Outdoor Living

 

P6080854It would be most unusual to find a house in the French countryside that did not have some seating outside; somewhere to read, to eat or drink, or simply to rest a while and pass the time of day.  Taking a stroll in any garden always fills me with a sense of calm and so it is only natural to want to linger and perhaps find a quiet spot to sit and spend five minutes in complete peace. It gives us a time to think and reflect or just to be at one with nature.

The start of the week blew in the first canicule (heatwave) of the year; temperatures soared to 32C (90F), and as always it changed the way we were spending our time outdoors. Instead of appreciating the warmth of the spring sun on our backs and finding a warm sheltered spot beside a wall, we instead suddenly needed to seek shade as a refuge from the heat, something which led me to consider our current options for garden repose.

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Seating in the garden doesn’t have to be elaborate, it can be something as simple as this swing, one of our favourite spots under a tree in the chicken garden,

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or it could be a rock on which to sit by the water and watch the sun-bathing frogs.

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In a typically French manner I also think everything should look as if it has been there forever and nothing should be pretentious. There ought be some old stone and old wood, or something recycled. These areas need to demonstrate an air of relaxed comfort without showing off or shouting about their existence; they should be little enclaves of  down-to-earth shabbiness that create an atmosphere of confidence that welcomes anyone to sit and stay, to slow down and switch off. Indeed, they should speak to you and cosset you with the things you want to hear , “Sit here, there’s nothing to do, you’ve worked hard so close your eyes for a minute. No rush….”

IMG_4032I also like my outdoor living spaces to be a little on the romantic side with plenty of good old fashioned charm. Decay, rust and peeling paint all add to the ambience, and create a patina of memories; some real, some imagined and perhaps some in the making.

P6080967We’ve moved things around on the terrace this year. The dining-table is now directly outside the kitchen, with the natural canopy of the lime trees (the common lime in the UK or linden in the USA) acting as a huge green shade parasol. Save for the odd small green spider abseiling down to lunch, it’s a terribly refreshing spot to eat.

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Look up, it’s so pretty!

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We’ve also moved two of our all-weather rattan armchairs into the centre of the terrace

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but we still needed more seating, so Roddy set to work making a new outdoor wooden bench out of some old decking. It’s actually a touch of genius, as the back is in three parts, each of which can recline in several positions or be moved altogether and placed at one end to make a chaise-longue or day-bed. With the addition of some simple cushions we now have the most comfy of places to sit or lie at a fraction of the cost of anything available in the shops.

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Next we needed to replace our small coffee table with something more substantial and I came up with the idea of using some of the old stone we have scattered around the garden. My initial suggestion was met with raised eyebrows and much scepticism. “Exactly how are we going to move the stone?” both Roddy and Millie asked with raised eyebrows. “That piece you want to use probably weighs about 200 kgs!” he added.

I was sure it couldn’t be that difficult with three strong and able bodies, but I was quite wrong. It really was too heavy. However, I am not one to admit defeat easily and Roddy knows this only too well. He put his ingenuity cap on and dug out the sack wheels and a thick pair of gardening gloves, resigning himself to some heavy lifting. We all helped, we heaved away, manoeuvring great slabs of stone, until we found exactly what we wanted. Two solid blocks made excellent bases and then with a final effort we hauled the large slab I’d earmarked on top. But it wasn’t quite finished, the table was slightly unbalanced and so we had to readjust the bases, another half hour of heaving and adjusting wooden wedges!

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Next, out came the pressure washer, and when all was done I added some simple geraniums in an old terracotta pot. We had made ourselves a sturdy table, solid enough to stand on, dance on, and do what you will – it certainly isn’t going anywhere! Quite ironically whilst flicking through a French magazine just a few days ago I saw something similar for sale at a cost of just over 1000 euros. I felt that tiny prick of smugness, I had come up with the idea first and it had cost us nothing!

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As you’ll have gathered by now, I’m very much for creating an enchanting outdoor area that needn’t cost a fortune!

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Other things can easily be introduced as simple effects, like a coat of paint on a chair or a fence, or some plain or colourful cushions. A string of fairy lights can delight at dusk and into the evening, and plenty of tea lights in old jam jars or the typical French glass yoghurt pots also add magic to those summer evenings. Of course, you can’t forget the charms of a whole range of plants that look so wonderful in natural rustic containers.

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If you’re a fan of water like me, but you don’t have space for a real pond, make a scaled-down version. We found an old cast iron tub at a local brocante. We scrubbed it out, raised it off the ground and filled it with pond plants. This year we will add a couple of goldfish too – safe in the knowledge that the cats can’t get at them and neither will the heron.

IMG_6721 And talking of small spaces, I have a fabulous idea to make a tiny outdoor space appear much larger. Space is not something we lack here and so this is a thought that I have dreamt of but never actually put into action. I’m a huge fan of small gardens, terraces and balconies. If in another world I was a landscape gardener I would love to specialise in these miniature outdoor spaces because I think there is so much that can be done; one can afford to focus on the minutest attention to detail and the layering of different foliages.

