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When I originally started to blog, my intention was to take notice of things in my own garden, and to occasionally feature gardens I had toured.  I’ve since found out that it’s more fun to write about gardens I’ve been lucky enough to visit.  That way I can ignore the fact that my garden has gotten away on me again.  You see, my garden is fairly new and when I planted it, I made the mistake of wanting it to look established right away.  I’m not the most patient person.  So I filled it up and didn’t leave much space for things to spread out.  I also planted trees. Granted, they were small trees.  They had to fit into my van (or once, into my friend Sue’s husband Lionel’s big pick up truck).  I had to be able to lift them myself, or be able to coerce my husband or teenaged sons to help lift them from the vehicle to the wheelbarrow, and then to place them into holes that my husband would kindly dig for me.  Now, I know that trees get bigger, but really, it’s supposed to take a while. I figured by the time they got big enough to be a problem, I would be eighty years old and living in a mini storage unit, where apparently my son Ben is putting me when I’m ready for an old folk’s home.  Anyway, all that’s a story for another day.

Today I want to tell you about my favorite thing in my garden.  Lavender.  You see, we have a sliding door right near our kitchen table, and we sit up at the table in the morning and we can look out into the garden.  And it’s right here that there is the most beautiful patch of lavender.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember which type of lavender it is, but it’s not like the other lavender I have in my garden.  This lavender grows very tall and the flower is long and elegant and a pretty mid-purple tone.  There are times when it is so loaded with the big fat honey bees that I love that you can hear buzzing from the kitchen table if the door’s open.  When a breeze blows or the sprinkler or rain falls on it, the scent steals into the kitchen.  I love this stuff.  My eyes zoom in on this little vignette, and I feel at peace.

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In search of more lavender, last summer I went on a road trip with my aforementioned friend Sue.  We often zip down to Seattle, but on this occasion we deked a little further west and made for the Dungeness Valley, which is located on the northwest coast of Washington State. It’s a very scenic drive from Vancouver, B.C. There’s even a little ferry ride from Coupeville to Port Townsend.

It’s here in this valley that you can find the little town of Sequim (pronounced Skwim), which just so happens to be the lavender capital of North America. Sequim is in the rain shadow of the majestic Olympic Mountains, and averages less than 15 inches of rain a year.  (When you consider that everyone else in the Pacific Northwest has webbed toes, this is amazing!) Lavender loves this dry climate, but beware! Sometimes fogs and cool breezes blow in from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We discovered this on our return ferry ride, where, when we left the dock it was sunny and warm, and when we got out on the water we suddenly couldn’t see a damn thing.  We could only hear that haunting fog horn and see the mist creep around us. Eerie.

Sequim hosts a lavender festival every July, but even though we made the trip in August, the farms were open to visit, and the lavender still looked great. I guess the weather can affect the timing of the crops. Most farms have gift shops where you can buy all things lavender.  I personally recommend the lavender lemonade, although the lavender ice cream was tempting too!

As you might imagine, where they grow lavender, they can also grow sunflowers. A few of the farms had some fields of these beauties as well.  Every year I plan to try some in my garden, but I haven’t actually managed it yet.  Next year!

In addition to the farms, there a lot of other fun things to see and do in this neck of the woods.  There’s golf, kayaking, hiking and of course, shopping! Although we didn’t stop there on this trip, the town of Port Townsend looked intriguing with all the historic homes and interesting businesses.  Further south from Sequim is Port Angeles, where we spent a lovely afternoon exploring antique stores and checking out quaint shops and restaurants.

The downturn in the economy has certainly affected these areas, but there’s still more than enough to do to make a trip worthwhile.  Fiddleheads on 1st Street in Port Angeles was a particularly good find.

We visited The Three Crabs in Sequim, where you feel like you’ve gone back in time into a diner that hasn’t changed much in 40 years.  The food was okay, but the ambiance and the sunset on the beach more than made up for any lack of pretension inside.

I started this post quite some time ago, but on one of my haunts of garden nurseries this past weekend, I found a big pot of the kind of lavender that’s in my backyard.  Now I know what type it is. It’s “Provence”. But you don’t need to go nearly that far to experience the loveliness of lavender.

