french irises on rooftops

by Sharon Santoni

[blank]It is iris time here in Normandy, and as well as enjoying them in the garden, we are also happy to admire the purple spires growing on thatched walls and rooftops.[blank]

[blank]This is a tradition peculiar to our part of Normandy, where there are still craftsmen to thatch, and where we like to add a few succulents and irises to the peak of a thatch covering, so the roots help anchor the reed thatching.[blank]

[blank]The lifespan of a good thatched roof can attain about  45 years; it is said to keep the house warm in winter and cool in the summer.  When it rains (which it does a lot in Normandy!) only the top layer is humid, the rest remaining dry as the water runs away.[blank]



[blank]Personally, it works for me.   I love the country charm  and the soft palette of colours.
What do you think?  Would you like  a home with flowers growing on the rooftop?![blank]

[blank]And I really loved the outline of this thatched wall, early one  sunny morning this weekend.[blank]

 [blank]Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into traditional normandy.  Thank you for your comments over the past days, so sorry I’ve been too busy to answer all my mails, or comments.  Next week I should do better …..[blank]


Marina Pérez May 20, 2013 - 1:08 pm

Beautiful walk! j'adore les maisons.



helen tilston May 20, 2013 - 1:13 pm

Hello Sharon

These thatched roofs and plantings are new to me. How adorable.
The house I lived in, as a child, in the West of Ireland had a thatched roof and I have beautiful memories of that home.
Have a wonderful week

Helen xx

Our French Inspired Home May 20, 2013 - 2:01 pm

Thatched roofs are so beautiful. I have honestly never seen one with iris growing out the top, but after you explain about the roots holding the thatch it makes perfect sense. As always your images want to make me hope in a plane and walk around Normandy myself. Have a great day! -Tonya

La Table De Nana May 20, 2013 - 3:35 pm

Oh how cute! I have seen a grass topped roof here..but never an iris growing on it..What beautiful homes..

Maywyn Studio May 20, 2013 - 3:53 pm

Thank you for posting your charming photographs
I didn't know about irises on rooftops. Irises in bloom here at the time they are blooming in Normandy is a soothing thought.

Jennifer May 20, 2013 - 4:06 pm

Oh, I love it! Would love to see it in person some day.

Wild Oak Designs May 20, 2013 - 4:12 pm

Wow! Great shots of roofs and thatching! I never would have thought that thatching would last that long! I love the idea of growing irises on the roof….very intriguing.

lilysgrannie May 20, 2013 - 4:21 pm

What beautiful photos. I didn't know about planting irises in the thatch. Thanks for showing them to us.

Bente Holst May 20, 2013 - 4:23 pm

Beautiful photos of the irises, both on the roofs and on the ground. Very charming 🙂

Mary Palumbo Collings May 20, 2013 - 4:48 pm

Absolutely beautiful!!!

Joanne C May 20, 2013 - 5:13 pm

So typical of that part of the world. I like to see that historical homes have not vanished yet. Thank you for the beautiful photos.

vicki archer May 20, 2013 - 6:53 pm

The irises are wonderful Sharon… love these shots… and the thatching on the rooves is so quaint… xv

Ellen Reed May 20, 2013 - 8:32 pm


Amelia May 20, 2013 - 10:11 pm

Thank you Sharon for a lovely glimpse of traditional Normandy. The irises growing on top of the thatched roofs & fence are beautiful and unique. After finding out they also serve a pratical purpose…hmmmmm sooo very French. Love how beauty and practicality are weaved into one.

Ms Lemon of Make Mine Lemon May 20, 2013 - 10:21 pm

I am impressed with the thatched roof. If anyone has ever tried to thin out iris they know about their root system. I was unaware they were planted on roofs. Thanks for another tour.

Ms Lemon of Make Mine Lemon May 20, 2013 - 10:22 pm

Oh, I just noticed you changed your header. Lovely.

Barbara Dyke May 21, 2013 - 12:31 am

How lovely to have the Iris growing on the thatched roofs. I've never seen that before. Thanks for the insight to your Normandy. I noticed toute-suite that you had changed your header photo, but where is that little mischief maker ??

Barbara Lilian

Karen May 21, 2013 - 12:50 am

I would love a thatched roof, alas, too many fires in Southern California.

Lorrie May 21, 2013 - 6:11 am

I find thatched roofs very charming. Can I ask you what the French word for a thatched roof is?
Planting irises up there is a fun custom.

PamLuvsPink May 21, 2013 - 8:16 am

Hi Sharon!!!!

Oh, how I love thatched roofs!!!