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The trick I’d love to use is the addition of an outdoor mirror, hung amongst the leaves and draped in climbing plants. We use mirrors indoors all the time to make rooms look larger, so I thought why not do the same outside? A mirror not only makes any space look so much larger, it also bounces natural light around, brightening even the dullest of spaces.

I took an old mirror we had in the barn outside and put it in our small courtyard to show you what I mean –  I was going to move it around and try out various places this morning, but as luck would have it, today the rain came down! Two days of wet weather are forecast and I’m actually pleased, so are the farmers and growers. In fact, you’d be hard pushed to find anyone complaining around here as the spring has been exceptionally dry. Already there have been plenty of mutterings about the possibility of a hosepipe ban as the water table is well below average for the time of year. 48 hours of steady rain can only do good.

But back to the mirror – so Roddy stood in the rain with that bemused look on his face that simply says his wife is utterly crazy, while I photographed from under the safety of an umbrella. The idea certainly seems good, but I need to play some more. Hopefully for anyone with a small space it might just give you an idea of what might be possible.

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I also hope I might have given you one or two other ideas, even if you simply need a place to rest for a few minutes whilst gardening, where you can sit and admire your handiwork while someone you love fetches a glass of wine or a cup of tea.P6090052

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Whether you’re a human being, a cat or a dog, I think it’s vital to find somewhere special where you can spend some time outside.

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167 thoughts on “Outdoor Living

  • Just what I needed. We have a family gathering this weekend and I have been panicking, trying to get to the shops to buy things to make it special when I can now see I have it all already, all I need to do is add a little imagination and move things around and relax, thank you oh so much 😀

  • There can be no better way to spend a day than in a French country garden 🙂 Love it…and do hope that some of your glorious weather comes to the UK. I am off to Hampshire this weekend to paint with some people, but weather looks pretty iffy…! Regardless we will have fun…and I hope your weekend with the family is lovely…Janet xxx

    • Thanks Janet, the weather here has been utterly incredible, but today rained non stop. I just took a walk around the garden as it has now ceased and everything looks so happy, it’s as if every plant was saying a silent thank you and the smell of fresh rain is just wonderful after a hot dry spell. Hope you have a lovely weekend painting. Xx

    • With all the hot weather we have sat outside rather a lot as a family, we will come back from somewhere, even when I’ve picked the children up from school and flop down on the sofa for a few minutes and always the conversation starts with how we love the table! It will indeed be with us forever, I am so happy we did it, we love it! Xx

  • Beautiful photos, beautiful gardens, beautiful inspirations! I am going to recreate my outdoor space using your wonderful ideas….I think I even have an old mirror that can be rolocated outside!!

    • Thanks so much, I wish it hadn’t been pouring with rain as I would like to have experimented with the mirror a little more, do have fun with it, I think covering it with climbing plants and making it very much a part of the garden can really add a huge wow factor. Enjoy! Xx

    • Thanks so much Sara, we actually built the pond when we came here as we wanted a water feature in the garden and it has quickly become a place where we all stop and linger a little. It is very natural and is home to a vast amount of pond life and huge numbers of frogs! Xx

  • That mirror idea is fantastic. I have a tiny balcony and have thought of outdoor art but never a mirror, with a palm opposite I might double my visual space. Thank you so so much

    • I love the wow factor that an outdoor mirror offers whilst also making a small space appear so much larger,as I said we use mirrors indoors, so I just thought, why not outdoors! Go for it and enjoy it! Xx

      • A word of caution about the mirror…birds have been known to fly into them and be killed.
        Loved the table!

        • That would be horrid but I can see it could be a hazard. We don’t need to put one in the garden anyway, but I am going to use the idea in our summer kitchen which needs some cheering up! Thanks so much, have a great Sunday xx

  • Once again, I am so jealous of your gorgeous garden! It looks so lovely, & the stone table is just wonderful. We have a communal garden here (I live in a tenement flat in Edinburgh) but it’s just not the same. I really think it’s time to move to France! x

    • I think it’s time you moved to France too Janet, although if I didn’t live here, Scotland would be my second choice, plenty of Scottish blood in me! Let me know if you come in this direction at any time. Xx

  • It turned out beautiful Susan. I see a new future for you….designing outdoor spaces. We’re looking forward to sitting around the new table with a glass in hand. Cheers, well done.
    Ali xx

    • Ha ha Ali, as you know I just adore the garden and this year it is looking the best it ever has, each year it get’s better as we work a little on this or that, it all takes time!! The table is fabulous, we shall certainly share a bottle of bubbly around it, let’s hope the weather is warm, we need a true Indian Summer in October! Xx

    • I totally agree with you Lidy, there is nothing so soothing, it is one of my absolute favourite places to be, the garden and also walking along a quiet beach, give me both and I am in heaven!! Xx

  • Very lovely. Each area a separate ‘room’ with it’s own personality. I’m a big fan of outdoor mirrors – I first saw it done in the very tiny cottage garden of friends in Goring-on-Thames and have stolen the idea multiple times since …. as you say – why wouldn’t you? Xx

