella mixed with poppies May 2010.
The self-sown nigella area just beginning to bloom in May 2011.
Same nigella, different view
showing a Knock Out® Rose at the end.
In addition to letting this group self-sow, I collected pods and scattered seeds in other areas to see what combinations work together. While the 2010 nigella were restricted to the cottage garden, the flowers are now growing with achillea, salvia and agastache in the deer resistant garden. So far, no nibbling from deer or rabbits.

As I often do, I start taking photos before the peak bloom! I love these little flowers and the display is just beginning. Over the next week, there will be even more nigella blooming throughout my gardens.

There are other colors of nigella damascena or nigella hispanica from seed suppliers that include pink and deep rose as well as white with nearly black details. I am so tempted to try the other colors!

Too much of a good thing? It is easy to pull out any unwanted flowers. That said,  everyone needs to check regional invasive lists to make sure this flower isn't a problem for your area. To prevent the self-sowing, cut off the flowers before the seedpods dry. You can collect the seeds and sow them in autumn through early spring, or do as self-sowers do—plant the seeds in other areas at the same time the seed pods are ready to pop.

I sent nigella seeds to some of my gardening friends. I hope they'll still be friends after the nigella takes over their gardens!

Nigella with salvia (autumn sage).
Nigella with yellow achillea (yarrow)
and purple salvia 'Victoria'.
Nigella is quite photogenic!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Before and After: Rock on the Cottage Garden Path

This is the year for upgrading the paths and driveway around our garden and home. We recently integrated our driveway, guest parking area and garden into one continuous gravel garden. We like the clean simplicity of the gravel garden as well as the easy maintenance.

The cottage garden path by our front door looked a bit sad when compared to the fresh gravel garden. We decided to dress up the cottage garden and solve a few problems in this area as well.

BEFORE: The beige, Chapel Hill grit needed dressing up.
Metal edging was added in preparation for the new rock.
The path material used for rose section of the cottage garden has been "Chapel Hill grit" from a local quarry. We've been using this beige gravel since 2005. It requires a refresh every year or two and is a good surface for walking. The downside of Chapel Hill grit has to do with weeds. It is the perfect medium for germinating weed seeds and we are tired of digging out spurge!

We decided to copy the medium-sized round river rock that we used to dress up the French Drain (created in 2010) that edges the large deer resistant garden. We have found it easy to walk on the medium-sized rock and it doesn't shift around like smaller pea gravel.

A solid base is always needed underneath decorative gravel. The Chapel Hill grit is a suitable base for the new rock, so we did not have to use screenings (fine gravel, coarser than sand) to level and smooth the path.

Edging was needed as the garden bed is now higher than the original path created during our home construction in 2005. After a few years of building up the soil, it was spilling out and it was difficult to retain moisture. This spot gets direct sun (when it shines) all day long in all four seasons, so keeping the soil and moisture in the bed should help during dry seasons.

Metal edging, at a cost of about $1.00 per foot, was easy to hammer into the soft edges of the garden bed and gravel. I used a pointed hoe to dig out a shallow trench, then my husband hammered the edging into the ground. A rubber mallet works well to drive the metal spikes into the ground. The metal edging is somewhat flexible, so it is easy to bend to follow the shape of the garden bed. I backfilled the garden bed edging with new, organic soil.

After the edging was installed, it was just a matter of hauling the rock in a wheelbarrow from our truck. My husband shoveled the rock into small piles along the path. I used a heavy metal rake—appropriate to rock on—to level out the gravel. After a few rainstorms, the dust will be washed away and the new round river rock will be clean.

There is more to the cottage garden path than shown in the photos. All in, the area required one yard of the rock.This project was started and completed in one afternoon, with two of us working. My husband hauled the rock in our large pickup truck (a Toyota® Tundra). This would be too heavy for one load in a smaller truck. More than one square yard would have required either a dump truck delivery or multiple trips with our truck.

We're happy with the appearance and the stability of the new surface. As the plants are ready for a summer growth spurt, it won't take long for the edge to be softened by billowing foliage and flowers.

AFTER: The medium-sized rounded river rock
packed down into a nice, stable surface.
The plants will soon grow over the new edging on the left.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Wine Cups Runneth Over the Garden

Callirhoe involucrata (Poppy Mallow or Wine Cups)
blooms resemble California Poppies.
A cascading perennial that blooms all summer is a delight indeed. Add low-maintenance, full sun and drought-tolerance and the "got to try it" score is even higher.

Dainty, delicate wine-red cups of callirhoe involucrata (Poppy Mallow or Wine Cups)  opening on lacy foliage give little indication that this plant that can take on hot conditions in zones 3-9. With a long taproot, try to plant this perennial in a permanent location. The seeds can self-sow in the garden, so watch out if the behavior is unwanted or your garden will runneth over with the wine cups! I've yet to have this problem because...
I've got rabbits! Added in summer 2010, I first planted the wine cups on the path side of the stream-side garden bed. However, the rabbits munched it down to almost nothing! Disappointed, I moved the plant so that it tumbles toward the water—a precarious place for rabbits unless they have acrobatic talent. As an extra precaution, I've been spraying rabbit repellent on the plant.
Companions to wine cups (front, left) include:
salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue' (front, right)
salvia greggii 'Diane' (left, behind wine cups)

The color of the blooms works so well with the other players in my cottage garden. The wine cups scramble over my ground-cover thyme and around purple sedum, lamb's ear, salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue' and salvia greggii 'Diane'. The 'Diane' bloom color is a near-perfect match to the wine cups. Soon, the gaillardia 'Grape Sensation' blooms will open to add another splash of wine to the monochromatic matches.

