I am lucky to live in one of the last true gardens in all of France.
Well, that’s what my landlord and neighbor would say. And did say, yesterday, on what ended up being an hour-long tour of the property followed by several glasses of Bourgogne.
Never did I imagine that gardening could produce such passion, such fervor, such urgency. And then I met Monsieur C, who, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, snuck onto someone’s property under the cover of night to snip off a branch of a prized cherry tree before racing away in his car. Hence the beautiful white blooms in my front yard.
He had been telling us for a week. You have to come see the garden! Now! Before it’s too late!
My friend from the States, currently on a badass solo backpacking trip, was visiting for a few days. It seemed like a good way to show her la vraie France and le vrai jardin in one go.
Comment tu t’appelles mon petit ?! Monsieur C demanded. Je m’appelle Sherrell, she responded. Hein?! He looked to me. What’s the French equivalent?
C’est pas très français, en fait ! I responded, repeating her name in a stronger French accent. After all, none of the sounds are foreign to the language. He shrugged it off. Hmm. I will call you…Suzanne ! He boomed. Anyway.
We followed him back to the garden.
So what exactly constitutes un vrai jardin? I wondered. There must be fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers! The flowers must be a certain distance from the vegetables! The fruit trees as well!
He showed us around in what seemed a very intentional order, looking to me and Mary to translate to Sherrell when he said something he thought was particularly important. Here was the apricot tree, the apple tree, the white cherry tree that produces delicious fruit: filled with bugs. But c’est pas grave if you simply close your eyes!
Here are the tops of the garlic, the onions, the leeks that he keeps under a special screen to keep the flies away so that he can enjoy them for a longer season than anyone else.
He pointed out a baby pear tree with the fondness one reserves for a beloved pet.
He told us about the little birds–mésanges–that eat his asparagus, and about all the hacks he uses to avoid using chemicals in the garden.
With a kind of tenderness, he told us about his budding friendship with a crow he’s calling Coco.
We sat and had wine as he told us stories I tried to translate. Then it was time for his nap.
Au revoir Suzanne !