    • And here I was, thinking I had come up with something ingeniously new!! Now I can see I am way behind the times. I had a tiny tiny garden in London, a pocket handkerchief space and the wooden fence on all three sides was literally smothered in Virginia creeper, a mirror, well positioned would have worked wonders, but of course I neither knew nor cared that much back then! But it has given me an idea, I am going to put a mirror in the summer kitchen to bring more of the outside in! I have plans, no I just need the time to bring them to fruition!! Xx

      • Sounds fabulous. I’ve done some seriously whacky things with houses inside and out in the past including putting an empty frame on an easel to capture the view perfectly from seats on a terrace. All in the name of selling a place you understand … it was my job once upon a blue moon. Xx

        • I am picturing that empty frame, a seriously brilliant idea to make people really ‘see’ the view. Now I might need to enlist your help with the summer kitchen, it has great bones but is still quite dull inside and hence rarely gets used for anything other than a garden dumping ground. I need to make it welcoming without making it twee, sofas are out of the question, spiders would inhabit them, I just feel it is such a wasted space! Xx

  • Everywhere is looking very inviting. Would love to come back again, but we are so busy. We’ve found a tiny 17 th century cottage ,, which we can rent for 6 wks before it’s ours. Lots to tell you. I’ll send an email. Love all your new outdoor rooms, especially the stone table.

    • OOOH how exciting, where? I would love to know more details, do email. I am so happy for you both that you have found somewhere, now I want to see photos please! Love to you both xx

    • I’d send you some warm weather if only I could! We’ve had a gorgeous Spring but today the rain came down all day. It ceased this evening and I took a walk around the garden, the plants were looking so happy, as if they were silently saying a big thank you for so much water, everything looked so happy, we needed it so badly and have another day forecast tomorrow and I shall not complain!! Perhaps I should finally do some of the housework, no excuses!! Xx

  • Thank you for this lovely garden post, Susan, with all of your marvelous ideas! Your acceptance of the inevitable toll that the weather causes on outdoor furniture was a good reminder to me, too. Don’t demand that things be too perfect or you’ll be forever doing chores outside and never enjoying it, right? Our rose arbor this year is showing an awful lot of wood rot and I have been brainstorming with all of our knowledgable friends about what to do. After your post, I am going to just ignore it and maybe think about it some more in the fall. Replacing it would require the removal of a gorgeous and immense climbing hydrangea that I planted years ago as a “baby.” So you can see why I am reluctant. One other thought–this spring our local newspaper introduced us to the Japanese concept of “forest bathing” and how good it is for long term health. I LOVE this!! Have you heard of this before? The concept so charms me and reinforces all of your thoughts on the pleasure and importance of enjoying the outdoors whenever possible!
    Anne xo

      • Kiki, Doesn’t the name sound enchanting?!? You can learn more about it on Wikipedia or in this article in the Washington Post where I first learned the term: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/05/17/forest-bathing-is-latest-fitness-trend-to-hit-u-s-where-yoga-was-30-years-ago/?utm_term=.49217bcdf870
        As I understand it, at least one medical study has proven the beneficial effects of walking in a forest. Of course. That is intuitive. However, I am finding the term itself has changed my experience. As an avid hiker, the imagery conjured up by the term “forest bathing” has positively affected my experience in the forest as I actually feel myself bathing in the sights, sounds and smells of it all. Wonderful!
        Anne xo

      • Kiki, Google Japanese Forest Bathing, I just did and learnt a lot in a very short time, actually what they claim is quite incredible. I am going to do a lot more reading about this as I had never heard of it, another great positive thing from the blog! Xx

        • Honestly, this all makes me laugh…. when you grew up or lived nr a wood, you were taking ‘forest baths’ without a second thought. Of course it’s doing you a world of good, you are roaming in the free nature, the air is pure, the tiny little lives are the only ones hurrying across the ground, you hear other birds singing than the ones at home, maybe a coukoo or so, you can’t use mobile phones because luckily there are no base stations…. it’s you and nature – heavenly and not new at all….. The subject was discussed in-depth at the 2017 World Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Just think: We were – years and years ago – totally ‘dans le vent’ w/o realising it 🙂 It was just a Walk in the Park, no, in the Forest. I’m glad though that people start everywhere to realise that we need nature and that we should protect it as much as possible…. (sadly not ALL of them do!!!)

          • Whatever people want to call it, as you say, it’s good that maybe people are realising that there is so much good in nature and how things used to be done. Perhaps we shall all regard walking in the forest a little differently now! But I am still grateful to Anne for enlightening us, it was a fascinating read. Xx

          • oh yesssssss, by all means – it’s just that many of those ‘new’ discoveries/inventions are older than the world and shouldn’t rightly be announced as the new orange… 🙂
            And YES, again, a big hearty Thank You to Anne, if I sounded dismissive, I do apologize, I loved and love her comment, am grateful for the link and totally agree. (crawling on her belly with remorse…..!)

          • You are right, many things are just common sense or ancient ideas given a new name, but it’s good to read things like this and think “yes I am doing the right thing in our daily lives!”

