Sunday, September 15, 2013

French Garden love...

For those of you who have Foxtel and the Lifestyle Channel you may have been fortunate enough to see the first two of three episodes of Monty Don's French Gardens series. I LOVE it!

Image courtesy of the BBC website
Gardens of Power and Passion, the first episode of Series 1 'tells the stories behind important historic gardens. These include elaborate walled gardens designed to please the mistress and then the wife of a King, magnificent displays of flowers and fountains that involved thousands of soldiers moving tracts of land and incited violent jealousy in another monarch and a modern day chateau garden that came close to bankrupting its owner. Monty sees how throughout history the French have used gardens as a public expression of money, power and passion.'

A very interesting history and equally as interesting stories behind these formal gardens and as much as I enjoyed it I believe I enjoyed The Gourmet Garden, the 2nd episode, more: Monty 'turns to the French love of food and finds out how this has influenced their gardens. Monty travels to some of the most famous ‘potager’ or kitchen gardens, where vegetables and flowers are planted together in elaborate and beautiful displays. He talks to gardeners about this style of planting which has been copied the world over. He also visits allotments, learns to pick asparagus, enjoys some of the best produce from the land and learns about the importance the French attach to the soil.' Perhaps I liked it more because they are utilitarian gardens and because I learnt that 1/3 of France buy vegetables from market gardens and the like rather than supermarkets... that they support their own fresh produce in this way really impressed me and that it's all so beautiful made me want to be back there in the blink of an eye.

I too experienced Aix-en-Provence and its stunning surrounds but only for about 6 weeks but since then living in France is still one of the things at the top of my to-do list. I know it will come later in life but I'm sure it will happen... even though I have Italian heritage and love Italy... there is just something about France that captured my heart all those years ago and I have been wanting to return and immerse myself in the language and culture ever since my first experience... In The Gourmet Garden episode I noted that The CĂ©vennes is known for its alternative lifestyle and organic farming... and even though Aix and surrounds stole my heart I do want to see and experience more of France so this is definitely worthy of a visit, at the very least.

But back to the series... when he visited Villandry, near Tours in the Loire Valley, he showed viewers how 'they grow tens of thousands of vegetables in perfectly ordered, box-edged geometric beds – all entirely for show' and before he said anything it struck me as odd and didn't sit well with me... it's such a waste, of course, moments later Monty said pretty much the same thing, so perhaps many people have the same reaction.

I'm looking forward to The Artistic Garden... in this episode 'Monty turns to France’s famous artistic tradition to see what influence it has had on the country’s gardens. Monty travels to some of the most celebrated artists’ gardens including the one created by the Impressionist, Claude Monet, who planted and painted his garden for half his life. Monty also matches the paintings to the garden of Paul Cezanne as well as visiting several  contemporary  artistic gardens to see how the use of plants and trees has evolved into new and varied styles.' I'm sure it is going to be just amazing... if you want to get an overall idea of the series and the inspiration behind it you can read more here.

I first became aware of Monty Don as a television presenter when he did 'Around the world in 80 gardens' which I really enjoyed and was immediately drawn to his laid back style and charm. I've only just now read more about him via his Facebook page and he's had an interesting life...

For those of us interested in staying informed he has his own website coming soon and if you're like me I'm really interested to see the content once it's up and running.


River said...

Sadly, I don't have Foxtel, but I can google French gardens and see them. Maybe.

Gabriella Tagliapietra said...

You could Google them :) I only have Foxtel because I'm living with mum at the mo and she loves UKTV... otherwise I wouldn't have it.