Shades of blue

At this time of year, nature is bursting at the seams with new leaves and flowers emerging everywhere! I wanted to share with you some of the many shades of blue that can be found in and around Saint-Chinian right now! Some of the shades may stretch the definition of blue somewhat, but if you look at a colour wheel there are many shades between blue and red!

Erysimum “Bowles Mauve”, a type of wallflower
Cerinthe majus purpurascens
Aphyllantes monspeliensis
Tassel hyacinth, leopoldia comosa
Carpet bugle – ajuga reptans
Hyacinth
Grape hyacinth – muscari
Borage – borago officinalis
Dutch iris – iris x hollandica
Bearded iris
Rosemary
Wild chicory – cichorium intybus
Lilac – syringa vulgaris
Wall bellflower – campanula portenschlagiana
Wisteria sinensis
French lavender – lavandula stoechas

The following pictures show a different kind of blue – one that’s painted on! I found this old wagon on one of my walks – it sat neglected and somewhat broken down in an open shed. Wagons like that one were built in the thousands in Saint-Chinian before the combustion engines made horses obsolete. The factory building is still here – today the Citroen garage occupies it.

A smaller cart stood right next to the first one, even more broken down, but painted in the same blue colour!

Do you have a favourite shade of blue?

Coming out

Since the start of this year, we seem to have had more gray or rainy days than sunny days – at least it feels that way to me! That said, we had very little rain last fall, so the rain we have had since the beginning of the year is somewhat reducing the rainfall deficit, which can only be a good thing for our area! Another side effect of the rain is that the spring flowers should be absolutely spectacular this year!

When the sun came out last week, I met up on Friday with a couple of friends for a two and a half hour hike. We met in Agel, in the car park behind the church. A signpost pointed across the river to ‘Le Pech’, the hill we were going to climb. There was a marked walk on Le Pech many years ago, but the markings are no longer maintained, so we relied on the knowledge of one of our fellow walkers to guide us.

There were wonderful views of the village of Agel as we climbed the hill:

We walked past beautifully maintained olive groves:

And we came to the ruins of the chapel of Saint Symphorien:

On we walked through dense pine forests, inhaling the wonderful scents from the pine trees and the rosemary bushes. We walked past vineyards, the vines neatly pruned and the ground carpeted with flowering wild rocket (arugula).

We came to a bit of landscape that looked as though it might belong somewhere else – Arizona or Utah, perhaps?

We walked past enormous bushes of flowering gorse, interspersed with some rosemary, also in flower, which diffused a wonderful scent.

Before long we came upon these strange looking mounds – made by ants?

And then the village of Agel came into view again – we were on the home straight!

As we got closer to the village, we came across a field that was sprinkled with anemones – such beautiful and cheerful colours!

Here is another view of the village from across the river:

And then we were back where we started. I’d packed some banana bread and a thermos flask with tea, so had a well earned picnic before I left my friends and headed back to Saint-Chinian again.

There’ll be more spring flowers and walks soon!! Have you been out walking lately?

Shades of colour

February has arrived.  The days are getting longer, and there is a promise of spring in the air!!  Nature is showing us that renewal is on the way!  😀

This is a wonderful time of the year to go for a walk – be patient and observe, and you’ll be richly rewarded!

The almond trees have started to flower:

The mimosa trees are producing an absolutely glorious amount of bright yellow fluffy blossoms:

The red flowers of the red Japanese quince bush provide a jewel-like cheerful spot of colour

In some vineyards, the ground between the rows of plants is carpeted with wildflowers:

All these sights gladden my heart and lift my spirits!!  I hope they lift your spirits too!!

What a difference a year makes!

Snow is very seldom seen in Saint-Chinian – temperatures are rarely low enough, and if they are then it is usually very dry.  So when it does snow it’s a memorable occasion and everyone takes pictures!!  Last year on February 28, Saint-Chinian was briefly snow-covered!

The snow is fun while it lasts, but it never lasts long – usually it’s gone by the end of the day!

This year, the weather on February 28 could not have been more different!!  It was a beautifully sunny and bright day, with all the promise of spring in the air!

The mimosa trees were in full flower, spreading their heavenly perfume!

The almond trees were blooming too, the flowers creating a delicate pink haze around the otherwise naked branches!

To my mind, blooming almond trees herald spring like nothing else!  There’s something about an almond tree in full flower that the camera just cannot capture – believe me, I’ve tried again and again over the years!

The violet flowers in my garden are another harbinger of spring.  I can usually smell them before I see them – they are usually so well hidden – they have a wonderfully strong perfume!

The daffodils are flowering already:

The roses are beginning to leaf out:

AND I have the most charming of plants in the garden, which is flowering profusely at the moment. It’s called Erodium pelargoniflorum ‘Sweetheart’ – and what a sweetheart it is!!

Have you seen any signs of spring yet??

