Monday, May 13, 2013

A French Gardener's Frenzy

The past three weekends we have been off to the springtime whirlwind of flower festivals. (If it didn’t seem too childish, I would have ended this opening sentence with dozens of exclamation points.)  These Floralies are the best part of our best season.  They happen all over France in such abundance that we fill up our weekends without driving more than 30 minutes from home.

Each Floralie has a different flavor. The menu runs from chic and elegant to casual and adorable.  Mix in a few outings for hardcore plants people parlaying latin, add one or two chateaus served up in some beautiful villages and you get the whole moveable feast. The after dinner production, so to speak, is  the prima donna of all plant fairs, one that takes over the whole village of St. Jean de Cole.

The first of our region’s fairs is held at the chateau of Neuvic, a fairytale setting with ancient roses clambering up the walls. Today the rose vendors will have no trouble inspiring you to attempt the same display at your humble abode. With this Renaissance backdrop the fair seems to fall back in time. There is a hustle and bustle of vendors and ravenous early customers swoop in to scoop up the best of the day’s offerings. As the day wears on the atmosphere becomes more relaxed as the crowd transitions to include families on an outing after a big noonday meal.

The following weekend the plant sale of La Brande is in the middle of nowhere. Clearly a destination event for those in the know. This is a plant fair for new, rare, and unknown plants. Nurseries come from all of France to show off their speciality:  shade plants, peonies, old roses, old fashioned tomatoes, ferns, and all sorts of other mysterious plants. The place is rustic and cramped.  The paths are too narrow to pass.  The collective adrenaline fills the air with electricity like just before a thunderstorm.  It’s hard to differentiate between rage and ecstasy.  It is a serious plants person’s paradise.  

Rain or shine we always make the effort to visit the third festival. Perched high on a hill the Montagrier Floriale is the most charming and intimate. The little Romanesque church and it’s surrounding grounds make a welcoming spot for local vendors to set out their happy summer flowers. The villagers have created a beautiful variety of bouquets from their home gardens to set about the interior of the church. All so simple, elegant and no high-handed frilly-dilly stuffiness. The lunch time barbecue will be sold out by 1:00 and families and friends will linger into the afternoon to welcome the fact that today’s purchase of tomato plants signals the gentle beginnings of summer.

Trumpets! Fanfare! Better, or at least clean, clothes! We’re off to the extraordinary festival at St Jean de Cole. This past weekend was their 32nd year. Here the main street of this medieval village is lined with bright masses of gaudy color. It’s a bit like walking the yellow brick road in multi-color. The over the top atmosphere is contagious and everyone is gay and in a buying mood. 

No one will leave here without one great big  splash of color to brighten up a garden corner. 
And if you want to know this years “it” rose this is the place to be. Seems that peppermint stick or grape soda are the colors for 2013. And oh, the floral displays! There is no expense spared to show off the talents of local florist shops and fill the interior spaces with as much, or more color, than can be found out of doors.

Tom has the tractor running. Holes are appearing, compost is everywhere. Time to get those wonderful new purchases into the ground.   As it says on the side of our soap dish, :

“To dig and delve in nice clean dirt
Can do a mortal little hurt.”

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