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Potager...That's Fancy for Veggie Garden

One of the main reasons that I moved to Provence was for the sunshine (and to see my friends Susie and Heather). Apparently, my new ‘hood gets 300 days of sunshine a year… And is designated as a Mediterranean climate. So, that is obviously a recipe for a vegetable garden or as they call it over here in Fraaaaance, a “potager.” The exact definition of a potager is the following…"A potager is a French-style ornamental kitchen garden. It is generally planned for a small space and formal in design, with mostly vegetables and fruit and some cut flowers. “

Sounds lovely, fancy and snobby. I’m doing it. Let's take at some inspirational potagers...


So this is my new project. To build a potager at my new house in Provence. I have even given myself a title, “Garden Boss.” Since I cannot physically do any of the work I will have to delegate the work to my caregivers (as if they don’t already have enough work). But I have assured them that this will be fun!

My first real experience with a proper potager was at Château Chenonceau outside of Paris. For the whole blog about the Château, titled Spread My Ashes at Chenonceau, click HERE, but for now let’s look at the Château’s potager…



How much experience do I have in the garden, you ask? About zero. I have only created one garden in my life but I can say with certainty that it was one of the most fulfilling projects I’ve ever done. The joy of planting something, tending to it and watching it grow was palpable.

 This is me and the housekeeper, Francisca, in 2009 tending to our garden. Yes, I think it's best to garden in all white.
 Look how hard I'm working... Oh wait, that's Francisca.
 Moroccan mint for tea.
 Lettuces for my California Pizza Kitchen Barbeque Chicken Salad.
 Herbs for cooking and flower arrangements.

For my new garden I will have to start from absolute scratch. I have a perfect area to the left of my kitchen to create this new edible garden. First, I will have to start with the design. I decided that I want it to be in four parts with Willow edging and a birdbath in the center. Three of the four parts will be designated to my garden concept of: Green juice and ratatouille. Yep, green juice and ratatouille because that is basically what I live on (and gummy bears). The fourth part of the garden will be designated to my garden concept of: Flowers that look and smell pretty.

This is where the new potager will go...
So, the first section of my garden dedicated to juicing will have kale, cucumber, spinach, Swiss chard, beets and arugula. I also add lemon, carrots, fennel, turmeric, coconut oil, kiwi, ginger and green apples to my green juice but I will just have to buy that at the grocery store or the farmers market. I can only do so much!

The second section of my garden dedicated to ratatouille: eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash. I will get the garlic and onions from the farmers market.

The third section of my garden will be dedicated to herbs: Rosemary, thyme, savory, marjoram, basil, oregano, Moroccan mint, cilantro and I will also throw in some strawberries just for fun.

The fourth section of my garden will be for a cutting garden. Roses, roses and roses.

Considering that I probably got ALS from a toxic pesticide ridden raspberry, my garden will have to be completely organic. Should I compost? I don’t know if I think that’s gross or not...

How am I going to do all of this? I have absolutely no idea. But I am determined and I will educate myself through books, blogs and advice. Advice from all of you, my mother and my new secret weapon… My new caregiver in Provence happens to be the son of the gardener to the estate of Janet de Botton! You can bet your “Botton” dollar that I will be using that garden advice (and probably all of his tools) !
Dear Janet, can I come over? Love, Ellie

Stay tuned for updates!

*So glad you all liked the new and improved shop. The blue and white chinoiserie was a huge hit! I will continue to grow the shop week by week adding more products and lots more antiques. The shop will always be open now so feel free to shop at your leisure. Follow me on Instagram HERE to be the first in the know of new products and antique pieces and get the latest updates on the shop! All of your packages are being wrapped with love and will be sent out this week!
Merci beaucoup!                                                            


  1. Four words: Raised Beds, Compost = Easy

    1. I was going to say raised beds too! No bending and less weeding.

    2. Raised beds are wonderful! It's summer here in Oz and I have four small square beds built up with bricks and filled with well rotted cow manure and humus. One bed is just strawberries, the others contain tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, Hungarian peppers, spinach, rocket, coriander and alyssum. In other areas or in separate pots there are also rosemary, mint, parsley, basil, chives, oregano and lavender - and of course lots of roses. In huge pots we have a lemon, a Tahitian lime and cumquats. When the weather cools a bit in a month or so (it was 38C today) we'll be planting a couple of plum trees.
      It's lovely to eat things fresh from the garden - the tomatoes are sweeter, the cucumbers are crispier - and of course, no pesticides or weedkiller. Just watch the courgettes because they can go from perfect size to huge giant clubs in a day or so in mid-summer if not picked soon enough.
      Have fun with all your lovely fresh veggies and fruits and herbs in the summer. Lucky you to have Janet de Botton's gardener! Best wishes, Pammie