The bloom not only looks like a Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), but behaves the same way with blooms closed in early morning only to open up as the day warms; then closing again for the night.

This Missouri native wildflower makes a pretty cottage, rock, or xeric garden plant that's worth keeping the rabbits away. I'm committed to doing my best to protect the blooms for enjoyment from now until autumn frosts!

"Wine cups" blooms begin in May; zone 7b with full sun.
The native wildflower perennial blooms off and on until autumn frosts.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Louisiana Iris for Water Features

Not all of my garden is growing on dry land.

Within the cottage garden flows our manmade stream that receives full sun. A small section was created to grow water garden plants. With the water constantly in motion, I grow sturdy plants that can take the currents, or can be sunk (pot and all) into the stream. The motion of the currents makes it difficult to grow water lilies.

The color scheme for the flowering water plants is blue and white, to coordinate with the surrounding land-lubbers on the banks of the stream and in the background.

A small, but deep bend in the stream
is suitable for growing sturdy water and marginal plants such
as Louisiana Iris, calla lily, white butterfly ginger
and the native Great Blue Lobelia.
There are two early bloomers in my stream—Louisiana iris (blue) and calla lily (white). In summer, a pot of Great Blue Lobelia will bloom, followed by the white butterfly ginger in August. While the blooms aren't going to be shop-stopping, the foliage alone provides a bit of interest in the water feature until I cut back any brown foliage.

Space is very limited in the stream and the Louisiana irises (a native plant from Louisiana) expand rapidly and I will eventually have to keep the clump in check. This is a consideration if you decide to grow any water plants in a native pond. My plants cannot escape into the wild since they are contained in a manmade area that does not feed into a natural water source.

I planted the irises directly into the stream, using rocks to anchor the roots until they were firmly established. Pots can also be used, immersed in water and held down by rocks to keep the pots from floating away. The Great Blue Lobelia is planted in a pot with the top completely submerged. There are also mesh bags that can be purchased to anchor plants in water or bog gardens.

The blooms last one day, but as long as foliage stays green and pretty, I don't cut them back. I do not lift the irises in winter as they overwinter in the water without any difficulties in my zone 7b area. I keep them in situ all the time—even when we unplug the stream pump to stop the flow of water. Because this is the deepest area in the stream, there is always water collecting here when the pump is off.  These irises are suitable to bogs, too.

There are now many hybrid varieties of Louisiana irises available from specialty growers. I purchased an iris locally and it was labeled as "Blue Louisiana Iris." Therefore, I do not have the complete information about this plant. My uneducated iris guess is that it is probably the native, iris giganticaerulea Small (giant blue iris), not a hybrid.

I want to learn more about the iris hybrids as they are available in interesting colors (link is for information purposes and I have not ordered from this iris farm) such as red, purple, white and yellow. While they are great for water and bog gardens, you can grow Louisiana iris in garden soil with watering and feeding.

Given the rapid rate of growth and expansion, my small planting area in the stream will soon be filled with the blue Louisiana irises and I'll have no space for all those interesting cultivars!

Louisiana iris; May 2011

The irises will eventually expand
to fill this small space in the stream.
A Great Blue Lobelia (native) is growing
in a pot to the right of the main iris clump.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Salvia 'Caradonna' is Grape, But Not Seedless

I was a Grape Nehi addict at an early age. I'd hunt for grape popsicles in my grandmother's big freezer. I'd run out to buy a grape snow cone from the "ice cream man" driving around the neighborhood. Purple treats tasted so good!

The color purple represents happiness to me, so when a variety of purple flowers blooms in sweet synchronization, I'm in gardening heaven.

Grape spires of salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'
For springtime purple, the spires of s. nemorosa 'Caradonna' mix and mingle with a number of other purple companions.

Although not as popular as salvia 'May Night', 'Caradonna' is a more economical selection as she naturalizes wherever her seeds land, stretching gardening dollars for years and years. It is quite common for the little starts to bloom the first year with the true color and form of the mother plant. This salvia is also easy to transplant (or pull and discard, if you must) as the seedlings are shallow-rooted.

Caradonna is so tough! She's perfect for resisting drought, deer, rabbits and other pests. Suitable for zones 4-8, she can be grown in a variety of garden soils including clay, sandy and the good stuff.

As with other nemorosa varieties, cut this salvia back to the basal foliage after blooming for the hope of repeat blooms and to keep the foliage looking tidy. Of course, if you want free plants, leave a few spires to go to seed. When the seeds dry, you can let them fly with the wind, or strip them off the stem and toss them around the garden. I don't collect and store the seeds for planting, I just disperse them as I go around the garden.

For grape companions, I love to use the spheres of allium 'Purple Sensation'. Salvia 'Caradonna' and allium 'Purple Sensation' bloom at the same time, starting in mid-April here in zone 7b. Allium bulbs should be planted in the autumn to be ready for the spring bloom. Zones 4-7 can grow the allium, and like the salvia, it is deer and rabbit resistant.

But wait, there's more!

'Caradonna' and 'Purple Sensation' grow knee-high—and let's just say that the allium needs something to cover the gangly knees! The ground-covering, glandularia canadensis (verbena) 'Homestead Purple' fills that void.

'Homestead Purple' loves the same growing conditions in zones 6-9 and is sun-loving, drought-tolerant as well as being deer and rabbit resistant. A perfect purple partner.

Top purple: Allium 'Purple Sensation'
Middle purple spires: Salvia 'Caradonna'
Bottom purple: Verbena 'Homestead Purple'

If you're not so fond of all this purple—yellow, white and even orange look great with all three of the purple players. As for my personal taste, I'll savor a bunch of grapes!

Yellow yarrow, orange blanketflower and lavender nepeta
will soon break up the monochromatic purple color scheme.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
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