Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Swiss Home

Having seen photographs of Laura and Jami’s romantic equestrian properties recently, I’ve been feeling a little envious. I love the higgledy-piggledy, happy-go-lucky, natural look of Laura’s home. I also love her corner of the world from having lived in the area for a while back in the Eighties. As for Jami’s farmhouse in the woods, from my European perspective it appears so charming and Apple-Pie-ishly American, evoking rocking chairs on the porch, hikes through chlorophyll-fresh greenery, cozy evenings by log fires. Both are the kind of houses I always drool over in “Country Living” magazine.

Located in a small village twenty minutes outside Geneva, my house doesn’t have any of Laura’s house’s quirky charm, or the romance of Jami’s place. Architecturally speaking, my house by no means fits my ideal. Built in the Seventies, it’s kind of ordinary and boring looking, really, especially from the outside. In fact, when we were looking for a place to buy nine years ago, I initially dismissed it. My husband, however, saw its potential and convinced me to go back for a second look. Conveniently placed closed to the children’s school, with a big plot of land (by Swiss standards!), he managed to get me to see beyond the horrendous swirly gold and cream wallpaper, the avocado green and Easyjet orange kitchen, the revolting bathrooms. Nevertheless, when we visited it with the children, my son (who was seven at the time), was absolutely horrified and burst into tears once we got back into the car. “I’m not going to live in a horrible place like that,” he wailed as we drove away. We laugh about it now as he’s none of us has ever regretted moving here. We knocked out a couple of walls, changed the windows, updated the kitchen and the bathrooms, put our stamp on it. We added a deck around almost two sides of the house, which is wonderful even in the weakest of winter sun. But best of all is the garden which, eight years after we moved in, is really starting to fill in.

I love having a pretty garden, love seeing plants evolve through the seasons, love being able to wander down to my vegetable garden and pick something for lunch or dinner. I love being able to potter around, picking flowers for myself or for a
friend. Year after year, I’m inclined to add more and more plants, even new flowerbeds, but gardening is pretty labor intensive, and plants are expensive, so I don’t always give into temptation, although I do my flowerpots two or three times a year. Early in May there was a major flower show at the Chateau close to my house, a real floral Garden of Eden, yet I managed to make it to the exit with only two wheelbarrows laden with yummy stuff. My favorite purchase from that particular is a tantalizingly scented pale pink rose called “Rose des Cornouailles” (Cornwall rose).
It truly smells the way roses should!

Ideally I’d have gone for a much older house with more character. I’d have really enjoyed renovating an old farmhouse (such as the one at my stables), creating a more bohemian, “Country Living” atmosphere, but in this part of the world properties like that are hard to come by, and cost many many millions to buy, and then many many more millions to renovate. So I’m happily counting my chickens in my lovely big comfortable house.

The thirty minute commute to the stables is a bit of a drag, especially at this time of the year when it would be far more pleasant to ride early in the morning, or later in the evening because of the flies, but bumper to bumper traffic puts a damper on that. There’s a big fancy yard under construction in my village which should be ready by next year, so if there’s space, and if my trainer is allowed to come and give me lessons there I may consider moving Qrac. It would make more sense, saving both time and petrol. I don’t think I’d move Kwintus though, as I doubt he’d ever find a better environment for his retirement.

Where do you live? What’s your environment like? Do you enjoy gardening, and if you do, are there any particular plants you might recommend? Do you have a horse at home, or do you commute to a stable? Nosy, aren’t I?!


Fantastyk Voyager said...

Lol at your son's comments. I've lived in a mobile home with avocado green carpeting and I hated it!

I think I have a pretty nice ranchhouse but it needs maintenance and cleaning! It's a single story, vaulted ceilings throughout, spanish tile roof and stuccoed drywall. I live in the foothills of the mountains at 7000 feet. The property is fairly level, so it is ideal horse property. However, I have no flower gardens because it takes too much water and time that I don't have. (I have one lilac bush and iris bloom in the spring.) I am so envious of all of your lush "Thomas Kinkade' flower gardens.

Dreaming said...

Well, you know that my posts have mainly been about the "project" house... we will be living there in two weeks. (We have also been saying that for about 2 months!)
I love your gardens and I so understand what you mean about enjoying the garden as it matures. Some of our plantings at our current home are just showing the promise of what we will have, uh, could have had, in the future. That is one thing I don't like about moving - I'll miss seeing our trees get larger, are bushes 'bush' and flowers fill the spaces in the gardens. Oh well... I have plenty of space to do that in the gardens at the project house. It will just take some time!

Laura Crum said...

Any house in Europe is somewhat exotic from my point of view. Loved your description of my place--made me smile. And yes, as you know, I love my garden very much, especially the rambling roses, and I keep my horses here at home. We have a big veggie garden and enjoy picking our dinner greens from it every evening. Thanks for the photos of your place!

Alison said...

Fun post, Francesca. So many of us authors/horse girls (er, ladies?) also love our plants and flowers. I love seeing the similarities in plants that grow here and also so far away in your lovely Swiss yard. My daughter just got home from Switzerland and Rome and enjoyed both, but definitely preferred Switzerland.

Shanster said...

I think your house looks lovely! Lush and green - beautiful!

We live in a dry, arid climate... tumbleweeds, rabbitbrush, sage and yucca dot the prairie flat lands we live in. Red, clay soil that dries into something like cement.

I love native xeric flowers/grasses... so I started in on a mission to transform our little 900 sq ft house from Deliverance house to looking like happy people live there... my native blue gramma prairie grass is growing and the native mexican hat, blanket flower and blue flax are thriving!

Every year we improve and work and our little house is really looking like a nice little home... complete with 4 acres of pasture for our 2 horses to munch on. No barns, just 3 sided lean-to's but they seem happy.

Francesca Prescott said...

Hello everyone, thank you so much for reading and telling me a little bit about where you live.