    Now you need a few chickens TOO!
    WHO IS JANET DE BOTTON?SOMEONE fill me in..............
    I fine this all very EXCITING!!!
    YOU and HEATHER can have a stand at the FARMERS MARKET one day a week!!!!!!CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT!I CAN and you will be SOLD OUT by 10 am!
    I want you to skip over to my BLOG as I had my AURA's ALL THERE!!!
    Tell me did he nail me or what?BE HONEST!

  3. I'm with ya Ellie on your “potager.” I LOVE planting, just finished my pavers, sweet olive's, carolina & confederate herbs and potted flowers....I did my garden version of Shoji Japanese Screens for privacy....I love
    gardening, balances and grounds me....deep to the earth....diggin in the only....yes indeedy....I am SO excited you are there......watching your dream that I knew would happen.....:-)))))))))

  4. Ms. Ellie, There's a good chance you will discover how FUN composting can be. You lovingly deposit all your garden and flower trimmings and rejects only to see them come back as rich, valuable material to further improve the very garden they came from. Really, you might find you LOVE composting, the chemistry of it and the rewards. EA

  5. I planted broccoli once. My dog ate it. But you go on with your bad self.

  6. Isn't it amazing that you once had a decor shop, and now after everything that's happened, you have a decor shop!!!

  7. The great thing about gardening is that you can't go wrong. Really. You think you have the perfect design and Mama Nature says "nope." So you roll with it and do something different. It's all good.

  8. I would do it just so I could say: "well, the other day in my potager.."

  9. Can't wait to see your garden. I have planted one my entire life. I love your sense of humor and how you spin things. Is it true that ALS is caused by pesticides? I grow and eat organic when I can, but not 100% of the time.

  10. I love it when I discover you have posted (over night for me). It makes my first cup of coffee taste oh so much better. I planted my first garden last summer at my mountain home. I discovered that the season was just too short for tomatoes. I just know all of your plants will flourish with all of that sunshine!....Janey

  11. OK now I'm inspired-I've wanted a little garden forever but after several disasters am just finally mastering the art of herbs on the windowsill! I honestly thought potager was a sort of soup! Can't wait to see what you do

  12. I have had a "potager" in the Languedoc for several years, shared with a local man in his 70s who is a very good gardener. No flowers, no willow fencing, just incredible healthy big vegetable plants. I grew kale there, it is a cool season crop so must be done in the fall or very early spring. It does not like mediterranean summers! The potager at Chenonceau is absolutely gorgeous, in addition to the vegetables they grow many of the flowers and foliage plants used in the spectacular flower arrangements in the house. It is an "uber-potager" and would be hard to duplicate! Maybe at Villandry ...... Ellie, you will love the satisfaction of seeing your tiny plants and seeds turn into vegetables, that you can eat (and juice) and they will look beautiful while they are doing it. Compost? Yes. Not gross at all. More gross is the trash can full of rotting garbage .... greens only, no meat fish etc. Get a composting box, there are all sorts out there, and you can put all vegetable matter into it, very green!
    bonnie temporarily in Sarrians

    1. Even easier than a composting box is a "Worm composting box" because you do not need to turn over the compost. The worms do that work for you. We use a large black trash can in the garage where it does not get too warm or too cold. We drilled about a dozen holes in the bottom and put a pan to catch the "drippings". The bottom is lined with a small mesh to keep things (like bits of dirt, etc) from falling out. Then all you need is green refuse (potato peels, garden and lawn clippings, apple cores, left over lettuce and other veggies). As Bonnie points out, absolutely NO proteins of any kind. Then just add a box of garden worms. From this point on, the worms will do the work for you. There is no smell at all! The liquid that drips out the bottom is a fantastic liquid fertilizer. The compost created by the worms is worm castings. In many parts of the US it is sold as "Worm Gold" at garden centers for a pretty penny. Get a big scoop (like the ones used to scoop out nuts from bins at the store) and periodically scoop out a pail of worms and their castings. Scatter around plants about 1" deep then water. The earth worms will burrow into the ground and will continue to enrich the soil. Roses especially love this!

