A week in Provence – the ‘no gardens’


I’ve just returned from a much needed holiday with Adam in the beautiful Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France. As well as enjoying typical Provencal 3 hour lunches I’ve also been admiring a multitude of gardens.

When garden writer Louisa Jones first moved to Provence she was told there were ‘no gardens’ apart from certain famous historic properties but for her first book she visited around 300 gardens and has since written many more books about the beauty of Mediterranean gardening.


A while back I wrote about my container garden at the front of my house. I felt that some people in my neighbourhood must think they have ‘no garden’ as they choose to do nothing with their space, whereas some people plant theirs up with lovely displays.

I spotted the same thing in France and I found the most inspiring gardens in the most unassuming places. My favourite being the pavement gardens – or the ‘no gardens’, as I now like to call them.








I think the water bottles are used to deter cats. Also handy to give the plants a quick watering.


All the photos in this post are taken in the little village of Mouans-Sartoux. From the main road you would not know that in the heart of the village lies these colourful narrow pedestrian streets where the doorsteps, windowsills, walls and pavements are planted with stunning visual effect.

I loved walking through the streets getting ideas for my own garden.





Arranging pots on a table provides height and shade.


The wonderfully trained foliage above provides the perfect place for a sit down in the shade.


For the colour co-ordinated gardeners out there the purple theme above was less than twee.





Even a green foliage garden has huge ‘no-garden’ appeal.



I never imagined that plants I perceived to be large garden plants would work so well on the kerbside. Large pots of oleander provide a stunningly colourful display.



Even the simpler options had an appeal that I found most chic.




I love the little bamboo trellis in the pot below.


All the no-gardens I saw, from the crammed full to the elegantly simple had a style and beauty that I just want to recreate back home.

Have you been to Provence? What do you think of these ‘no-gardens’?


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58 Responses to “A week in Provence – the ‘no gardens’”

  1. gardeninacity August 5, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    Thank you for the tour of the “no gardens”! I like to see famous gardens, but I also really like to see how people in different places use plants to beautify and create an atmosphere around their home. Actually, I like walking through alleys in different neighborhoods and peering over the back fences, something which could get me in trouble one of these days. All the marvelous window planters in your pictures remind me a bit of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

    • Anna B August 5, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      Hi Jason! I love a good snoop around people’s gardens! These ones were just handed to me on a plate. Love the fact you like a good snoop too!! I’d love to visit New Orleans. I shall add it to my list! Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  2. Sue Andrews August 5, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    How beautiful those pictures are, have just got back from Barcelona myself, and a visit to Gaudi`s garden which is equally stunning, as are some of the balconies on the apartments.
    I would love to go and wander around those lanes you photographed tho.

    • Anna B August 6, 2013 at 6:06 am #

      Ah yes, I’ve been there too! Very interesting indeed. Great city and Gaudi’s work is amazing isn’t it! Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for your comment :)

    • Christina August 6, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      If you like Gaudi’s work you would love the Tarot garden by Nikki di San Phalle in southern Tuscany

      • Anna B August 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

        I’ve just googled it! Wow! Looks very gaudi-esque! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. home, garden, life August 5, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    Stunning images in a most magical part of the world. I love the tidy streets and jumbles of plants. Charming! Thank you! This area will go on my bucket list! ;-)

    • Anna B August 6, 2013 at 6:08 am #

      Hi Diane! I find all of France charming, but was particularly taken with this little village and the residents love of plants and planting. Hope you’re well! Thanks for dropping by :)

      • home, garden, life September 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

        Doing fine…winding down summer, high heat and humidity. Wonder where all this curbside plants go in winter? Do you think there is a large greenhouse just around the corner? ;-)

  4. Of Gardens August 6, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    When I lived in an apartment in NYC I had a “no garden” on a windowsill…a pigeon laid her nest there and hatched some babies. The smallest bit of garden – like I had in Manhattan, which was only one window box with geraniums – was garden enough. Now I have a very large garden, but I do not get more enjoyment from it than I did from my one window box garden.

    • Anna B August 6, 2013 at 6:28 am #

      Ah that’s really lovely. It’s nice you take pleasure in nurturing plants whether they be in a small space or a big space :) Thank you so much for your comment!

  5. Cathy August 6, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    They are gorgeous! The painted walls of the houses also set off the plants well. And you’re right, the simplest pots are so effective too. I love the window boxes full of geraniums that we see here in southern Germany, but these alleys are even prettier!

    • Anna B August 6, 2013 at 8:18 am #

      Hi Cathy! This little village was such a nice surprise. Last year in the Picos in Spain I saw some amazing balconies and hanging baskets but this pavement planting was something else. Maybe because you could get up so close to the plants. The choice of plants I found very interesting too. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  6. Anna August 6, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    Some beautiful displays Anna which sing out with colour and sunshine. We saw some imaginative use of space when we visited Arles last year. I think that people over here are sadly put off by and large by fear of vandalism or theft. We do go in for hanging baskets in a big way though :)

    • Anna B August 6, 2013 at 8:13 am #

      Hi Anna! Yes this is very true! We are a nation of hanging basketeers! :) Thanks so much for your comment!

