Dressing up for Summer

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Summertime is the season for pretty dresses, bright colours and a general feeling of joie de vivre. Into the hallway cupboard we stow our wooly scarves, hats and gloves, and as the days warm we take off layer after layer of warm clothing, exposing bare skin and covering ourselves with the merest wisp of fabric, a transformation that always coincides with the rising sap of the new season. But houses and walls tend to do quite the opposite, the old naked structures donning their prettiest outfits as they metamorphose into summer creations of their own design.

Suddenly an entrance becomes swathed in wisteria; petals litter the ground and the scent welcomes every visitor through the portal, inviting them to step inside and to linger awhile.

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And just as fashion has many options and just as we do not all follow the same trends, so it is the same with our buildings. Some seem to sympathise with the new season by adopting summery bright colours and an altogether more manicured facade, dressing up for the visitors driving by.

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while other structures prefer the boho look!P6610012

Ancient walls come to life and dress up too at this time of year; ivy seeks a foothold in anticipation of late summer’s climax, clinging to ancient stone. And pink valerian self-seeds wherever it can, growing with wild abandon, its roots taking hold in impossibly small crevices as it crowds out the lizards and other small beasts that lurk in the deep recesses of shade.

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I must have stopped and photographed so many houses this past week, because once this idea came into my mind, I found something dressed up for summer at almost every turn. I would stop the car in bizarre places and jump out and snap away, sometimes with my phone, at other times with my camera if I’d remembered to grab it on the way out the door.

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Our own home is equally well-clothed for summer; the wisteria threatens to run riot every year and I have to keep it firmly in check. It makes the prettiest of summer tops

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to go with the perfect pair of colourful shorts that the mirabilis offers beneath, the entire outfit emboldened by the buddleia which becomes the necklace, a length of bright dazzling jewels, elegantly pulling the outfit together!

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Red is always in fashion for those that like bright and bold

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or green in every hue completes the simple understated look.

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Even houses and buildings crying out for some love and attention are not immune to some summer clothing, and their needs are typically met by the annual return of the same change of clothes, always reliable and guaranteed to offer a little je ne sais quoi to a scene a little drab and grey for much of the winter.

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It’s also quite normal at this time of year to have to push past foliage to go through doors.

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Virginia creeper tends to cover entire walls, a beautiful long evening dress, hugging the body and sweeping the floor.

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Even the plainest of buildings look pretty with seasonal fashion

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and hollyhocks take centre stage in this area. No house, garden, town or village would seem complete without them growing in wild abandon, each year bringing a new clutch of colourful children to the same sunny spot,

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and where the tallest peer over stone walls like bejewelled summer Triffids at unwary passer-bys.

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I’ve also passed places I wanted to renovate, structures that I thought would make the most perfect little summer cottages

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and I have often stopped at these gates on my way to Soubise, wondering where they once led, what stories they can tell and why they have been left abandoned.

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Stone features heavily in many gardens around here, providing another place for something to climb, and convenient holes for the many solitary bees that pollinate the gardens each year.

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It doesn’t really matter what your taste, be it an itsy bitsy floral bikini

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or an enormous beach wrap, there really is something to suit every taste.

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Personally, I like to dream a little, I imagine living inside these beautiful old gates

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or picking grapes from either of these pretty vines.

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Then I dreamt we owned these buildings, this could be the most fabulous courtyard, perfect for entertaining, summer evenings dining al fresco against the warmth of the old stone.

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This house is simply basking in the sun, shutters partially closed to keep out the heat, but still allowing air to circulate,

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whereas this one is just crying out for someone to come and love it and give it a little TLC, a splash of fresh whitewash and some paint for the shutters, after which a weary person might snooze upstairs after lunch as the cicadas snore in sympathy in the bushes below.

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Perhaps you would like to make a very grand entrance amidst manicured perfection.

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Even the local Mairie, the town hall, gets in on the act. No one is immune to the pretty effects of summer improvements, even if they might turn out to be a strong eyebrow  above two watchful eyes observing the crossing.

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112 thoughts on “Dressing up for Summer

  • The most beautiful way to end my day, I read this over a little apéro and just imagined I was there. So calms my and pretty, thank you.

  • It was always wonderful to welcome back the flowering wisteria each year – but hard work to stop it crushing the pipes it wound around. Likewise, the leaves on the ivy across the front of the house were beautiful, but so hard to keep the pebbles underneath clear when they dropped. I guess you need to work hard for beauty !

    • It seems to me it is the same with houses as with people, we have to work hard to look good!!! The only positive is, I have never had any problem with the wisteria crushing things, yet! Hope I haven’t spoken too soon! xx

  • Such a gorgeous summer pictorial essay! I will feast on each of these photos and imagine I can hear the cicadas! Thank you for sharing.

  • When I was young and riding the train from my home in Westchester to Manhattan I often gazed at the old stone structures aligned beside the tracks. Some tenements in Harlem, but with a look of history. I too wondered what went on inside those walls, and what stories they could tell of a bygone era albeit only from the 1920’s How much more serene to ponder these questions when looking at these homes in France. In actuality, these dreams and musings are what brought me to the house in Italy. I am always thinking about the homes viewed from the train or while taking a walk in the countryside. “I could do great things with that house, I think.” And that is how it starts….