      By the way, I assume you have a Fosse Septique. Composting will reduce the "sludge" in your Fosse Septique so that it does not have to be pumped as often.

      A somewhat yucky topic but a necessary part of the circle of life.

      Smiles from Charlotte in the mountains between Temecula and the sea.

  13. All I can say is "WOW'..... Can I come for lunch this summer? xoxo Mary

  14. Omg you struck gold for a gardener! Can hardly wait to see your potager! Love your statement that potager sounds lovely, fancy, and snobby! All the best, Kris in seattle

  15. Love gardening and while I grow mostly roses we bought a new greenhouse and are planning to grow tomatoes and melons and basil....for starters then we will see how it works. Excited to hear about your plans for the potager! Your climate will be perfect...soon you will want some chickens...oh and good news about the shop being open all the time.

  16. I have never had a potager but my husband does grow fabulous tomatoes in the summer and I always have a pot of basil. I am in complete agreement with you on Chenonceau - what a beautiful place and the gardens are exquisite. Wouldn't that be a wonderful place to have a grand party?

  17. Love your garden plans! The design options you show look lovely. The size seems very large and bountiful. You might have to open a garden stand to sell your produce? I agree, there is nothing better than fresh, organic food. How about a few fruit trees on the perimeter of the garden? I love the scent of lemon blossoms? What do you think? Susan

  18. One of my earliest and fondest of memories is helping my grandfather in his vegetable garden. He always let me choose something of my own to plant, so there was the inevitable pumpkin or a watermelon growing alongside the more respectable lettuce, carrots, green beans, corn and tomatoes. My grandmother and I visited the garden surreptitiously when Grandfather was watching television to pilfer a few choice carrots and cucumbers to construct little carrot cars with wheels attached by toothpicks and plastic wrap windshields, and cucumber boats with lettuce sails. And in later years, my daughter took my place in my grandfather’s garden where he taught her to love it in the same way I did.

    My current life doesn’t lend itself to gardening, so if you don’t mind, Ellie, I plan to vicariously enjoy your Grand Potager Adventure. Maybe you can teach me to grow a tomato plant on my French-sized terrace…? XOXO / Nancy

    P.S. I vote for chickens'll need eggs for your cooking school recipes.

  19. Oh, I can't wait to see pictures of the finished product. I see it in my mind. Great project to start off 2016. Bon chance et bon appetit!!

  20. Once upon a time I had a big garden in a wood not very far from Athens with a potager and many olive trees, almond, apricot and fig trees with a little wooden house. I have spent all my youth years there and my son's too. Unfortunately the crisis came and I had to sell it. In the potager there were tomatoes, cucumbers, white eggplants, watermelons and strawberries. Please make your potager true for me also!

  21. A potager will be wonderful Ellie; I can tell how excited you are about it and that is a good thing Yes, delegate for sure! loved the pic of you gardening in white attire!

    The Arts by Karena
    Life Lessons: So Honored!

  22. Wow! Provence AND a potager. You'll love the instant gratification of watching everything grow by leaps and bounds overnight. And I second the idea of chickens. Not those ordinary, ho-hum chickens for you, but the wild and crazy chic chicks with the fancy plumes on their heads and necks, You'll have tons of fun researching them.

  23. Beautiful gardens. I have no gardening talent but am resolved to tackle vegetables this year.

  24. Growing veggies is fun. I've held back in California because of the drought. But maybe this coming summer things will be different.
    Next time I come to see you, I'll bring some plants instead of cookies?

  25. Ellie,
    I have binge read all of your blog and it is amazing and fabulous, just as I imagine you are. I am a mom and a chronic illness sufferer, and whenever I read anything you write about same I feel shudders up my spine. I am doing this stupid anonymous thing because I have not told my children and I can't e-mail you. My computer for some reason won't let me. I will see if my husband can't fix that. Some of the bits and pieces about your illness that pop up in your blog are so familiar that they make me gasp. I wanted to let you know that if many hands make light work - I am carrying a bit of your weight here, in a place you have never been and as a person you may never meet. PS Love the potager. Bonne chance! Is that right? High school French and so long ago! The recipes are wonderful - more please!

  26. Um I planted tomatoes once...didnt turn out so well :) go on with that potager, im sure it will be lovely and hey you could even sell your veggies at the market :) xo