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Past Postcards
April 02 - Gardening in a Warmer World July 24 - La Boucherie J.-C. Malavard June 13 - The Unsung Muse of Istanbul May 02 - Potager passion 2013 January 30 - Wounds and Wildflowers September 27 - Coq Story March 29 - The joyous lavender farmer March 27 - Consulting the oracle February 15 - Abdullah's olives November 10 - The living willow fence--one year later October 25 - Ode to crème fraîche September 08 - Le Grand Mechoui at Revest-des-Brousses May 10 - An island of serenity March 23 - Blood and guts February 10 - Birdie! January 13 - Planting a living fence November 25 - The clay connection June 09 - Bee story April 21 - Of dandelions and Camembert March 12 - The secret shops of the Palais Royale. February 01 - The pleasures of winter September 30 - Pigeon September 10 - Health care à la française June 11 - La Ferme aux Escargots June 04 - Nest of flowers April 10 - Potager passion March 25 - Pépette II--The sequel January 27 - Meditations on mustard January 14 - Provence wears it well...snow, that is. November 20 - Our part-time dog November 11 - A new university for the 21st century October 14 - Mushroom madness September 04 - Road trip with Paula Wolfert June 18 - The Pottery of Sampigny June 02 - Le Temps des Cerises May 20 - It's that intoxicating time again... April 23 - Where la vigne is queen March 27 - The joys of la cueillette February 14 - Bringing in the blue January 16 - Bonne année 2008! November 07 - Fire at the heart of the home October 19 - Manna from heaven... September 19 - My neighbor's lamb July 26 - The way to a woman's heart... June 18 - Guinée rocks the rue de Logelbach May 15 - A passion for farigoule April 16 - Sowing the seeds of content April 04 - Bruno's world March 14 - Putting down roots February 14 - La Fête de la Truffe December 20 - An olive branch November 30 - Happiness is a hot chestnut. October 31 - Uncovering the soul of a mas October 02 - High horsepower September 21 - The magic of Moustiers June 21 - The cencibelles of Cliousclat May 22 - In possession of a potager... April 26 - A spring morning amble through Aix-en-Provence March 20 - The staff of life en pays Berbère March 08 - Why I love my quincaillerie February 22 - Le pays de Forcalquier February 14 - Valentine surprise in Verona February 06 - La Truffe December 20 - 12/20/2005. La Source December 01 - 12/01/2005. The pool at the Club Waou November 26 - 11/26/2005. Fall Trilogy III--Le Chemin de Randonnée November 23 - 11/23/2005. Fall trilogy II November 21 - 11/21/2005. Fall Trilogy I November 15 - 11/15/2005. Jammin' November 09 - 11/09/2005. Civil unrest in France October 31 - 10/31/2005. Flu season October 10 - 10/10/2005. Our own little piece of Provence October 04 - 10/04/2005. China--a window on the future? July 26 - 7/26/2005. Elegy for a potager July 07 - 7/7/2005. La Bonne Etape June 27 - 6/27/2005. Our royal tourne-broche June 22 - 6/22/2005. La dermite des prés June 13 - 6/13/2005. A spring foray in the Pyrenees May 16 - 5/16/2005. Lights, camera, action! April 28 - 4/28/2005. April in Paris April 06 - 4/6/2005. Vinegar porn March 06 - 3/6/2005. The miraculous monarch February 16 - 2/16/2005. Valise de rêve December 15 - 12/15/2004. Diversity for all December 09 - 12/9/2004. Fécamp--Destination gourmande November 24 - L'Ostau de Baumanière November 16 - Rice, bulls, and gypsy caravans November 15 - 11/15/2004. And the winner is... October 27 - 10/27/2004. Lunch heaven October 13 - 10/13/2004. Oh-so-French pharmacies October 05 - 10/5/2004. Vézelay--la colline éternelle September 07 - 9/7/2004. Where in the world... July 15 - 7/15/2004. Road trip through Auvergne June 02 - 6/2/2004. La fête du pain normand April 26 - 4/26/2004. A sun-drenched weekend in Collioure April 14 - 4/14/2004. Denis' Easter card April 01 - Lights, camera, action! March 29 - My life as an enzyme March 18 - Life in a food-crazed nation March 05 - Marabout February 26 - Tale of two towers February 23 - La Fête des Violettes February 05 - My precious levain January 28 - Surviving the salon January 13 - La Poste and I December 01 - Home alone November 19 - Those dirty French! November 03 - Three years at 10 rue de Logelbach October 20 - A Paris weekend September 16 - Paris on wheels September 03 - The sleepy magic of the marais Poitevin July 29 - Dejeuner sur la (mauvaise) herbe July 23 - Blue is the color... July 10 - My famous hat June 10 - 06/10/2003. Dr. Death and the Giant Lobster June 04 - 6/4/2003. Summer in a skillet May 13 - 5/12/2003. Oysters for Breakfast. April 29 - 4/29/2003 Dateline Dakar March 27 - 3/27/2003. Le Moulin d'Arbalète March 17 - 3/17/2003. A spring day in the Pays de Caux February 26 - 2/26/2003. Residents of Nice take to the streets... February 14 - Some winter violets for turbulent times February 03 - Ramblings on the week's news from l'Hôtel de Ville January 20 - The mother of all vinegars January 07 - "Brrrrr...Il fait froid!" December 11 - La crise de foie November 20 - War of the waters November 13 - The weekend of three tails October 30 - Gender issues September 18 - Figs, green walnuts, and pêches de vigne September 18 - La rentrée August 01 - Paris in August July 25 - The Gymnase Club July 15 - French ads June 27 - Sojourn to Ardèche May 23 - France ushers in spring with muguet des bois. May 23 - The Concours Lépine--or the French at their most eccentric April 19 - Going to the polls in Paris April 08 - The bounty of Belleville March 28 - First the poubelle, now the tri... March 15 - For women only March 07 - French Country comes to Paris February 21 - Paris underground February 15 - Everything's on soldes! January 31 - A breath of spring January 25 - Paris...the soul of discretion January 16 - Winter rolling toward spring January 03 - Bonne Année!! December 10 - Christmas roses November 28 - Wild mushroom season in Paris November 16 - Leaving home November 06 - The Camondo cuisine October 23 - Paris, Post-September 11 October 17 - 10/17/2001. Paris Mayor Says NO to Doggie Turds October 05 - 10/05/2001. What am I doing here? October 05 - Why I love my butcher October 04 - A dog's life in Paris.

