Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Cardère and Salicaire near Montmirail -- not far from the town of Vacqueyras.
: to find
Je ne cherche pas. Je trouve.
I do not seek. I find. --Pablo Picasso
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Audio File: listen to my son, Max, pronounce today's word. Also, hear the verb's conjugation -- followed by the above quote: Download trouver.mp3 . Download trouver.wav
je trouve, tu trouves, il/elle trouve, nous trouvons, vous trouvez, ils/elles trouvent (trouvé)
Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French
As if by coincidence, prize-worthy plants are popping up all over the French countryside... ever since I began botanical lessons with an herbalist Don Juan.* How is it that the very plants that we are studying are suddenly sporting themselves just outside my front door, there, where they've never grown before?
Or have they?
Knee-deep in a scratchy field of shrubs and weeds I wonder: how could I have ever missed these lavender beauties? Cardère, or "wild teasel", scatters itself not far from the roadside, its "arms" stretched high, its body, lithe. I watch the prickly plant dance in the gentle breeze, nature's botanical ballet free to anyone with eyes to see.
Driving toward Nyons, I glance out the car window. "Acanthus mollis"* waves excitedly. "You-hoo! Here we are... been here all along, just beyond the tip of your nose!" Not one to be snubbed, the plants forgivingly salute me. Surely those flowers were there one year ago? Why didn't I see them (by the dozen!) then?
It is one thing to ignore a plant, quite another to trample over it, dismissively. "They're called "Centaurée du Solstice" Mr. Farjon says, handing me a bunch of Yellow Starthistle* that he's just gathered from the vine field. He points to the flower's sharp "needles," shares a story from his childhood, and adds, as he often does, that while the plant may be "bon à rien" ("good for nothing"... or, in this case, not useful for medical purposes), yet... "ça mérite votre attention". All plants seem to merit our attention, according to Monsieur Farjon.
Last week, on my way to the town of Orange, I skidded to a stop beside a narrow canal. Tall as a topiary top model, "Salicaire"* towered there... as she (he?) must have, last summer....
Resembling a horticultural hitchhiker, planted there beside the road, she all but thumbed a purplish petal. I thought about picking her up. Instead, I remembered an unwritten adage: if ever she be a sole or rare exemplaire,* leave her there! Still in a daze, I pulled onto the road, leaving the other drivers to admire her, gaze after gaze.
As the countryside files by me, I wonder how much I am missing. How many more prize-worthy plants are invisible to this untrained eye? Might there be a flower-elephant traipsing across the road before me -- only I am as yet unable to see it?
Finally, a favorite quote of Farjon's returns to comfort me: "Je ne cherche pas. Je trouve." I do not need to seek these plants and flowers, the colors and the scents of which make me heady. They'll come and find me when I am good and ready.
an herbal Don Juan = (read about Monsieur Farjon) ; acanthus mollis = "Bear's Breeches" (plant); Yellow Starthistle (Centaurée du Solstice) = a flower that announces summer (solstice); Salicaire =
Purple-loosestrife ; un exemplaire (m) = example, specimen
Monnaie-du-Pape (seeds for which I just planted this morning!)
A lovely garden detail: Fleur de Lis Hose Guard
A Francophile fryer favorite (toile apron)
Oh-so-French coffee mug
France [MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION]
Eiffel Tower Tie
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
I always try to list French name, English name and scientific name whenever I talk about plants on our blog. Soon we will have a new blog called Loire Valley Nature, where I will create tri-lingual checklists for the area around us and do more technical posts about how to distinguish close species. You can see my post from last year about orchids here: http://daysontheclaise.blogspot.com/search/label/orchids
I'm glad you are developing an interest in botany. The joy you express in discovering these lovely plants is what I feel still after looking at them all my life. You are finding that once you are clued in, you see more and more. Well done!
Posted by: Susan Walter | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 03:53 PM
Star thistle, although hated passionately by "horse people" provides wonderful honey, which has supported my in-laws for three generations
Posted by: Ginny Reed | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 04:21 PM
J'aime toujours la lavande
Posted by: Vita-Iris | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 04:32 PM
Hostas, lavender, rosemary and of course, roses.