    • Anne, coming back to your reply – THANK YOU VERY MUCH – have only quickly printed out the article but, minutes before I head out of the house for a choir rehearsal, I must give air to my first reaction upon ‘overflying’ your comment: NOW I KNOW WHY I MISS ‘MY’ FOREST SO MUCH…. As a native Swiss and having grown up in close proximity of woods and forests, I knew how important they were to my well-being. When I had myself dog & child, I took many walks with 1st the dog and then with dog & child, alone or with like-minded friends, through the calming and fresh and always lovely smelling woods…
      Our children were allowed to go barefoot on the soft moss, we stroke it and had pic-nics, our dogs went ecstatic and plunged through the shallow rivulets and the ‘babes’ stamped through the water and got then the pine needles sticking to their tender feet…. it was a heavenly and peaceful time.
      Then, much later, I lived in England in a house called The Firs with not a fir tree in sight (but many other trees!), followed by my present living in France, again ‘sans’ forests and woods – but luckily with many trees…. Still, I DO miss my woods!!!!
      All this just popped up in my heart seeing your post… And I shall read all your ‘references’ – but in my heart I know already: When we listen to our inner mate talking to us, we can’t go wrong! Thank you for taking the time to enlighten me!!!! Very appreciated 🙂 Now off to my choir practice!

      • Thank you for sharing such an idyllic time in your life!! I envy you that time!! It sounds magical. I grew up in a particularly ugly part of suburban LA and escaped very intentionally to rural New England for university. My husband and I love to hike here in Washington, DC, but are also looking forward to a trip this summer to bike in France (in the Loire Valley).
        Thank you, Susan, for permitting these side conversations!! xo

        • I love reading all the comments and the fact that it brings other people together. Have you changed your plans from Spain to the Loire? Let me know if you plan on heading any further South, a warm welcome here, always! Xx

        • Anne, this sounds wonderful. Happy hols to you – and drink to our health when stopping in the evening 🙂
          Our best time was spent in South Devon, England – so rural, peaceful, with friendly people and the sea nearby….. Thank You for sharing YOUR treasures as Susan does with so many of us here! Aren’t we fortunate?

    • I totally agree, I think recycling and accepting that things look natural but not perfect outside is so much easier! I would do all you could to preserve the climbing hydrangea, I have seen several around here and they are stunning and I would so love to introduce one here, they are stunning. Now I have never heard of “forest bathing” but I have just spent a quick ten minutes googling it and reading. I shall certainly be going back to this and reading a lot more. When Roddy bought this house, the first thing that he saw was the trees, most of them at least a century old or more and he knew we could alter the interior of the house, we could change the garden, but we could never plant trees like this in our lifetime. I find being outside so soothing and calming, I just love it and now I am going to read even more about it, thank you so much for introducing me to this! Xxx

  • I absolutely love the stone table you built. It’s perfect. I also love mirrors in gardens. I have a VERY small garden but on one wall I have a collage of mirrors that I’ve picked up at yard sales and thrift stores. They look lovely on my stone wall and get better with age. Thank you for another lovely post!!

    • Thanks Julia, the table has been a huge success! I can see I am quite behind the times, I never even thought of mirrors in gardens before! A collage of mirrors sounds delightful, what a fabulous idea and as you say, they just get better with age as colours mellow. Hope you have a lovely end to the week xx

  • I love my outdoor spots for rest, reading, meditation, rejuvenate, drink tea or wine, whatever suits your fancy. I have several locations around my house to move to for shade, which I crave. I am fair skinned and avoid sun for any length of time, so I rotate my spots according to time of day. My favorite collection of chairs and tables has traveled from house to house with me and also my Miss Kitty who knows the shade spots well. I also have a great collection of pillows to make everyone comfortable, can’t not have enough pillows! Oh, the joys of the outdoors is a tonic to to heart! Love your picture of kitty on the ferns, she finds shade also. Smart little cat. Enjoy the lazy days of summer!

    • I forgot to say….
      “All my outdoor furniture is pieces I have had forever and enjoy the history of each piece…..where it was first purchased & when, which brings back memories. The stone table you & your husband put together will always be a cherished story.

      • I so agree with you on this Patricia, I love the stories that go with all of our pieces, where we bought them, which child was with us, which was even born! The stone table will certainly outlive us all I am quite sure! Xx

    • I too seek the shade whenever I can, I love the sun but only for the general warmth it brings, I don’t like to sit in it! Much of our outside furniture has travelled with us too, it’s all a little old and tatty but extremely comfortable! Cannot agree more with the need for lots of pillows, the more the better. There is simply nothing better than the long days of summer and time spent outdoors, long lazy, happy days! Have a lovely end to the week xx

  • We are REALLY married souls…. same ideas, same perceptions, BUT you have more space, a handy Handyman called Roddy and you have the pets I so miss….. Incredibly beautiful ´garden staging’, lovely photos, great writing, and all that wirh a full household, children, guests, etc etc….. You are my heroine!!!!
    I had a very large, heavy old mirror mounted above a door in our entry; it mirrors the huge lantern lamp and doubles the light from the entry door too….. such great opps! Another huge mirror (door from a very, very large wardrobe) got a good treatment, some oil and now shows the stairs to the 1st floor in their ´grandeur’ as well as allowing me to ´see´ where I am when I descend the stairs.
    Another idea is to keep some blocks of a felled tree trunk and use them as side table for a glass of wine or alternatively as a stool or door stop for the heavy veranda doors….
    We have two large subshades open permanently in the veranda and eat all our meals there…. it is heaven on small scale 😉

