En­joys the

As sum­mer drifts into au­tumn, Phoebe Thomas last of the warm days in the south of France

Living France - - À LA MAISON -

Au­tumn comes very late to my gar­den in AlpesMar­itimes. The month of Septem­ber may see slightly cooler tem­per­a­tures than in July and Au­gust, par­tic­u­larly at night, but there’s no sign of a turn yet. Many sum­mer flow­ers are still in bloom though they are be­gin­ning to look a lit­tle blousy and past their prime, and the lawn is most def­i­nitely no longer green. It’s not un­til Novem­ber that we re­ally see any typ­i­cal au­tum­nal scenes with some fall­ing leaves and reds, orange and golden colours gen­tly mak­ing an ap­pear­ance.

I live in a town called Ro­que­fort-les-Pins, and it’s well named as we are dom­i­nated by pine trees. To­gether with palms, olives and green oaks, this area is mainly ev­er­green so we don’t get the tra­di­tional change of colour in the leaves that is so pop­u­lar in au­tumn. Even the or­di­nary oak trees here only lose their leaves just be­fore new ones sprout in spring rather than au­tumn. But hav­ing said this, if you look around there are lit­tle signs of au­tumn from Oc­to­ber on­wards.

One of the main jobs in the gar­den at the end of sum­mer is to cut back the laven­der on our 100 or so bushes. It’s time-con­sum­ing and back-break­ing but it smells great! I’m al­ways a lit­tle sad when we have to do this as it means sum­mer is com­ing to an end and it also means no more gor­geously scented evenings when the laven­der fills the air.

The trimmed bushes have their own beauty and look tidy but I do so love it when they are in bloom. We usu­ally keep most of the sprigs to make laven­der bags and pot­pourri as well as

My French gar­den: I love see­ing the in­ter­est­ing seed pods left be­hind after the flow­ers fin­ish bloom­ing

some dec­o­ra­tions. At least this pro­longs our en­joy­ment of our beau­ti­fully per­fumed, typ­i­cally Provençal flow­ers.

While we may not have tra­di­tional au­tumn scenes around us, one thing I love as the sea­sons change is see­ing the in­ter­est­ing seed pods left be­hind after the flow­ers have fin­ished bloom­ing. This is par­tic­u­larly so with some of the crazy weeds we get. As I’ve men­tioned in pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles we leave much of our gar­den rel­a­tively wild and some of the an­nual self-seeded plants which grow to about two me­tres are full of odd berries and seeds at this time of year.

The flow­ers in our gar­den hang on un­til late in the year pro­vid­ing colour through the tra­di­tional months of au­tumn. In Oc­to­ber we usu­ally still have ole­an­der, Os­teosper­mum, Plum­bago, bougainvil­lea and some roses in bloom and even a sec­ond flow­er­ing of Cean­othus. How­ever the most spec­tac­u­lar colour comes in the form of berries on the Co­toneaster bushes, flour­ish­ing from Oc­to­ber through­out the win­ter in rich or­anges and reds. Th­ese berries look won­der­ful against the bright azure sky.

Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber and even through to early Novem­ber are lovely months on the Côte d’Azur. The day­time tem­per­a­tures are warmer than most parts of north­ern Europe get in full sum­mer and the sea is still warm enough to swim in.

While the gar­den may not look as pretty as in spring, it’s still a colour­ful and at­trac­tive place to be, but it’s at this time of year that we some­times get vis­its by wild boar. Even though we are in a rel­a­tively ur­ban set­ting, we are sur­rounded by forests and over the years we have seen many san­gliers in the gar­den; enough un­for­tu­nately to re­quire culls.

They can do enor­mous amounts of dam­age, charg­ing through fences and plough­ing up the lawns. We have had to re­seed large parts of grass most au­tumns due to their de­struc­tive be­hav­iour. But de­spite the dam­age they do, I still find it amaz­ing that there are so many wild an­i­mals so close to town and I’m pleased they ex­ist.

As au­tumn pro­gresses and rain re­turns we tend to get plenty of fungi, not only in the damper, darker parts of the gar­den but all across the lawns. Some­times our gar­den looks like fairies have taken over with ink caps ev­ery­where. The rain brings colour back to our parched lawn and no mat­ter how brown it’s be­come, it al­ways goes green again, jus­ti­fy­ing our faith in na­ture.

Phoebe Thomas and her hus­band Jean-François moved to Ro­que­fort-les-Pins in 2007 where they now run a gîte. loumes­sugo.com

ARE YOU A KEEN GAR­DENER? Email us at ed­i­to­rial@liv­ingfrance.com

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