    • That is exactly how I think too, what a wonderful thing to have brought you to Italy. It is so good to be able to dream, I look at so many places here and I wonder what stories lie behind the walls. We are off to Vichy this weekend and I am know it will be full of history, cannot wait. xx

    • That was an amazing fashion show. The models were not too thin…just the right size.
      Hugs to you, and looking forward to October.
      Ali xx

  • Lovely photos, I can imagine you stopping the car every few minutes to snap a quick photo, when you are dashing to get one of the children to their activity.

  • Love that you called the flowers ‘clothing’, such a great idea! & as ever, stunning photos. I’d also love to see what is behind all those gates & shutters. xx

    • Thanks so much Janet, it was such a fun idea and once I started I found houses at every turn. I would love to find out more about what is behind so many gates and places. We are off to the Auvergne tomorrow, Vichy to be precise, so much history, I cannot wait. xx

  • Loved it again as usual. Just a little (well a lot) jealous of the beauty you are surrounded by every day. Thanks for sharing while I have my coffee. Say hello to all and hugs to everyone.

  • So beautiful and inviting! You are going to convince your friends from all over the world to move there!

  • Just like us, summer fashions bold and bright make everything cheerful, and fun! A delightful post, friend….so pretty. Hoping for more summer weather for you! xo Lidy

    • Oh we are certainly hoping for some summer weather, it has been utterly fabulous, but this past week has been dismal, it is hard to believe it is summer almost, rain, and chilly and back to jeans and a jumper! Meant to be much better as of tomorrow, fingers crossed xx

  • I love love love that deep grey house in one of the first photos covered in green over its windows, like eyebrows!

  • What a great idea and pasttime to chase for “summer dressed houses”, Susan
    once I had an ivy covered house in my home country and I still love that style…anyway if I had to decide for one of the
    many houses you have shown, I couldn’t really say which one I love at most.

    • Thanks so much, don’t we just all love summer, the clothes for us, the flowers, the houses, it is such a wonderful time of year. Hope you have cooled down somewhat after all the immense heat. xx

  • Lovely pictures. A living testament to all the planters over the years. On my daily walks I pass the remnants of old gardens, their original houses long demolished to make way for development but still the plants struggle through and bloom again each year – 35 now and counting. Thanks to inspired local government we actually have a whole wonderful neighbourhood with beautiful gardens where formerly doomed century homes and farmhouses have been purchased by conservationists for a token $1 and re-established on city-owned land. Traffic stops as the grand old ladies glide ever so slowly up Main Street on the back of flatbeds, red flags flying. The hydro crews move ahead of them lifting the overhead lines. It gladdens the heart to see living history on its journey to becoming a family home again. One for the ages.

    • I’ve seen a few videos where the old houses move across town – it looks such a wonderful thing to do to them.

    • I love that homes can be moved like this. When we were in New Zealand we used to see old houses, villa style, being picked up and moved and then once they were in their new permanent position they would be renovated and given a new lease of life. It is wonderful to see these old properties brought back to life. xx

  • What a compelling and unique concept — and so very well written! I sent it to all my (USA) friends who cherish France, and one who was born on a beach in Brittany – literally. I know there is such a thing as being depaysee (sp?) — uncountried — homesick for a land not your own. I have carried this malade with me from the first children’s book, Little Jeanne of France, back in the 1940’s. Have only lived in (Provence) for about one year, 1987/88, but this blog helps doing without what always feels like my real country. Even without all that, this concept is amazing! Carolyn Foote Edelmann, NJWILDBEAUTY nature blog….

    • Thanks so much Carolyn, I really appreciate you sharing this. I hope you will come back to France one day, you sound as if you truly love the country, perhaps I can show you around our area here, quite different to Provence, but also quite beautiful. xx

  • Another of your brilliant little pictorial journeys, Susan – a real treasure on a midweek day in dismal London. Thank you, another little shot in the arm to keep us going till we come past later in the year. Hollyhocks are the most wonderful flower, I wish they grew more in the UK. I know they grow like weeds almost where you are. Amy and I hope you have a wonderful week!

    • Thanks so much Simon, interestedly I read recently that hollyhocks used to be very popular in the UK, but then they struggled with many diseases and they went out of fashion completely. Apparently now they are starting to make a comeback, so who knows, perhaps you will see them growing everywhere once again in a few years! xx

  • What a wonderful post! You’ll have to give us an update on the wardrobe come winter! Glad to see that you’re all enjoying the summer weather! It’ll be over all too soon so I suppose that we need to all get out and enjoy it! Lots of love from the Zester menagerie!!!

    • Thanks so much, what a great idea, I shall do this again in winter indeed, but it will be finding beauty in bare branches and trees instead. I am trying to find a way to prolong the month of August I want to enjoy every second of it. xx

  • Susan,your post and pictures are always so lovely,and once again,have totally captured my imagination!
    May God bless us through each season,but Summer never fails to remain one of the most special,such well being wrapping us in warmth and happiness !
    Thank for bringing many smiles!