    • I couldn’t possibly do any of this without Roddy, he is an incredibly handy handyman and we also have such similar tastes and like the same things, it makes life so much easier! I love mirrors and this has given me an idea to add one in our summer kitchen, it’s a little dull inside and I think a mirror would help bring some of the outside in. Once the rain ceased this evening I took a walk around and made some mental plans, now I just need the time to put them all into action, I can feel a new project beginning!!! Love the sound of all your mirrors and wooden blocks for tables, always! Xxx

      • Did the same (walking through the wet garden after two or three very heavy, but short rainfalls) and I swear I could hear the happy sighing of the soil, the plantes, and the birds seemed to sing even more joyful…. good on them, they had to dig out the worms from a VERY hard ground before!!! My dad and my first husband were total wizzards with their hands, they could literally do EVERYTHING, sadly, this no longer is the case – we all live with compromises, don’t we lol 🙂 😉

        • Oh you always make me laugh Kiki! Yes life is full of compromises, but so long as they are good ones then we are all happy! Another day of downpours here interspersed with brilliant sunshine and bright blue skies, the tomato plants look so happy, the frogs are croaking in the pond, everyone is happy, especially as the weekend forecasts a return of fine weather and sun!!! Xx

  • I am dreaming of being able to go out and enjoy outdoor spaces, I just have to wait for the weather to play ball!

    • Do you know when it will be finished and when you will be moving in? I love outdoor fire pits, in the autumn they are just perfect, there is nothing like sitting outside around a fire at night with friends, it prompts fabulous conversation and many happy memories. Xx

  • So welcoming and absolutely lovely. There’s nothing quite like the patina on a charming table and chair set to sit outside and watch the world go by. Since we’re actually experiencing a rain and snow mix today (some 4-10″ are expected around the metro area) the annual pots will be delayed until the end of the month. The flowering lupines seem to be enjoying this moisture gift from Mother Nature. No doubt it’ll be back in the upper 80’s in a few short days! By then I’ll be back under the covered patio seeking shelter from the harsh sun.

    • Wow, your weather really is all over the place, I cannot believe you can be in the 80’s one week and have snow the next. It is far more temperate here, despite a day of non stop rain today, the temperature was still pleasant enough in the high 60’s. However, this evening, the rain ceased and I took a walk around the garden, the plants were literally looking so happy, silently saying a great big thank you for all the water. Enjoy your end to the week xx

  • I love the rustic charm of your garden Susan. The ‘new’ stone table, cast iron tub and rusty patio table all add to the wonderful ambience of your outdoor space. Like you, I find items to re-purpose in the garden, although mine is a typical British postage stamp type I still like it to look pretty without spending a shed load of money.
    What a delightful photo of puss relaxing in the shade.
    Isn’t it typical…it looks like I missed the good weather by a week! x

    • Totally agree with you Fiona, I think recycling in the garden makes such sense and is also so much fun. The weather has been gorgeous here, this is the first rain we have had for so long that we are actually really welcoming it. Then it is meant to be gorgeous again next week. When are you back in the Vendee? Xx

  • You have the best outdoor living areas. I love the trees canopy over the dining table. What a fabulous spot to enjoy dining.

    • Thanks so much Kim, moving the table under the trees works rather well, before they are in leaf it is in full sun, but then that is the time of year when we want full sun, for warmth as we dine outside huddled in scarves and coats! Now we need shade and nature provides it, and rather beautifully so! Hope you are healing quickly xxx

  • What a splendid job you’ve done with all these lovely spaces! I feel more relaxed just looking at them. One day I hope to have some similar spaces, but I admit i don’t envy you moving that gigantic bit of stone!! 🙂

    janet

    • Thanks Janet, when I mentioned the stone, everyone really did think I was quite mad, but I just knew it would make the most perfect table, and when I found the piece I wanted, I just love the shape, that was it, we had to find a way to move it, where there is a will there’s a way! I couldn’t have done any of it without Roddy’s help and Millie’s too, she didn’t have school the day we made our table!! Xx

  • What an invigorating post again. Susan, you have such good ideas and I love the stone table, the dinning under the
    lime tree will be so cozy and the mirror which makes your beautiful garden looking much bigger. I put also a mirror on
    my terrace and it’s a real wow effect. Perhaps you will find an old chandelier which you can hang over the dinning table. ? Romance this summer is my keyword and always my motto…you need not the money but the creativity You got it.

    • I can imagine the mirror would add a huge wow factor to your terrace, I am certainly going to now put one in our summer kitchen! I love the idea of a chandelier above the dining table, my mind is now running away with ideas, I am thinking we might make one with tea lights and glass yoghurt jars and hang it for the summer. It would be very natural and look so pretty. Romance is my keyword this summer too, I think we all need a little romance in our lives in this upside down world and there is so much we can do on a very small budget, we just have to be imaginative! Xx

  • It all looks thoroughly delightful. Spookily before I read your post I was about to titivate my little courtyard. Then the heavens opened so I consoled myself drooling over your photos. Some great ideas. Thank you.

