In the summer, you can smell the herbs on the air as you head south towards Provence, but our visit at Easter was a tad too early for that. The morning and evening air was chilly, but by mid-morning the sun was hot enough to cast off cardigans and enjoy an alfresco café noisette.
Not too early though for the vines to be in full leaf or for red pelargoniums to be flowering brightly in window boxes at wooden-shuttered windows.
Scented Jasminum officinale – summer jasmine – was already clambering over stone walls and above blue-painted windows in St Rémy de Provence.
I’ve admired the flower displays on French roundabouts before, but here the road islands have a distinctly Provençal...
There are some things the French seem to do effortlessly. Crème de cassis and white wine. Raspberry tarts. Shabby chic. The careless and uncontrived juxtaposition of faded elegance and modern buildings.
And what is it about the French and flowers? Their streets are a blaze of carefully designed colour and a visit to a public park feels like an outing to the botanical gardens.
Grasses and sedges add movement and airiness to the designs. In a park near the railway station, fluffy lagurus ovatus contrasts with statuesque canna leaves. The pretty, delicate Gaura lindheimeri adds a light touch to many of the flowerbeds. I want to whip out my camera and analyse the plant combinations.
Some plants make perfect bedfellows. Here are some of my favourite plant combinations.
Here’s an irresistible trio of plants for well-drained soil in full sun.
Alliums are flowering plants which include onions, garlic and chives, as well as a number of gorgeously trendy, ornamental plants for the herbaceous border. Allium sphaerocephalon is also known as the round-headed leek or drumstick allium.
The ovoid flowerheads, densely packed with bell-shaped flowers, sway on slender stems, green at first then maturing to a delicious dark red-purple. The strap-like foliage is already starting to wither when the summer flowers appear and can be cut back if necessary.
The intensity of the flowerhead fades to parchment as the summer passes. A bulbous perennial, it will...