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Gardening in a Warmer World

Take a walk around your gardens.  A s-l-o-w walk.  Lift your eyes no higher than the tree branches.  Preferably, keep them fixed on the ground.  I have spent the better part of my life walking like this.  Even driving (as a passenger), my eyes are constantly scanning the roadside...for plants.  In fact, although I have notoriously poor vision, my eyesight becomes peculiarly acute for, well, especially plants, but also for any changes in my little piece of the natural world.  You could say I've been tuned to this focal length ever since I was 5 or 6 years old.

Okay, so you're walking.  NOTICE ANYTHING?  Anything different from, say, this time last year?  (I wild violetknow a lot of you in the eastern U.S. are going to say all you can see is snow or newly thawed ground this second of April.  Yet, the inordinate amounts of snow and other weather perturbations are part of the same phenomenon of warming.  Warmer air holds more humidity which gets dumped as more snow.)  Well, here's what I noticed this year so far.  The wild fragrant violets in Provence started blooming at least two weeks earlier than last year.  A ground-hugging, daisy-like bright yellow flower I've never been able to identify started blooming about two weeks later than usual in the moist ditches of Haute Provence.  It's usually our very first wildflower to bloom.  The dreaded gendarme beetles emerged later than usual. 


helleboresIn Normandy, our hellebores all had strangely long stems--many of them 18 inches or more.  One of the first perennials to bloom, H. x orientalis usually has stems around 6-8 inches long in our garden.  It stays close to the earth to protect itself from the cold (my interpretation).  This year, like plants in an over-heated greenhouse, our hellebores were stretching their stems.  For the second year in a row, both our hazelnut trees as well as the wild ones had an extremely sparse flowering.  Dahlias I left in the ground, having noticed last year that overlooked fragments of tubers sprouted in the garden the following spring like daffodils, are all coming back fortissimo.


After facing the years of mounting evidence, I hope none among you is are still in denial of garden tulipsglobal warming.  The latest nail in the coffin came with last week's seminal U.N. report on the subject.  But my point here isn't to discuss whether we "believe" (a term totally inappropriate here as we are not talking about a deity or superstition of some sort) in global warming or not.  I want to talk about how we, as gardeners, are in a special position viz a vis this process which, so far, we seem incapable of reversing.

