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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Botanic Bleu Beginnings

Saturday, September 1, 2012

B O T A N I C   B L E U   B E G I N N I N G S 

A backyard unfinished plywood garden shed was transformed into a garden house to be a home for annual French Country Christmas Events. 

My maternal grandmother had flower gardens both around her house and in her vegetable garden in north Alabama.  I can never remember a time when she did not have flowers.  Her flower gardens were modest, overshadowed by the vegetables and crop plants necessary for food and a living, but they were always well-maintained, grown from cuttings and seeds shared from family, friends, and neighbors.  I don't think she ever bought a flower seed or plant in her life.

My life has been blessed with flowers beginning with my grandmother, then with my mother, aunts, uncles, paternal grandfather, and now with my sister who is a professional florist.  My husband sent flowers for every birthday, Valentine's day, wedding anniversary, and other special times.  For years we planned for a garden shed so I could have flowers year round.

When I traveled to France each summer with students, the flower gardens, parks, garden houses, and verdant countryside of France always refreshed my spirit and renewed my desire for beautiful gardens and a garden house of my own.  The north Texas heat, cold, and lack of rain limit what I can grow. Budgets, energy, and time limit what I can build.  When I drew the first garden shed plans on graph paper, my family quickly dubbed it a "jardin chateau."  The shed is not really a chateau, but my traveling-to-France friend, Dewayna, said she laughs when I call it a shed.

February 14, 2004 --- No garden shed, just an open area east of the deck at my house

Botanic Bleu beginnings show a snowy empty wood scene before the garden shed was built

Around 2007, we began building the "jardin chateau," and it stood incomplete for a few years.  

The winter of 2009-2010 was particularly bitter with record snowfalls.  This is a view in February 2010 of the north and west sides of the partially completed shed that we used mainly for storing tools.

Botanic Bleu garden shed in a snowy woods shows how it looked in the beginning

March 2010 Incomplete 

Below is a view of the east side of the shed in March 2010 with a gaping hole where I hoped a French-style "eyebrow" window would go.  I began to think about opening a home and garden shop with French-inspired gifts.

Botanic Bleu garden shed before totally enclosed

August 2011---Work was begun to complete the garden shed and to use it as a home and garden shop, Botanic Bleu.  

I made travel arrangements and plans to attend the Paris Objet Maison trade show in September in Paris, France where I hoped to buy special things for the shop's Country French Christmas sale beginning mid-November 2011.  I also researched when and where French flea markets would be during my stay in Paris and the Dordogne region.  The photo shows sawhorses and building supplies in the yard in August 2011.

Botanic Bleu garden shed completed before front entry deck added

The following two photos were taken September 8, 2011, the morning I left for Paris.  No more gaping hole!  Window in, walls partially painted, angel wing storage cabinet installed, copper sink upside down on the counter...

Botanic Bleu garden shed eyebrow window

Botanic Bleu garden shed interior during completion as Christmas shop

November 14, 2011--- Garden shed completed for the first Country French Christmas Event.

The west deck and circular step were finished on Monday, November 14, before the shop was to open that Friday.

Botanic Bleu garden shed beginnings with new entry deck

November 18 - December 27, 2011---A Country French Christmas sale 

The sale including new and vintage items from the Paris Maison Objet trade show, French flea markets, Deep South antique stores, and select wholesalers took place.  My friend, Dewayna, also sold her beautiful DBT Serendipity Glassworks stained glass and fused glass items in the shop.  We had a great time and were thrilled with the response we had from all of our friends who shopped with us.

Botanic Bleu garden shed first Country French Christmas sale interior

May 2012---Here is a view of the west side of Botanic Bleu.  

What began as a dream for a garden shed has evolved into a small business that combines my love of France and Christmas.  During the summer and fall of 2012, the search for French-inspired items is in full swing, getting ready for the second Country French Christmas event beginning in mid-November 2012.

Botanic Bleu garden shed beginnings in summer

August 2012---Plans are to finish the exterior with Texas white limestone and to install exterior lights. 

A white limestone walkway leading from the deck is already begun.


April 2014---A watercolor print made using the Waterlogue app shows how the garden shed looked the spring before white Austin limestones were added to the exterior.

Botanic Bleu garden shed beginnings watercolor print before white limestone added

Below is a French-inspired iron topiary for the garden that Botanic Bleu is offering in the 2012's Country French Christmas sale.

french design iron garden topiary

If you are in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas metroplex mid-November 'til Christmas, come to Botanic Bleu for some Christmas shopping.  You may find something special for someone you know who loves France also.

My grandmother would love to see her granddaughters carrying on the family tradition of gardening, but would be even prouder that we are carrying on the tradition of being strong Southern women.

Until next time, watch for beautiful garden buildings wherever you go.  Each one is someone's dream.