Wow!  I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post.  I had good intentions of doing this religiously, staying disciplined, on target and on task.  Ha!  Why should blogging be any different than anything else in my life?  Lately I’ve found it much more fun to read other blogs.  There’s some very funny people out there.  I feel like a bit of a stalker….you read one funny post, then you read the comments, and they’re funny too, so you link to one of the commenter’s blogs, and it’s funny, and so on and so on.  You get to know some of the names, and you feel like you’re part of the group, but really, you’re just kinda spying.  Oh well, it’s fun.  Before you know it, your computer time is all gone and you haven’t even thought of a good excuse for not blogging.  But I do have a good excuse, really I do.  I wanted to blog about my garden, but my camera’s not working, so I can’t get any current pictures. My camera kicked the bucket on my recent holiday to France.  My good friend lent me her spare camera while we were away, so I used that for the trip, but I still haven’t gotten around to getting the problem with my camera worked out.  (I’ve been too busy reading other people’s blogs, for one thing.)  So instead of doing a post about my garden, I’m going to do one about my trip. Oh yea, being on a two week trip is another excuse for not blogging.

Now, my trip to France was actually a garden tour!  Yes, indeedy.  I ran away from home with a girl friend, and left my hubby, boys and cats to fend for themselves. We went for two weeks on a tour arranged by Steve Whysall, a garden columnist for the Vancouver Sun.  Steve and his lovely wife Loraine were the hosts on the trip, and it was fabulous.  We saw many beautiful gardens, met a lot of nice people, sampled too many delicious pastries and too much ice cream, and washed everything down with a lot of wine.

The first garden we visited, on arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport, after an endless, crowded  flight from Vancouver, with a two hour stop over in Calgary, and a long drive in Friday rush hour traffic in Paris, was Parc de Bagatelle. This is a park now owned by the City of Paris.  I can’t remember too much of the story, because by this point we’d been up a very long time without sleep.  We saw the sunrise over Greenland. This amazed me.  Day meets night.

(Did you know that after 48 hours without sleep, your body releases a chemical similar to LSD?)  The one thing I do remember, however, is that the chateau in this garden was built as a result of a bet.  Marie-Antoinette (she of the “let them eat cake” fame) bet her brother in law, the Comte d’Artois (who bought the property in 1775), that the chateau he was planning on building (replacing the original, which had been torn down), could not be completed within three months. The Comte won the bet, completing the house in 63 days (or thereabouts, you know how french time works).

Before this new chateau was built, Bagatelle was a hunting and playground for the rich and famous of France (i.e. the Kings).  The chateau and park barely escaped obliteration during the French Revolution. The City of Paris bought the garden in 1905 and entrusted its head gardener, Jean-Claude-Nicolas Forestier, with the restoration work. He set out to beautify the gardens without changing the harmony of the existing layout.  He turned subsistence crops into beautiful displays of perennial flowers, and also designed the well-know Roserie de Bagatelle.   It is in Bagatelle that classical concerts are often held, and the highlight of the year is in June, when the Rose Exhibition takes place, an international competition for new roses which has been held in the city of Paris every year since 1907.

In Bagatelle, the peonies were out in full force, and we rested on the benches that lined a lovely section of the garden that was filled to overflowing with all imaginable varieties. We snacked on yummy baguettes we had scored at a delightful Patisserie. We sat in the sun and felt the warmth on our pasty white Vancouver skin, and breathed in the most intoxicating air. Ah, simple pleasures are the best!

One side of the garden was lined by a very tall brick wall.  It was here the climbing roses and clematis were trained up an amazing trellis.  It was rose, after rose, after rose, each one a new favorite.  A hot, sunny location, and these were all thriving.

The garden surrounding the pavilion was so picturesque.  Beautifully groomed, with alliums blowing up everywhere.

Then we wandered into the formal rose garden.  Here there were giant structures made out of rebar to support the climbing roses.  (Of course this means I’m going to have scads of rebar sitting around my garage for the next five years waiting my attempts to copy same supports.)  There were so many varieties, and everything was beautifully maintained.  The building you see in the background is not actually the chateau (somehow I managed in my ignorance not to get any pictures of the actual chateau), but it might the the orangerie.  Trust me, I’ve tried to research this further by Googling the garden and stuff, but most of the websites are in french, and Google Translate (much as I depend on it) basically makes a mess out of the translation, confusing me further.  So, I might be making this up, but let’s say the orangerie is where they overwintered all the orange plants.  It also would be a great place for a big party.  One big room, lots of windows, overlooking a garden.  Martha would definitely entertain here.

So there you have it.  A new post filled with photos and semi-made up history.  I never did find out what Marie and her brother-in-law wagered, but in a country where the guillotine was invented I’m thinking you don’t want to lose too many bets.