samedi 27 octobre 2012

Foire d'automne 26 october - 4 november 2012

I took a trip to the Foire d'Automne at the Porte de Versailles in Paris today.  The event is open from 10h - 19h every day.  The theme of the show is 'Le Potager à Croquer' or the vegetable garden.  There are numerous seminars and free activities for all the family around the theme such as 'Coaching for Gardeners', 'Cooking seminars', 'Creating a vegetable garden' and many other interesting activities.  There was also a very interesting photographic exhibition entitled 'Des legumes et des hommes', featuring various personalities alongside the gardeners from the Potager du Roi at Versailles with their favourite vegetables.  The images were really fun and creative.

of which I will post another time when I have more images.  The exhibition will also be installed in Bercy Village in the restaurant Chai. until 31 December.;;;;

I was pleased to visit the stand of the Association des Jardiniers de France, an association that has existed since 1876, is approved by the Ministeries of Education, Agriculture and Ecology.  For 44 Euros a year, one can become a member, receive newsletters and access to the line The aims of the Association are to offer  free lessons,  seminars, visits and plant sales.  You can contact the Association at

There were a fewstands which I particularly liked the look of:-

Shooky hammocks look fabulously comfortable and perfect for a quiet corner in the garden in the summer or in the home if you have the space..
Hammocks from

These charming playhouses are easily constructed from solid wood pieces and can be constructed by the children themselves with a little help from their parents.  Better than those garishly coloured plastic houses that we see so often like a blot on the landscape beaming out like a beacon in the garden methinks.

There were also plants and unusual bulbs for sale at very reasonable prices.

And some impressive displays of vegetables

On floor One there were various stands with disparate wares ranging from scarves, leather jackets, useful items for the kitchen, jewellery, make up, kitchen ware, useful inventions, bamboo filled pillows, quilts, nutcrackers, cosmetics, creams, perfumes, herbal teas, lights, decorations, Christmas cards, African masks, coathangers - anything you care to find.  To be honest, I did find some of the wares were a bit tacky but I came home with a candle sold by Marie Claire magazine in aid of education projects in developing countries and a gorgeous deep blue lacquered bowl made from a coconut shell.  Look carefully, there is unusual treasure to find.

I also really enjoyed visiting the 'degustation' area where all manner of food and drink products were on sale.  I particularly liked the free wine tastings and I munched on an excellent sandwich with Spanish cheese and Jambon serrano which was delicious!  A nice little day out;  Nothing as grand as the main Foire de Paris but a pleasant diversion for a few hours.

mardi 23 octobre 2012

Museum of Hunting and Nature, Musée de la Chasse et Nature, hidden treasure!

I adore adore adore this not so well known Museum.  It's all in the name isn't it?  Museum of huntin' and nature.  Hmmm, doesn't exactly inspire does it?  However, if  I was to invite you to a Museum in a beautifully and sensitively restored former private historic home in the heart of the Marais which is filled with beautiful objects and exquisitely presented artefacts and natural objects, well, how does THAT sound?  Better?  Well, expect the second description because this Museum is simply top all round.

The entrance is a discreet doorway in the rue des Archives in the heart of the Marais in 3rd arr.  The small lobby is discreet with a tiny cloakroom but the fun begins here.  Look at the animated notice telling you what to do and what not to do in the Museum, with captions in French, Latin and English and amusing characters.  It's here you begin to realise how much thought and humour has gone into making this Museum a little bit different.

The Museum is housed in the Hotel de Guénegaud which is the only private mansion still existing in Paris.  The gorgeous building was fully renovated in 2007.  The balustrades, chandeliers, door handles and screens were designed by Brazilian artist Saint Clair Cemin and are made to look like organic shapes such as vines, antlers and tree branches.  The walls and doors are painted in discreet colours and the furniture that houses the collection has been exquisitely crafted especially to display the artefacts and engravings in a really unusual way.One room has a ceiling completely covered in owl feathers, which is an installation work by Belgian artist, Jan Fabre.

The collection displayed is that of François and Jacqueline Sommer who were avid hunters and conservationists.  The Museum's introduction states that hunting and nature have always been intimately linked and that the Museum aims to help visitors discover or rediscover this harmony.

The Museum has been described as one of the most inventive and rewarding in Paris and has been described as quirky, astonishing and strange.  It is indeed all of those things.  There may be parts that shock like the grand hall of hunting trophies (that is not without its own touch of humour) but all in all, it is a tasteful and very interesting place that challenges and amazes and entertains.

The reason I mention it here (at last she gets to the point you might say) is that I had heard that the Museum had a fabulous garden but it is not accesible nor visible to the visitor.  I chanced my arm and mentioned this to the very friendly and knowledgeable guard (in fact all the personnel were very welcoming, another change from the run of the mill Musuems in Paris).  I asked if I might be permitted to catch a glimpse of the famous garden.  Well, no problem.  I was ushered upstairs back into the Museum and one of the gauze blackout blinds protecting the artefacts from the light was very temporarily lifted just for me.  What a treat!

