We (the collective we) go south in summer for sun because we can’t be sure of it in England. It’s a taste our grandfathers would have found puzzling. They went south, if they could afford it, in winter and spring. There was and is lots to do at home in summer, and frankly not a lot in the overheated summers of Provence or the Côte d’ Azur beside splashing about in the tepid sea.
I am on the gorgeous Blue Coast now. It’s too hot to be outside, except in the pool. Air-conditioning is as disagreeable here as anywhere else. Shade and a breeze is the sum of my desires. And eye-soothing green is not to be found. It hasn’t rained, I’m told, for three months. The grapes hanging on the pergola are shrivelled but not ripe or sweet.
Admittedly the Iceberg roses are splendid, but there is little else in the garden to admire. I’ve often puzzled about the iciest roses lapping up the hottest weather. The rather lanky solanum bush (S laciniatum, I’m pretty sure) with purple flowers the size of your thumbnail is worth seeing – but so it is in London; a cutting from this very plant. Indeed my plant palette seems to have got a bit bogged down with duplicates in Beaulieu sur Mer and London W8. Japanese anemones, and the Tulbaghia in front of me now, little umbels of pale pink flowers on long stalks over a chive-like clump of leaves, waving at horizon level over the blue of the bay, Pale Perowskia is not happy in our London shade, and here the hydrangeas were over weeks ago.
What are we left with? Lavender, lemons, apples, persimmons (not in London). No bougainvillea in London, either; luckily I don’t much care for it. Plumbago, though, I would certainly try if I had a sunny south wall. There are one or two salvias that come close to its pale sky blue, but nothing on its scale.