The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

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May garden at Lou Messugo

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The garden is alive with self-seeded wild cistus flowering all over the place.  This makes me so happy as not only are they very pretty, they are what we named our house after and they had disappeared.


When we bought our plot of land in early 2008 it was a forest full of green oaks, tall pines, interesting rock structures and wild cistus.  We would come and play or picnic in it while waiting for permission to build.  It was natural and wild.  Obviously we had to cut down many trees to build a house and the general damage to the land by diggers, concrete mixers and trucks was sad to see.  I wondered at the time if it would ever recover.  


Once the house was built we set about creating a garden and the idea was to try and get it back to as natural as possible, while incorporating some lawn to play on.  We have planted hundreds of plants and replaced the huge trees with smaller prettier ones.  But we never planted any cistus, and yet, five years after the construction began, the cistus are well and truly back.  We have a slightly lazy attitude to weeding and don't use any chemical products in the garden which has meant it has returned to how it was naturally, with the addition of all that we've planted of course.  Like I said already, this makes me happy.


The arid, drought-prone landscape of Provence is typified by garrigue, a sort of low soft-leaved scrubland mainly composed of kermes oak, lavender, thyme, and white cistus with a few isolated trees.  The white cistus (which produces pink flowers, the white refers to the downy texture of the leaves) is what we have flowering here in our garden in abundance, though there are two other types too.  It is also known as Cistus Albidus, rock rose in English, ciste cotonneux or messugue in French and Messugo in Provençal. The word messugue is often used interchangeably with garrigue, refering to the general landscape.  So the story comes full circle and we're back to the name of our house: Lou (the) Messugo (cistus/typical Provençal landscape). And now you can see why I'm happy the messugo are back!


What's growing in your garden right now?  Do you have an association with a particular plant or a story to tell?

      Lou messugo messugues

You might enjoy these other posts about the garden at Lou Messugo:

From forest to garden

Summer garden

September garden

Oleander - the flower with power




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What is "Lou Messugo"?

Posted by on in Lou Messugo

Lou Messugo cistes cotonneux messugueLou Messugo is the name of our home. We built our house in an area with limited street names and no street numbers at all so we wanted it to have a name, an identity. We built knowing we were going to run a gîte, all the more important to have a name. 

 We wanted to be different, to be unique. Around here there are plenty of houses called “Mas…”, “Bastide…” and “Villa…” None of these suited our house. Both Mas and Bastide mean country house/provencal farmhouse and imply large properties. Our house is somewhat in the bastide style but we felt it wasn’t a real bastide nor was it a villa. Again the connotations didn’t fit what we had in mind. We briefly toyed with “Maison” as in “La Maison Orange” but this lacked imagination. Then we hit upon the idea of using the local language Provençal.

cistus“Lou” means “the”, it’s the Provençal for “le”. There are plenty of examples of this in local house or business names: Lou Fassum (a delicious local Michelin starred restaurant), Lou Cigalou (a common restaurant and gîte name meaning cicada), and most common of all Lou Paradou meaning Paradise. We liked the “ou” sound of these names and decided we needed an original word that had some relevance to our home with a little bit of “ooo”, so we started looking for a noun we could add to “lou”. When doing some research into the local area, I came across a description of the forest around our land where a type of Cistus flowered wild. We had noticed this plant growing on our plot and loved it. It is most abundant in pink but also more rarely in white. The article referred to the “Messugues” and then used the Provençal word “Messugo”. This was our “eureka” moment! We loved the sound of the word, the flowers grew naturally on our land and we’d found a unique name.

However, all my research suggested it should actually be “lei Messugo” not “lou”. This would not do at all as “lou” was an integral and desired part of the name. So we may have cheated a little and created a truly original name, our very own bastardised version of the local word for a beautiful flower, but hey, I’m paying for it in a very small way. What I hadn’t counted on was being addressed as “Dear Lou” in email enquiries! I think it just makes a better story.


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