I wouldn't mind at all to have a thatched roof and some beautiful Iris's growing on it. All I ask is for a house the size of the last one pictured, and I would be the happiest lady alive!!

Thank you so very much for sharing this with us!!

Have a great week!!


Angelika Leśniak May 21, 2013 - 10:22 am

Wunderschön!! It's so wonderful, that i cannot find words in english.
Thanks for so much beautiful shots.
Liebe Grüsse

Yvonne @ StoneGable May 21, 2013 - 11:15 am

Oh, I adore a thatched roof. When I was a girl living in Scotland and England the countryside was dotted with them. The iris' growing on the roof is new to me… and perfectly delightful!!!!

Emilka May 21, 2013 - 12:14 pm

What can I say? Wonderful pictures!

Anonymous May 21, 2013 - 1:39 pm

Hello ! I am in Shropshire, England and there are still a few thatched properties here. Two summers ago, a little cottage in our village was rethatched. The thatcher was quite a character and made friends with my two young sons. It was fascinating to see him work. No iris here though ! The thatcher did make two pheasants out of the thatch to decorate the roof ridge, the decorations reflect the occupants of the cottage. Two love birds for a young couple etc.

Anonymous May 21, 2013 - 2:49 pm

Thank you for these bautiful photos. I love starting my mornings off here in the U.S. with glimpses into beautiful Normandy. "French Irisis on Rooftops" — the way you captured the light — is stunning. Thank you bringing such joy.

hopflower May 21, 2013 - 3:50 pm

Simply too beautiful.

La Contessa May 21, 2013 - 4:24 pm

Fleurs on rooftops!Doesn't get any better then that!STUNNING!

Anonymous May 21, 2013 - 5:44 pm

Hiya Sharon
Today, I more or less randomly picked a magazine ("Landleben") at my local grocery shop, because on the front page they promised an article on brocantes or as it's called in German "Trödel". To my surprise – and pleasure – when I opened it on the said page I found an article about YOU! Well, I haven't read it yet (have some "urgent" work to do), but will enjoy it tonight with a lovely cuppa – or a wee dram!
Have a good week!

Mr. & Mrs. P May 21, 2013 - 6:23 pm

Not works to describe how beautiful!

peggy braswell May 21, 2013 - 7:25 pm

This is new to me. Iris growing on a roof top,how marvelous.

ArchitectDesign™ May 21, 2013 - 9:21 pm

I had never seen this before, it's the most lovely thing! We had the most beautiful iris's in Paris that smelled heavenly from a local market on our dining room table.

Misty May 22, 2013 - 3:01 am

How beautiful and totally interesting…flowers growing on the roof! You sure have a nice life. 🙂 Lovely blog.

My Grama's Soul May 22, 2013 - 3:15 am

Interesting post Sharon……I didn't know there was actually a PRACTICAL reason for grasses and flowers growing out of roofs..I saw some while traveling Europe and was always intrigued.



Leslie in Portland, Oregon May 22, 2013 - 3:49 am

I would love to have a home with flowers growing on the rooftop…and I would very much like that roof to be thatched. Is a thatched roof always made of reeds, or is that particular to Normandy? There were a couple of Tudor-style homes with thatched roofs in Portland when I was a child, but no more, probably because no one here knows how to thatch. I'll have to look into that…!

Thank you for another gorgeous post. Leslie

Noelle May 22, 2013 - 5:19 am

I love the way it looks, but would not like planting, watering or tending to it! It would scare me to death to think about plucking weeds or thinning bulbs upon my rooftop. Appreciate knowing why it's practical and how they do it. Bless those who carry the torch of bygone days. (Guess that's not such a great phrase for those who create thatched roofs!) Lovely.

Jeanne @ Collage of Life May 22, 2013 - 12:53 pm

Just beautiful Sharon.. xxx

Karen L. Bates May 22, 2013 - 4:23 pm

Lucky you, what a beautiful area! Just gorgeous shots.

Vicki May 22, 2013 - 6:41 pm

My ignorance…I did not know that a thatched roof was commonplace in northern France; I associate it with England. In the U.S. I have what's known as a Cotswold cottage, English tudor design with a Norman roof (not thatched). The architect told me that the conquering French who settled in England centuries ago brought elements of French design to English countryside houses. Thus, the blend. Did they conversely bring English design to France if they went back home? Which is which? I should research this; it's fascinating!

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noreen May 28, 2013 - 11:17 pm

utterly charming! Wonderful to see the properties so well kept. in SA we have thatched roofs on mainly Cape Dutch style heritage properties (via the Dutch & French Huguenot settlers)


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