    • Thanks so much Sheila, sounds as if you had the same weather as we did today! Hope tomorrow the weather clears for you and you get to go and “play” in your courtyard, I simply adore small spaces, our courtyard garden is one of my favourite places in the entire garden, partly because it is so different to everywhere else but also because it is so small and romantic. Have Fun! Xx

  • Thanks for this great post. With your posts, I can take a “trip” to France & your home from my home here in Texas.

  • Very simple, when can I move in with you and your family. I could spend hours in your outdoor spaces and not bother you one bit except to have you bring me eat and drink!!!!!!

  • My head is just bursting with ideas for our cottage. Maybe a lighter weight version of your coffee table but still using stone. And I love your table. I always pay more attention to the lake side of the house than the woods side but this year, maybe equal time!

    • We love the stone table, it is such a sturdy and substantial piece and the real focus of the seating on the terrace now. If you can find some stone, I really do urge you to go for it, you won’t be disappointed! I think gardens evolve and so do various areas, I find each year I enjoy different areas more and more. If you have a wooded side, do read Anne HH’s comments, all about Japanese Forest Bathing, it is utterly fascinating. Xx

  • Some wonderful garden seating and dining ideas there. I love that Roddy supports you in these things.

  • Wonderful, marvelous. And that last picture says it all.
    Mirrors: I read this some time back, used by someone who lived in a coastal town. She had a full-length mirror (closet-door variety) attached to the house and over it put a trellis, then trained vines. The mirror peeks through the leaves and reflects light and water around the garden.
    It would work as well, I should think, in an inland garden.

    • Emm; I was contemplating the same thing when I lived in a beautiful Victorian pile in South Devon England – but the wooden frame would have just ‘dissolved’ in the weather and I took it inside – but in principle I wanted to lighten up a darkish corner – half-covered (only half!!! that was the problem) with a trelly ‘roof’ and wild clematis & much weed climbing up – I resolved the light problem with cheerfully glazed pots & blooming plants – AND my garden herbs… But I bet it looks stunning! Sadly those large mirrors are priceless nowadays and hard to get…

    • I can see I am totally behind the times with regards to garden mirrors! I would imagine they would look incredible in a coastal garden, I am thinking I should add one to the summer kitchen and have all sorts of ideas, we certainly don’t need one in the garden! The bench is Evie’s favourite place to sit or sleep. She can survey all around her at a height she feels totally comfortable with, it is fast becoming ‘her’ bench, she has good taste! Xx

  • What charming areas, each one looks as if it has its own character and each delights in its own way. I think you have perfected the art of relaxed French chic and given us so many ideas too.

    • Thanks so much Shari, I love having lots of different places to sit in the garden. Personally I rarely get the time, but I do get just as much pleasure watching the children or their friends, or our friends, sit and enjoy the garden. Xx

  • Your garden is so welcoming and absolutely lovely. Do you spend hours and hours on upkeep? Thank you for sharing your photos – they are stunning.

    • Thanks so much Kathleene, the garden is time consuming yes, I could spend many more hours but I simply don’t have the time. Hence I accept the weeds and have let it be as natural as possible so that it is not so high maintenance, but it is such a wonderful place that it is worth every hour, plus it’s great exercise and has great health benefits, so really it’s a win win situation! Xx

    • Ha ha, thanks so much Denise! Shame about the rain today, but when I took a walk around late this evening, once the rain had ceased, the plants were looking so happy, after the heat and no rain for weeks they were silently saying a great big thank you! Xx

  • that coffee table is outstanding! well done! might the capstone have been part of the step to the house at one time?

    • Thanks Sue, we are not entirely sure where all the stone comes from, there is lots around the garden, old fireplace mantels, some completely intact, some in parts, at some stage a building must have been demolished somewhere as there are stone walls surrounding us and odd clues! Xx

  • Loved all of spaces and also all the comments. I agree the natural parasol over the dining table looks gorgeous, I can just imagine fresh food and produce from French markets around that table, lucky you and your family

  • Susan,your garden is not only gorgeous but an inspiration!We just want to plop down in one of your comfy chairs and inhale the sweet scents and wrap ourselves in tranquility! How gifted you are to bring everything together the way you have. What a gift for us to be able to share in this with you!
    And! Such glorious greenery and flowers also make me so thankful for adequate rainfall.Due to drought and water rationing,our garden in Santa Barbara lost over half of my antique roses(most orginally planted in the 1970’s and relocated with each move.)Was about 150 of them; so hard to watch them–and our other plants as well- die due to lack of moisture.
    We live in the desert now so the landscaping needs are totally different but beautiful in their own way.
    You have given us reasons to treasure the respite that only nature can provide.
    Thank you!

