Thursday, August 2, 2007

Balcony gardens in Europe

A change of scenery
My laptop and I realized we could do a few month's work without being tied to Melbourne. We took up the generous invitation of a writer friend, and set of, first to Angers, France.

My Friend's house, a typical Renaisance castle. He has, it seems, written quite a lot of books.

Inspired by our bedrooms: old ideas for low-energy keeping warm in winter, drawn from the safety of French summer for this month's Dengon Net Permaculture column.

A neighbour, the Medieval castle of the Duke of Angers. Earlier, grander, and more forbidding,
The Angers Castle garden is built into the fortress wall, up high to get the sun. Castles could spend years under seige, vicotry would depend not on the strength of the Knights of the realm, but on the gardeners to keep everybody fed.
In this garden, something is missing. Its the whole continant of the Americas. No tomatoes or capsicum, no corn. No smoking.
The Vinyard, inside the fortress walls.
Back at our castle, in time for dinner. The family from next door have gardened there for generations, and brought homemade absinthe to share over dinner. Genuine, and illegal only if you sell it, absinthe is made with wormwood, a silvery feathery plant that I love. The Liquor has a sunny, medowy fragrance. Biting the plant will make you wince with its bitterness.

From the streets of our tiny provincial town.
This is the fringe of a carpark, I wonder who botheres to tend it each year?

In Paris, even my tiny hotel room had a micro-balcony garden, the building opposite also dripped with well-tended window boxes

The sight of this couch sets of imaginings for a sheltered, upholsered verhandah garden. The starry cascade light would be perfect, swaying in fragrant night breezes beside us.
Shade and birdsong are included on this balcony, and glimpses of its lovely inhabitant and carer

Outside Anges Castle I saw this clever water-catching carport cover. They even bothered to communicate to us why it was designed this swooping way - see the water droplet.

I stayed in the suburbs of paris, with wonderful Servas hosts, Bryan the organist and his beauful wife Miyoko. Bryan is beautiful too. His neighbours all have built-in balcony gardens. Promising to keep them well-maintained is part of the contract when they move in.

Rubbish, including kitchen scraps, goes into a chute, and dissapears from the planet. Or so you may be lead to think. When I talk about urban worm composting, people look puzzled. They are a virgin market, waiting for fulfilment. So much good work cut out and waiting for us to do, in this tired old world.

Tea in the town, with our convivial and talented chef.

Its a kind of 'egde' garden, different visitors leave their mark with plastic monkeys, love notes.

More photos can be viewed at