I miss France, Provence in particular. Traveling in the footsteps of Van Gogh and Cézanne to discover the unexpected, stopping for a picnic lunch and a glass of rosé along the roadside, and snapping selfies in a field of sunflowers with the hot yellow sun beating down sounds dreamy right now. Summertime in Provence is especially beautiful — with its gardens, meadows, and even forests filled with a profusion of colorful blooms. But there’s something magical about the gardens of Provence. Classic or contemporary, cottage or formal, these fairytale-like gardens conjure up scents of fragrant lavender and citrus, sounds of babbling brooks and bubbling fountains, and sights of tree lined paths and manicured shrubs and mazes. Layered with pea gravel or crushed limestone and filled with vases d’Anduze and jarres de Biot, they seamlessly connect the inside to the outside.
Provençal pots that function both as garden and decorative accessories have long been considered iconic symbols of French garden decor. Both the glazed Anduze pots (pictured above) and the unglazed Biot jars are an elegant yet charming addition to any garden or home.
Named for the picturesque Medieval village of Anduze in the Cévennes mountains in the South of France, the vase d’Anduze was created in 1610 by a local potter named Boisset. Drawing inspiration from Italian Medici vases he saw at a fair in Beaucaire, Boisset created his version of the famous inverted bell-shaped pot in a flamed color with a glaze applied in green, brown, and straw hat yellow streaks. Floral garlands, a stamped medallion with the potter’s signature, and other refined decorations embellished each pot. Pots are still being made in the Languedoc-Roussillon region by artisans in the same way as the old Anduze family craftsmen.
Anduze pots adorned only the estates of aristocrats and nobles (and Versailles, of course) during the 17th and 18th centuries. Once Marie Antoinette began lining the formal gardens and terraces of Versailles (perhaps the first container gardens of note) with vases d'Anduze and decorating the orangerie with hundreds and hundreds of the shapely planters, they instantly became en vogue — popping up in manor gardens all over France.
Production of the pots almost became a thing of the past during the French Revolution (1789-1799), forcing most of the factories in Anduze to close permanently. This is one of the reasons these crusty old 18th and 19th century pots are so desirable and expensive today. With just a handful of artisans left making the beautiful, glazed terracotta vases d'Anduze, they became scarce and hard to come by — a rare and collectible commodity these days.
The pots continued to grow in popularity after the Revolution with the nouveau riche silk merchants in the Anduze region designing and creating their own private gardens and parks, filling them with large, heavy Aduze pots containing small orange, lemon, and olive trees with underplantings of lavender, thyme, and other herbs. Today, gardens and parks all over France are still decorated with grand Anduze pots made famous by Marie Antoinette and the gardens and orangerie of Versailles.
Thank goodness you don’t have to be Marie Antoinette or Louis Seize to enjoy the amazing variety of fruits, flowers, and veggies or shapes, colors, and fragrances that can be grown in these fabulous pots. And don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and mix it up. Just like the French mix different styles of antiques in their homes, they often blend formal with informal and mix beauty and utility in their gardens. Next time we'll discuss the utilitarian Biot jarres.
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When this self-described Francophile is not reading or writing about all things French, she's dreaming up charming new ways to showcase Lolo French Antiques et More or traveling to France with Lolo to buy delightful treasures for their store. Mimi, Lolo, and their new French Bulldog, Duke, live in Birmingham, AL.