    • How sad to watch the roses die, drought is horrendous and there is nothing one can do about it. We all moan about the rain but how we need it. Our garden has been so dry, I planted the vegetable garden last week and had watered it nightly from our well, a good heavy water every night and yet still things looked limp and sad with the heat. But a day of non stop steady rain yesterday and in the evening I took a walk around, the plants all looked so happy, literally tilting their heads and silently saying thank you. I have often looked at photos of dessert gardens, as you say quite stunning in their own way, a different set of challenges, but just as enjoyable. Have a lovely weekend xx

  • I have been using mirrors in the garden for as long as I can remember, it adds a special touch, a new vista and extra light. I buy mine from opportunity shops here in Australia (thrift stores) whenever I come across one it always ends up in the back of the car, not planning or knowing where I will use it but I always do. Hubby just rolls his eyes but says nothing!

    • Oh I know exactly what you mean, I come back with things and Roddy just looks at me, that knowing look! But he too says nothing or else he just laughs!! When one sees something at a bargain price it just has to be bought, never know when it might come in useful and old mirrors are always a good idea! Xx

  • I have to pause and laugh at Roddy’s comment to you. My husband would have the same exact response but in the end (if I leave him and don’t nag) he will figure out a way to “move it”. Aren’t we lucky? Your outdoor space looks very much like mine…a little rust, a little old and a bit of new…

    • We are so lucky, Roddy just knows that when I have a mind to do something, one way or another we will get it done, fortunately we are both the same like this though, where there’s a will, there’s a way and neither of us like to be defeated! A little rust, a little old, a little new, it all goes so well together! Xx

    • Thanks Carole, actually it wasn’t too bad, we took it slowly and backs all remained fine! What worried me most was that someone would drop a corner and it would land on a hand or foot, I could easily see broken bones and it was all a little nerve wracking! But in the end well worth the effort! Xx

  • Thank you for wonderfully comfortable smile in the early morning hours . . . . would love to trespass, barefoot, in a long floaty dress, holding a perfect white rose in hand for you . . . come in the ‘back way’, get on that special table and dance until you gave me big mug of black coffee and told me to be sensible for goodness sake !! And we would have breakfast together 🙂 !! Well, dreams take all different shapes and forms . . .

    • Dreams are always such fun! I love the idea of dancing on the table and who needs to be sensible! There is a time to be grown up and responsible, but there is also a time to have fun and just be silly and long warm summer evenings are definitely a time for fun and letting one’s hair down. One day I hope you will be on this side of the world and we can enjoy time together with much laughter and good wine xx

  • How welcoming and beautiful. I’d love to curl up in many of those places and enjoy the sun, plus a book. I just started French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain.

    • Summer definitely calls for relaxing somewhere in the garden, it is a time to make the most of the great outdoors, although here we do tend to seek the shade as much as possible. I shall check out French Rhapsody, I am always on the lookout for good books. Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Great ideas, Susan, I love them all, and that table appeals greatly to me. Would not be out of place outside the shed on the beach. Certainly won’t blow away and I think it would get stolen either – not unless someone determined took a pick-up down there with a crane in the back! We reuse a lot of stuff, too. Nothing better for the soul than making good use of something old and loved.

    Summer coming here slowly now too, more people in the sea day by day – more fool them, of course 🙂

    • Tables like this certainly won’t get stolen easily if they are in a public place! There is nothing better than recycling things, it really does give one a feel good factor. Glad the weather is slowly getting better, before you know it you’ll be hearing the non stop sound of the ice cream van, Mr Whippy and a 99 cone in my day! Xx

      • My question lurking at the back of my mind was too How on earth are you getting those huge stone slabs in your garden – and you replied already beautifully.
        We have a v.large stone bassin in the garden – although we can’t use it as nobody seemed to know if and how it was connected to a sewer and when we turn on the water, it doesn’t flow off….. so it’s more of a pretentious (but simple and quite useless) summer kitchen, all the more as the huge stone cheminée we ‘got included’ in the house buying was broken in the whole length (but nobody told us so) and only when I followed the burnt ivy & white thorn shrubs with my eyes, I realised that not all was ‘so so’…. Still, it’s there and doesn’t hurt anybody – and it looks nice next to the wisteria canopy over a patio, now fully overgrown with weeds, dandelions and such….

        • I love old stone, there is so much of it here, goodness knows why or where it came from! Love the idea of the old bassin and as you say, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter, it looks good! And any old stone with things growing over it wins in my book! Xx

  • I love, love, love your outdoor space … but then I think I’ve told you that so many times already! The combination of stone, wood, and greenery is timeless and your stone table is a dash of brilliance.

    Too bad we couldn’t even out the imbalances in nature. We’ve had more than enough rain and all our lakes, rivers, and streams are overflowing.

    Happy Friday and hope you have a wonderful weekend!

    • Thanks so much Joanne, such a shame we can’t share our weather, we have had one of the driest winters and springs and the water table is so low. However, we have just had two days of rain now, so although this won’t make things right it will certainly help a little, our vegetables have literally grown in two days and I can see them silently saying thank you! Hope you too have a lovely weekend xx

  • Susan,
    It’s official…we need to find you an editor and get your blog published into a coffee table book.
    This has been one of my favorite posts but then again there are so many favorites… I am not quite sure what I love more…the photography or the writings. Everything is so utterly “enchanting.”
    Thank you for giving me something not only to think about but to dream about. It is just another reason for me to give more thought to a “fairytale adventure” of idyllic life in France that seems so utterly charming.
    Happy Weekend! xx

  • I so believe in the restorative power of a garden. Love your stone table, what a chore, but what a delight.