    • Thanks so much Natalia, every season is special, I agree, but summer never fails to be fabulous, the flowers, the greenery and just the general carefree feeling the warmer weather brings with it. Hope you have a wonderful end to the week and weekend xx

    • Thanks so much, it was an idea that formed in my head whilst I was driving one day and then once it was there, I kept finding new places, I was stopping every ten minutes which made me constantly late for everything! xx

  • We are in mid winter here in The South Island, much though I love all the seasons I am certainly looking forward to summer once more!

    • But you are in a beautiful part of the world! in one of my favourite countries too. Summer will be with you before you know it and then we will be shivering in the cold with houses and trees bare of all leaves! xx

  • I would love to join you in the car, stopping, hopping out and taking photos, what fun journies you must have with so much beauty all around you.

    • They are wonderful journeys always, there is always so much to see and even the children enjoy car rides, always looking out of the window and helping me find places to photograph and stop! It certainly makes any car ride so much more fun! xx

  • Natural decorations are the best, Susan. I love the wisteria. Ivy looks great, but it’s so destructive. It’s also really difficult to get rid of. Keep enjoying your summer. 🙂

    janet

    • I agree with you Janet, Ivy has it’s place though so long as one can keep it in check! Wisteria is still my altime favourite however, I was so happy when we bought this house to find it climbing all over the front and the fact that it flowers all summer long here is a complete bonus! Hope you are having a lovely summer too xx

    • Thanks Monika, if only we could all dress in such rich colours with so many jewels! The wisteria has always fascinated me here, how it flowers all summer long, from April until the end of October!xx

  • What fun! So true….another magical aspect of Spring and Summer.
    So thrilled that you explained to us in an earlier post what the iron reinforment pieces applied over the stone were…. saw many of those as well.

    I’m now inspired to plant wisteria! I shall tromp outside and find a spot now!

    • Thanks so much, the only problem with wisteria is it takes years and years before it flowers, unless you can manage to buy an old established plant somewhere! I think ours is about 50 years old and it seems to rather like it’s home! Xx

  • I ADORE YOUR ACCESSORIZED HOUSES!!!
    VIRGINIA CREEPER is one of my all time favorites which we do not have here in CALIFORNIA!
    I HAVE BEEN INSPIRED!
    XX

    • I love Virginia creeper as it covers and looks incredible but does no harm to the wall unlike Ivy, so it really is a perfect plant! It also grows so vigorously! I have to be very strict with it on our own home or it would completely take over! I wonder why you don’t have it in California, is it the climate? Xx

      • Sorry to have to tell you that Virginia Creepers DO damage to stone. As, of course, do the ivy…. With ivy I’ve made a fascinating discovery. Depending on what plants are in their neighbourhood, they camouflage themselves to look as close as possible to the ‘original’… I have countless examples around the house and the ancient walls – it’s crazy how nature works its miracles.
        Sadly, I’m terribly allergic to the smell of wisteria. And they tend to (have!) crushed pipes and even electrical equipment and rendered it useless. But heck, we also don’t always please everybody with our ‘odours’, our ‘behaviour’ and our being…. I’ve learned to be more generous and even had a big smile on my face last week when I saw that Hero Husband carefully mowed around a brightly blooming weed because he thought that it was surely something or other his wife would want to preserve 🙂

      • Hero husband does just the same as Roddy, that made me laugh!! I have found our Virginia creeper has such terribly small shallow roots that it has done no harm at all and it covers half of our house. Ivy on the other hand is another story and I am forever pulling it down! I know several people who are allergic to wisteria, it seems to be quite common. xx

  • I find it such a natural read, you don’t brag or tell anyone what to do, I feel you write with a passion from your heart and that is what makes it such a good read, don’t give up!!

  • I never managed to have hollihocks here, the conditions don’t seem good enough. And now, here in Devon, having set my eyes every day on huge balls of hydrangeas in all colours under the sky, I sort of feel sorry for my babyish-sized flowers back home…. We seem often to crave what isn’t growing well enough just because we like it. Lavender does however grow very well in my region and my Virginia creepers are rather annoyingly active. They have pulled apart 100yr old stone ornaments with their inquisitive roots and I’m constantly pulling them out to keep the walls and stones ‘together’. But they ARE wonderful and I love wafting my hands through their long, long fronds when I ‘descend’ our hugely impressive stairs and feel them floating above my head… You have captured summer in wonderful words and pictures. I cannot stop to take photos of windows with flower pots and jardinières, yesterday and today alone I must have taken 2 dozen photos of entries and windows with hanging baskets, beautiful planted pots and talked to half a dozen gardeners who were tending to their beauties.

    • Apparently hollyhocks used to be very popular in the UK, but their tendency towards rust and disease saw them fall from favour, so I understand. here the conditions are perfect and as you know, they grow like weeds! I love Hydrangeas, I remember being in the Azores a few years ago, where they literally grow as hedges, it was one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. Don’t we always want what we cannot have, the grass is always greener so they say!!! Enjoy Devon xx

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