  7. Jenny August 6, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    Beautiful photos. It looks an idyllic place and I love how every small space seems to be utilised with bright pretty flowers.

    • Anna B August 6, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Hi Jenny! Yes sometimes every little nook & cranny was filled and I loved the way one house almost filled their part of the alleyway with planters! Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  8. Christina August 6, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    This must be the prettiest village I’ve seen from the point of view of flowers and plants. So many treasures, I’d love to visit, it will have to go on my list. I am hoping to go next year to visit the nursery of Olivier Philippe who specialises in Plants for summer dry climates, this would make a charming addition to the trip. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Anna B August 6, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      Hi Christina! Well I have more little villages to share and a perfume garden too! So they might be of interest for you and your trip next year. The town of Menton almost on the border of Italy has a range of gardens. We drove there hoping to visit some but ended up exploring even more no-gardens there too! I have a book all about the gardens of Provence so I’ll get that to you beforehand somehow! I’ll think of some way. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  9. croftgarden August 6, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    These are stunning and an inspiration to do better with my containers. It is amazing how a few simple, but cherished, containers can transform a property or even a street.
    thank you for the lovely photographs.

    • Anna B August 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      You wouldn’t believe how my shopping trip to the garden centre went after I got back from my holiday!! I was well and truly inspired too :) Thanks so much for your lovely comment!

  10. Ricki Grady August 6, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    I am feeling totally refreshed by your vacation. I almost feel like I’ve been to Provence myself.

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 6:42 am #

      Haha! That’s great! I must admit it was one of the most refreshing holidays I’ve had too. Came back totally relaxed and inspired. I can see why all the billionaires move to the South of France! Unfortunately I wont be able to move there, not enough funds!! but more holidays there are definitely on the cards! Thanks so much for dropping by!

  11. PlantPostings August 7, 2013 at 1:32 am #

    Love the “no gardens.” All the scenes you show are so welcoming and lovely. I see what you mean about the flamboyant and the simple being equally appealing. My daughter is in France right now, so I’m especially interested in this post. Lovely photos! They remind me of New Orleans, which has similar “no gardens” and gated garden “rooms.”

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 6:44 am #

      Hello there! Yes, Jason left a comment saying it reminded him of New Orleans too! Gated garden rooms sound very interesting!! Hope your daughter has a wonderful time :) Thanks so much for dropping by!

  12. Allotment adventures with Jean August 7, 2013 at 5:40 am #

    I think these ‘no gardens’ are absolutely wonderful.
    And I love your camera work.
    A beautiful post.

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 6:44 am #

      Ah thanks so much Jean! :) Lovely comment. Hope all is good with you in Australia!

  13. rogerbrook August 7, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    What a magnificent demonstration of how we can grow plants without having any plot!

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 8:36 am #

      Hi Roger! Not much digging to do either :D ! Thanks so much for dropping by.

  14. Linda August 7, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Those Provencal streets are a photographer’s paradise and a no-garden gardener’s inspiration. No traffic and no vandalism make it a dream place to visit and more importantly live! – (apart from stray cats, of course! I love cats, but having pots of vegetables ourselves i know that they have to be shooed away somehow! I’m going to go back and look at all your gorgeous photos very slowly. Have a good day!

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 10:28 am #

      Hi Linda! Ah thanks so much! It was a real paradise in there. We were staying just outside the village so we were in there as often as possible having a good snoop about! I think those water bottles are used to fend off the stray cats some how? That’s what Adam thought anyway as he’d heard of this back here in Leeds. Thanks so much for dropping by and for your comment :)

  15. Mark Willis August 7, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. That’s what I think! Gardening is possible even when you have the tiniest of spaces available. It just needs care, ingenuity and love. I feel that many people over here in the UK lack the last of those. They just expect plants to put on a wonderful display without the need for any actual “gardening”. The colours of the walls work well in Provence (particularly the apricot and lavender combination), but they would probably not look so good in our grey watery light (even if the local Council would permit…)

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 10:30 am #

      Hello there Mark! Gardening sure is possible anywhere! This is the proof!! Even two plant pots on the side of a house look good in France!! I’ve seen some fascinating planting just round the corner from me that’s even more minimal than that but I just love it, I love the fact that people enjoy plants and give it a go no matter what space they have available. Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  16. Jules August 7, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    What gorgeous photos Anna. These ‘gardens’ look so simple and effortless – though I bet they take quite a bit of watering! It reminds me somewhat of planting styles in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam – like these, small streets with doors right on the pavement but brightened up and decorated by window boxes, containers and troughs.

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      Hi Jules! I’ve been to that area in Amsterdam and I know exactly what you mean! I did a post about it last year. One of those streets in Jordaan had an entire wall of planters that they’d managed to fix up and grow and water. Just brilliant! There’s nothing nicer than strolling through small, pretty streets. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  17. Jo August 7, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    They look fantastic. It just goes to show that you don’t have to have a garden to grow some magnificent plants and put on a fabulous display.