    • The table was quite a labour of love, and heavy work but so worth it, we simply adore it! I am a great believer that gardening does so much good in so many ways. Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Oh my, this looks like outdoor bliss and you offer plenty of wonderful ideas for creating separate garden areas. If only our little parcel of Texas came with gorgeous stones and lush shaded areas.

    • I am sure your garden is lovely and it’s incredible what can be achieved with a simple shade sail and a few pot plants, have fun and experiment and have a great weekend xx

  • Every time you post, I say ” this is my favorite “. Such wonderful talent and how kind you are to share with us. We are retiring and downsizing. I don’t know if this is an American phenomenon or not, but we have purchased a slightly smaller home, all on one level, with a much smaller yard. We will be spending the next few months working on it and the yard, though small, has potential for several separate little gardens. We are lucky to have a beautiful sunroom across the back of the house and patios on either side. We are already calling them the east and west patios! I can’t wait to work on them. It’s already very hot here in the upstate of South Carolina and I am praying for rain. Early morning is the best time of day.

    • Thanks so very much Sheran. Certainly people downsize when they retire in Europe, although less so in France than in the UK! I love the sound of your new home and the gardens, I think having different areas is such a bonus, it makes it so much more interesting and how exciting that you can make it all your own, I would be itching to get started and planning away in my mind! Hope you get the rain you need! Have a lovely weekend xx

  • I am sitting here on a rainy Saturday eating pita chips on the couch reading your page and dreaming of gardens, haha! I love how you had big dreams of moving the stone whilst others doubted the possibilities. My husband always teases me about my grand plans that come at the expense of his muscle. And Roddy seems to be a talented carpenter too. The new garden bench sounds very practical. I absolutely love how your stone table turned out! So ancient looking like it’s been there for centuries. Alas I have no giant stones in my Midwest yard :(. Also, I am inspired by your many garden “vignettes” and think they always offer a different perspective in the garden. Thanks for sharing as always!

    Kindly,
    Amelia

    • Thanks so much Amelia, I am glad I am not the only one with grand plans! I always love having lots of different areas in the garden, it makes it so much more interesting although I am rarely the person who ever sits and uses them, but it is fun to see others enjoying the spaces. Hope the weather is better today for you. xx

  • Lovely garden ideas Susan. I particularly admired the stone table and the sheer determination required to shift those slabs into place. It will be a lasting feature in any season. A pot of geranium is always a magic touch. Your summer has started rather early- amazing temperatures for late May. Here we are in Melbourne, with a week of 19 and 20c all week, with mild overnight temps, one week before winter. A little Indian summer here before the long chill. Might have to have my cuppa outside, as you suggest.

    • I hadn’t realised it got quite so cold with you Francesca, but of course I should have done as we have friends just north of Melbourne! Sounds like the perfect temperature at the moment for you though, so enjoy it! It’s warming up nicely here again after a couple of days of rain, perfect weather here today, about 23C and a gentle breeze. Hope you had a lovely weekend xx

  • Thank you for sharing, your house & garden look amazing!! I want to jump on a plane an head to Charente Maritime straight away. Well it has certainly made my short list. Thanks again, I look forward to all your posts.

    • It is gorgeous here, not well known like Provence or Normandy in the north, but we have the most fabulous coastline and beaches and gorgeous villages, it is a very special place to live, do come and visit. xx

  • Lovely! A friend of mine has a garden mirror. They’re very clever at enlarging a space, and making you feel as though you have even more plants than you do! I’ll be interested to see your final decision. I was also interested to see the cobbled path edge to the lawn, in front of your border. Was this a planned idea of yours or already there? Does it make mowing easier? It looks very good and full of character. We have an ancient cobbled path in front of our cottage. it used to go all around the village in the days of mud roads, so there was something cleaner to walk on. There’s still a lot left and some has had paving slabs put down the middle for ease and safety – a shame but in some places, necessary. The only thing that I don’t like is that all the weeds and grass grow in between the cobbles!! I’ve discovered that sprinkling salt on them gets rid of them without the need for chemicals. After a nice day yesterday, we have typical Bank Holiday Monday weather with heavy showers! We had hoped to put the top coat on our sentry box shed but it will have to wait till tomorrow. But the dry day yesterday allowed me to give a first ever trim to the little Box hedge I planted in our back garden, so that’s now looking so much better and makes me feel as if I’ve achieved at least something!

    • I am fascinated by mirrors in the garden, but we have no need of one, so I shall put one in the summer kitchen instead to reflect the plants from the outside! The cobbled path has always been along the border, I believe it is very old, many decades. As you say, the weeds in between are the only drawback. I tried salt a couple of years ago with a mediocre amount of success. What I have found to be the best is a fire wand for the weeds. It runs on a small camping gas bottle and just passing the flame over kills off the grass. When I regrows I just redo it, simple, no chemicals and clean and effective. It certainly does make mowing easier as there are no edges to do. Raining here this morning too but nice this afternoon. Xx

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