First off, we are supremely positioned to observe.  We are  literally on the ground.  When, as I mostly am, you are on your knees with your hands in the earth, roses on provence houseyou can't avoid noticing changes.  For instance, this year, for the first time, the early crops in my Provence potager were not only all planted but the plants were up by mid-March.  While the name "Provence" probably conjures up visions of palm and mimosa trees for many of you, my garden is not in that part of Provence.  It's in Haute Provence--high Provence--or what used to be called the Basses Alpes (the low alps).  Indeed, we are located in the foothills of the alps, and our climate is much colder than you might imagine.  In fact, spring in our part of Provence lags a good month to six weeks behind that in Normandy, which, while about 900 km north, has a milder, maritime climate.

The fact that we are in a valley means cold air sinks down and sits on us.  And Lure Mountain just May 2012 hailstormnorth of us sends us all kinds of unpredictable and violent weather.  A couple of years ago, we had 4 inches of hail in the second week of May while just across the street there was nothing.  In summer, we typically get no rain in June and July and nowadays, even all through August.  Yet the last couple of years have been relatively bountiful rain-wise.  What does this mean?  I don't know.  That things are changing, that we no longer no what to expect.  Old-timers in Provence tell me that winters in our region used to be filled with long, gentle rains and considerable snow.  Now snow is rare and the rains tend to be violent and confined to a couple of days, followed by dry spells.

NigellaLike all of us, I'm just groping my way through these changes.  I try to read the messages nature is sending,  The messages are often difficult to decipher, because of the incredible complexity of the natural world.  For instance, not everything is coming up or blooming earlier. Strangely, some botanical events, such as bloom times, that used to be successive are now compressed into simultaneity.  Probably this is occurring because different species respond to different environmental factors (beyond temperature) to trigger their development.

The Big Question is what does global warming mean for gardening?  Assuming that you're not in a low-lying coastal area that may be drowned by saltwater, I'd say the major points are the following:

     *We'll be able to try growing species which used to be out of our reach by a hardiness zone or evenAgastache two.  Meanwhile, species that do not tolerate extremely hot summers may disappear from our gardens or need special care to survive.

     *We all need to devise new strategies to economise on water usage.  With the exception of localized violent storms, overall rainfall is diminishing and water is becoming an increasingly limited resource.  Think about more effective mulching, drip irrigation and so forth.  Also, in ornamental gardening, look to perfectly beautiful but drought-tolerant species to diminish water use.

   roses  *In the vegetable garden, our planting schedules will be changing.  A lot depends on experimentation.  For instance, I am going to try planting some beans in the Provence garden in a week--a good month before I usually would.  I will be covering them with a heavy floating row cover for the first month or so (thinking about that hail storm).  I already have year-round salads in both my gardens, but my fall plantings are going to become even more extensive.  As you plant later into the season, it's important to remember that fruiting crops may be day-length dependent for flowering.  In France, we have extremely short winter days and that, in spite of global warming, isn't going to change.

     *As temperatures warm, pests are moving north.  It's already happening on a large scale (read, for instance, about the northward invasion of the horrible lone star tick, numerous tree diseases, etc.)  Get ready to deal with diseases and bugs you've never seen before.  The best way, in my opinion, is to make sure your plants have the world's best soil, and to provide habitat and food for as many birds and beneficials as you can.

     *To help us figure out which way things are heading in our particular corners of the world, record-Paradisekeeping is becoming extremely important.  I've always been too disorganized and in too much of a hurry (as a weekend gardener) to do any recording whatsoever, but this spring has made me realize it's essential to begin.  My New Year's resolution for 2015?  I've already made it.  I will be keeping an extensive garden/nature journal to document what is happening when.  I hope that at least one of my grandchildren will be interested in reading what this bit of paradise in Provence that I worked so hard to create for them was like in the early 21st century.  My fervent wish is that my little paradise still exist thirty or so years hence.  Will it is a question painful to contemplate and impossible to answer today, April 2, 2014.

April 2, 2014





About Paris Postcard
Here's where I share the frustrations, humor, and sometimes almost heartbreaking beauty of daily life from the perspective of an American expatriate living in Paris. I'm writing to you exactly as I write to my family and friends, so what you read here is usually not about gardening. Rather, these weekly postcards are a way for you to get to know me, and I hope, to occasionally laugh out loud--both with me, and sometimes at me. Barbara Wilde
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