Remembrance and flowers

On May 8 sixty-eight years ago the guns in Europe fell silent and the second world war came to an end.  France celebrates VE day as a public holiday, and each village holds a ceremony of remembrance.  Saint-Chinian is no exception and at 10.30 on the dot the procession of flags made its way through the gardens in front of the Mairie.  Following closely behind were the members of the town council, delegations of the Sapeurs Pompiers and the police, and the war veterans.

IMG_6298

Everyone lined up around the war memorial in the gardens, and flowers were laid to remember those killed in the wars.

IMG_6303

IMG_6304

IMG_6306

Of course the local brass band was there too!

IMG_6305

To start with the mayor thanked everyone for being there, and then asked all to observe a minute’s silence.  The president of the veterans association then read a letter from the Minister for war veterans, and after that the mayor spoke.   One of the points in his speech was that De Gaulle and Adenauer signed the French-German friendship agreement 50 years ago this year.  Europe has never known a period this long without any wars, and long may that continue.

To round off this post, I wanted to share some flowers which have been blooming in my garden recently.  This year the wisteria was a waterfall of blooms and simply magnificent!

IMG_6227

The California poppies have gone wild and popped up absolutely everywhere, creating wonderful splashes of colour.

IMG_6239

P1020129

The comfrey is planted under one of the roses, and seems to thrive in the semi-shade.

P1020142

This exotic looking flower is probably a weed and will spread all over the garden if I don’t manage the seed heads 🙂 – does anyone know the name?

P1020127

The pelargonium is another early bloomer and despite being chopped back quite severely it has been flowering for a couple of weeks now.

P1020148

The next one is not a flower but a praying mantis (I think so anyhow).  I had a hell of a time getting a shot of this beastie, discovered while I was weeding the roses, and I hope you’ll be able to see what so fascinated me.  The back-end of it looked so very much like a stem bursting into leaf – very clever.  I’m glad I got the pictures I did, as the mantis had vanished the next time I looked, never to be seen again.  From what I’ve found on the net, it could be a juvenile Mantis Empusa fasciata or Empusa pennata – but don’t quote me on that :-)!

IMG_6250

IMG_6246

IMG_6243

And finally, here are some flowers not found in my garden, but on a recent walk!  Wild tulips, growing in a meadow.  A sight to gladden the heart!

P1020112

P1020109

A walk in the park

On a recent visit to Beziers I had some time to spare and decided to pay a brief visit the Plateau des Poetes, a park at the lower end of the Allees Paul Riquet. The park was created during the second half of the 19th century on a steep, wooded hill, and designed by the landscape architect Eugene Bühler in the English style on nearly 10 acres of land.  There are a few  theories as to origin of the park’s name, but the most likely is supported by the fact that the park is dotted with sculptures and busts of poets and writers born in Beziers.

P1010872

The first and rather striking sculpture I came across was one dedicated to the memory of Jean Moulin, who was a native of Beziers and a hero of the French resistance movement during the second world war.  The monument was designed by the sculptor Marcel Courbier, who was a friend of Jean Moulin, and who hailed from Nimes.

I’d come to check out the plantings of spring flowers – each year the Beziers municipality plants the most sumptuous displays – and I was not disappointed.  I was too late for the daffodils, but the rest more than made up for it.

P1010882

There are many sinuous paths around the park, snaking across the hillside and there is a lovely walk at the top of the hillside, which allows you some wonderful glimpses of the park and the man-made lake (complete with ducks!).

P1010884

One of the nice things is that it’s not all there for you to see at once, it needs a little bit of exploring!   The most dramatic feature of the park is the Titan fountain, sculpted by yet another Beziers native, Jean-Antoine Injalbert.  This sculpture is altogether 17 metres high, although if you approach it from the top you might not think it that grandiose.

P1010874 P1010875

At the top is Atlas carrying the weight of the world – cast in bronze.  He’s resting on a stone base, representing Pan flanked by rearing horses.  If you look carefully at the first picture you can see the face and the horns.

The real drama of the sculpture is revealed as you take one of the paths down the hill and look at it from below.  There’s as much of it again, a base of rock which has water cascading or trickling over it into a basin at the foot.  When I was there all of it had been drained and was in the process of being cleaned.  I’m looking forward to the summer when the water is on again!

P1010899P1010898

The flower beds around the lower part of the fountain were just spectacular – lots of anemones in a riot of colours!  And here’s a closer look at Atlas, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders!

P1010900P1010896

Injalbert also sculpted some smaller pieces, a little less dramatic, but very charming.  Here’s the centrepiece of another fountain in the Plateau des Poetes.

P1010876

And there’s lots more to see.  The wrought iron gates at the lower end of the park, opposite the railway station are spectacular, but I didn’t get that far.  It was time for me to get back to my car and head off.  I hope you enjoyed your walk with me – we can go for another before too long, if you like?