The garden is fairly small but perfectly formed, just tlike the Museum in fact.  It has two characters - the formal French side and the wilder English country garden side.  The guard explained that the garden reflected the two personalities of the owners - one French and one English aristocrat - one very controlled but containing a sense of abandon and wildness, like nature - he preferred the English country garden btw.  I was permitted to take a few photos quickly not using flash so that not too much light entered the exhibition room.  And here are my photos (taken on a rainy day)/-

This place is a real treasure with this hidden treasure behind the blinds.  Thanks so much to the guard for his generosity in indulging me.  There was soon a little crowd around me taking pictures of the perfectly formed garden and after a few minutes the blinds went down again.

vendredi 19 octobre 2012

And the final winter pot result is.........

Ta da!  This photo does  not do the arrangement justice.  It is very cheery and when the maroon pansy comes out and grows foilageand the ivy mixes with the grass, it will be real boost as I step out of the front door in the snowy months.  It may have been even more beautiful in a brown or cream pot, as below but the ivy looks good against the green of the container.

This was my inspiration, well, where I copied it from you could say!  I'm always searching for arrangements that will last the year round and especially ones that will be cheerful in the winter.  I so hate the cold weather and all the bare trees, I'm a real summer person.

I found this beautiful composition in an excellent book that was a gift: 'Container Gardening Through The Seasons' by Jim Keeling with beautiful photos by Andrew Lawson.  The book in fact is about the Whichford pottery in Oxfordshire and the book shows some exquisite pots, including the creamy coloured one above.  The chapters take you through the pot making process and there are many many arrangements to copy or take ideas from for all the seasons.  A true inspiration if you are limited to pot arrangements for your gardening.

I found this arrangement in the winter section and the author writes that they are able to leave the Cordylines (the red plant with long floppy leaves) outside because they use a method of protecting the inner growing point by binding the leaves into a bundle using dogwood (thick twine would do the trick also).  So, I'm hoping to use the same trick, which will add a casual and slightly less structured feel to the pot, and crossing my fingers that it'll last the winter.  If it's next to the door, it should be quite sheltered too and maybe slightly warmer.

I'll do a proper post about the book, but here it is on Amazon just in case you're desparate to get some ideas.  it's only £4.39!  What a small price for so much inspiration!

lundi 8 octobre 2012

Cheer up your doorway with a winter pot

Here's the ingredients........

20 Euros the pot
3 Euros the ivy
4 Euros the barquette of pansies (only one used)
24 Euros the Cordyline Renegade
8,50 the Carex comans 'Bronze Form'
12,60 for 40 litres of earth (not all used)

And the result??????

Vignes du Clos de chantecoq à la Défense/The Vines of Chantecoq at La Défense

Vignoble francilien
Vines in the heart of Paris aren't as unusual as you may think.

Those in the famous Montmartre district are world famous, but there are others - often in very unexpected places, such as these at La Défense above the metro station of Esplanade La Défense, with an amazing view over the Eiffel Tower, the Arc du Triomphe and the Grand Arche.

Why here in the middle of the ultra urban environment, the skyscrapers and the transitory population of this built up city environment?

Many centuries ago La Défense used to be a small district with a hill to the west of Paris, overlooking the river Seine with a view over the setting sun over the forest of St Germain de Laye.  It was called the Butte de Chantecoq, evoking those other reputed vines.

Viticulture has been practised over twenty centuries in the Ile de France and every quarter in Paris city had its own vines.  In the middle of the 19th Century urbanisation and disease decimated the vine population.

Today it's not possible to develop a commercial viticulture in the Ile de France.  Plantation is authorised by the Ministry of Agriculture and cannot exceed 2000 vines per commune and it is forbidden to sell the wine produced.

The vines of the Clos de Chantelcoq were inaugurated on 24th May 2007 in the presence of Annie Roumanoff and Bernard La Porte who planted the last symbolic vines on the esplanade of La Défense.  The plantation is composed of 350 Pinot Noir and 350 Chardonnay vines.

There is one metre of soil underneath the vines and the urban environment encourages heat stockage during the day and slow release of the heat during the night which encourages vine growth and the maturation of the grapes.  The site is extremely well ventilated and the lack of other vegetation in this concrete jungle means that there are few diseases that spread to the vines (vines are very vulnerable to diseases).

The vines are pruned regularly to maximise the light and to aid aeration of the grapes allowing them to dry off quickly after the rain.  The first 'recolte' was expected in 2010 and 400 bottles of wine were hoped for.

The vines are protected from the birds by nets

Facing the vines is the Grand Arche and the sculpture garden

If you look veeery carefully you'll see the Arc du Triompe in the distance

I have borrowed these two lovely photos at the top of the article as mine  (directly above) are rather grey (it was a rainy day today and rather windy on the Esplanade) from this website

A website dedicated to the urban gardener.  Worth a look if you can understand French.