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      Hi Jo! Yes, if you like plants you’ll find a way! I couldn’t get over the size of some of the plants. I’d never thought of growing oleander in a pot outside my house before! It was very inspiring. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  18. VP August 7, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    These are fabulous :) I’ve seen many examples of French public planting (so much better than ours usually) and I see that elegance is also evident in these ‘no’ gardens.

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      Hello VP! Yes, the simplest to the crammed full were still so elegant! I’ve tried to recreate at home. Somehow just can’t quite get the same effect?! I guess its a French thing?! Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  19. Holleygarden August 7, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    I love the name “no-gardens”. And those large terra cotta pots! I am drooling over them! I love how so many of the plants were trained up the walls – it really does give it a very green look, and makes the space visibly much larger. These are some great ideas for having a garden in a patio or by a wall where there is no soil.

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

      Hello there! I love the large pots too! Amazing what they can fit into the little alleyways and the house with the troughs all round the front and along the wall opposite was just amazing! They made a pretty big garden there really by cleverly using the space. Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  20. Nadezda August 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Anna, you’ve shown many ideas how to grow plants without the ground, in pots. I loved the stone bench under the creeper. Nice narrow street in French village!

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

      Hello Nadezda! I love that bench too! I could quite happily sit out there this afternoon! Thanks so much for your comment :)

  21. Cathy August 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    I really enjoyed seeing these photos, Anna – great pictures in themselves but also the individuality of the displays. Some great ideas and of course no fear in using colour! Lovely. It’s no wonder you enjoyed your holiday so much

    • Anna B August 7, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      Hi Cathy! The colours were amazing without looking ‘tacky’. I really did love my holiday and to think that I was so inspired by a little village is just brilliant! I came back with lots of ideas :) Thanks so much for dropping by!

  22. Janet/Plantaliscious August 7, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    Oh, they are fabulous, thank you so much for sharing, so much to be inspired by. I am amazed at the size of some of the plants thriving in pots, and how good they look too, a lesson in the benefits of scale – and careful colour co-ordination. Drat, and I had promised myself to reduce, not increase the number of pots I have…

    • Anna B August 8, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      Haha! I just love pots so it’s an excuse for me to have more! Thanks so much for your comment :)

  23. The Cynical Gardener August 11, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Amazing Pictures, I’ve never been to this part of France. Such a colourful place with lots of lovely greenery.

    • Anna B August 14, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

      Hello there! It was a really colourful place, I love France and to find all these little streets with their colourful front no-gardens was great! Thanks so much for your comment :)

  24. Casa Mariposa August 14, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    I’ve never been to this part of France, either, but it’s so beautiful I’d love to go. The container gardens are definitely gardens. They just aren’t the traditional gardens of England or other parts of Europe. There is no single definition for what a garden is or isn’t.

    • Anna B August 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

      Hello! This is very true. It’s nice that people can make their own definitions and lovely to see just how creative people can be with such small spaces. Thanks so much for your comment!

  25. sophos August 14, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    Beautiful photos and inspiring displays! Green with envy I can’t help grumbling that it’s a bit unfair: any plant (and wonky palm!) will look fantastic against a backdrop of provencal shutters and rustic stones. Still, I enjoyed that – now that my own balcony is all but dried up I’m getting my garden fixes online.

    • Anna B August 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

      I’ve tried to re-create this but it’s just not the same! There’s definitely something about the backdrop that makes a huge difference! Hope you’re still having fun on your balcony and get some good ideas from Provence! Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  26. CJ August 14, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    I can’t tell you how much I love these gardens. They are absolutely stunning, and really show what can be done in the tiniest of spaces. Your photos are fantastic, thank you for sharing them.

    • Anna B August 14, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      It’s so true that with a bit of imagination and some lovely plants you can make something very impressive. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  27. Caro August 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Hi Anna! Full marks for tearing yourself away, just one of those streets would have kept me nosing around for hours! It’s not just France, but Greece, Spain, the Caribbean – all plants thrive and look better in sunshine, especially when set off by a time worn and loved backdrop of houses and brightly painted buildings. I think Mark is right though, these colours don’t work in UK – the Zandra Rhodes Museum of Fashion in Bermondsey Street is painted bright pink and orange and really jars next to the other buildings (some of them very old!). Your photos are very evocative – I want to jump on a plane and go straight there! I wonder what these streets look like in winter?

    • Anna B August 16, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

      Hi Caro! I know, just one pot with one plant can look amazing in a nice sunny country. I want to jump on a plane and go back!! Hope all is good with you :) Thanks for dropping by!


  1. Setting the scene for the autumn garden - dig the outside - October 2, 2013

    [...] preparation for winter I’ve stuck with the pink and purple themes that I picked up in Provence and I’m thinking about lots of heucheras and heathers. I’m going to go for foliage this [...]


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