street flowers in Aire-sur-la-Lys.

Posted: September 15th, 2011 | Author: Kathryn | Filed under: garden | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

The village of Aire-sur-la-Lys is where we do our grocery shopping, use the post office, get a kebab, those sorts of things. Like most French villages around France the local commune does a wonderful job of placing flowers around the place and effortlessly maintaining them through the growing season. Usually the pots that are permanently placed along the streets are rectangular or square but in Aire sur la Lys, they have installed very high pots of flowers above the footpath. They last significantly longer than the street level planters because they don’t get attacked by playful children and they get a great deal more light up high. Some of these pots have been mounted, hanging from the facade of buildings and they look really wonderful, beautiful balls of flowers that bring loads of colour to the street.

nasturtium salad.

Posted: September 9th, 2011 | Author: Kathryn | Filed under: garden | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

I love eating flowers. Some months ago that would have seemed quite strange to me but nonetheless, I have become a flower eater. I made this salad to accompany fish a few afternoons ago and thought that I would share it. It has a few handfuls of mache; a few handfuls of rocket; purple basil, as much as you can spare and about the same quantity of nasturtium flowers to basil leaves. Wash and drip dry all of the ingredients, throw them together and drizzle with olive oil. I find when picking the nasturtium flowers that it is best to leave about 10 – 15 cm of the stem left on the flower so that you can put them in a vase of water until you are ready to add them to the salad. I also pinch the stem off as close to the flower as possible when I’m ready to use them. You can eat the entire flower, and they are quite delicious. They have a subtle flavour with a slight velvety texture when they reach your tongue. It’s quick, glorious and real show stopper when it lands on the table.

‘Sunspot’ sunflowers.

Posted: September 9th, 2011 | Author: Kathryn | Filed under: garden | Tags: , | No Comments »

My sunflowers have finally tipped their heads which signals the end of Summer and the slow decent in to Winter. Seeing that they looked so solemn today in the wind and the rain, I thought I’d post these pics to hold on to their glory for just a tinsy bit longer. Have a great weekend everybody!

Jardins de Valloires.

Posted: September 5th, 2011 | Author: Kathryn | Filed under: garden | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Just over our southern departmental border, is the Abbaye et Jardins de Valloires. A couple of weeks ago we went to see the garden but I was secretly there to eat. All of the fruit, vegetable, herb and floral components of the dishes come from the garden and the  daily menu is inextricably linked to the season and what is flourishing in the garden on that day. I was certainly not disappointed, there were so many new flavours and textures for us to try, the use of edible flowers and root vegetables were by far the most exciting.

The garden. Although the abbey dates back to the 12th Century, the garden is a modern creation. It maintains a number of  styles and diverts from ideas normally associated with traditional French gardens. The sculpted and immaculately kept lawns, hedges and topiaries represent a traditional French garden but the floral, vegetable and shrub gardens between the lawn and the Abbey are designed in the style of an English garden, divided into beds with no borders or paths, just well maintained grass. Running the full length of the garden to the left there is a ‘naturalistic’ walkway that is a very wide path that has a massive variety of trees and shrubs, many that flower. As it is elevated above the rest of the garden you get a wonderful view of the entire design as you move along the walkway. There are over 2000 species of plant, 5000 taxa and over 200 varieties of ancient and modern rose.

The Abbaye is the only complete 12th Century cistercian abbey in France. It has had quite a tumultuous history with war and a fire that took out a large section of the building. Today the abbey is home to a group of children who live there permanently as well as a hotel which you wouldn’t know was there by the lack of obvious hospitality finishes and domestic evidence.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable day and I would recommend a visit to anyone nearby. Make sure to visit in the summer months however because the cafe is closed when vegetable production is low and without the flowers in full bloom it would not do it justice.

The inner court of the Abbey.

250 year old espaliered pear tree. The monks used to make liquor with the fruit.