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.
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.
while other structures prefer the boho look!
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.
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.
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
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!
Red is always in fashion for those that like bright and bold
or green in every hue completes the simple understated look.
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.
It’s also quite normal at this time of year to have to push past foliage to go through doors.
Virginia creeper tends to cover entire walls, a beautiful long evening dress, hugging the body and sweeping the floor.
Even the plainest of buildings look pretty with seasonal fashion
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,
and where the tallest peer over stone walls like bejewelled summer Triffids at unwary passer-bys.
I’ve also passed places I wanted to renovate, structures that I thought would make the most perfect little summer cottages
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.
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.
It doesn’t really matter what your taste, be it an itsy bitsy floral bikini
or an enormous beach wrap, there really is something to suit every taste.
Personally, I like to dream a little, I imagine living inside these beautiful old gates
or picking grapes from either of these pretty vines.
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.
This house is simply basking in the sun, shutters partially closed to keep out the heat, but still allowing air to circulate,
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.
Perhaps you would like to make a very grand entrance amidst manicured perfection.
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.