Posted by: martina | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 04:33 PM
Forgive me, this is not about plants, but rather the phenomenon Kristen describes of learning about a new word (or plant) and then seeing it everywhere you look! My mother and I were in France a couple of weeks ago and had been reading "French Word a Day" for months in preparation. One day in Paris, we checked her email and learned the word for the day was "epargner". After that, we noticed it everywhere we looked. Of course, it helps that it means "to save" and can be found on signs at just about every bank. However, that didn't stop us from saying "epargner!" every time we saw it. So now I've experienced that phenomena in two languages. My, how my horizons have broadened. : )
Posted by: Jen | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 05:03 PM
My mother was a French major in college and met with French speaking friends for years. Their discusson leader was Henriette Decours, a reserved French woman. My mother grew money plant and took some to her in one September. Henriette excitedly called her husband to see the plant! It must have connotations in France beyond it's uniqueness. But beware: our cat shredded one bouquet over night!
Posted by: sally v | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 06:35 PM
My favorite, hands down, is anemone, which are rarely available in the US, but always in Paris beginning around in January as I recall.
Posted by: Zoe Willet | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 07:32 PM
My alltime favourite wild flower is TWINFLOWER.
I was unable to translate it into French.
In B.C (Canada) the salicaire (purple loosestrife) is a Very Bad Plant, because it chokes out everything else in bogs especially.
I have grown yellow loosestrife, which apparently is not related, in my garden. A very stisfacory perennial. I love flowers, and am constantly naming a new favourite. Blue-mauve is my prefered colour.
Posted by: dorothy dufour | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 07:54 PM
I love the wonderful blue of chicory (or chickory, as some prefer). I don't know the French name, but the scientific name is cichorium intybus. It grows in really bad soil along roadsides.
Posted by: Kathy Collins | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 08:26 PM
I have a note from Mr Farjon about "chicorée sauvage" being the French equivalent of chicory ... I love the color of chicory blue, too. And the beverage isn't bad either -- better on the nerves than coffee.
Dorothy - re: the "Very Bad Plant" (Salicaire) -- it looks like the first three letters of its name hint at its negative side!
... off to look up "twinflower," "hostas," "anemone"....
Posted by: Kristin | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 09:34 PM
I love the blue door print...could you poat it again so I can share it with my friends??
Posted by: Marsha | Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 01:15 AM
Lavender especially Lavendula angustifolia, of course is at the top of my list,as much for how it looks and feels as all the beautiful things it can be used for. But herbs, like thyme, rosemary, sage, Melissa (Melissa officinalis) also known as lemon balm, bee balm, is just beautiful to have outside the back door. I also can't forget one of my favourite Australian natives, the Waratah. There is no scent, but it looks fantastic when in full flower. I'm loving your journey of discovery, it makes me sooo ready for Spring downunder
All the best Christine D.
Posted by: Christine Dashper | Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 03:48 AM
My Daughter and I plant Tournesol (sunflowers) and Citrouille (pumpkins)each summer and enjoy them each fall. We share the pumkins with our friends and neighbors.
Posted by: Casey Vogel | Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 04:39 AM
Here's a link to the blue door -- hope this is the right picture:
Posted by: Kristin | Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 08:17 AM
Et moi, je sais que je suis à la campagne,en France, dès que j'apercois les coquelicots !!! (wild red poppies)
Posted by: nadine | Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 09:05 AM
I live in CA and we have orange trees right outside our back door. When they are in bloom, the smell in incredible. One of my favorite scents in the whole world!
Posted by: Christy Chess | Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 06:48 PM
One of my favorite flowers is Morning Glory. We have Hummingbirds around them all the time. I love to watch them do their aerobatics. Also love daffodils, they are my birthday month flower.
Posted by: Jane Powers | Sunday, July 20, 2008 at 06:51 PM
For my wedding flowers, I did the Provencal colors of yellow and blue...tournesol and delphiniums. I have wonderful blue hydrangeas contrasting with back eyed Susan's (yellow with black centers)in my garden as well as yellow Shasta daisies. I try to stick with the yellow and blue theme (I sometimes use violet as a blue substitue), but I throw in a little pink and red. I also love my Stella D'Or lilies, but so do the deer. I guess that they figure that I am so kind to provide them with their salad course!
Posted by: Kathleen | Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 06:52 PM
My spring favorite is daffodils - they make me smile just to look at them! And for summer - deep purple-blue hydrangeas. I see more of them in Italy and France than I do here at home - but I'm always pointing them out to my husband as we walk. Here's a recent sighting - on Lake Maggiore: http://musicandmarkets.blogspot.com/2008/07/lake-maggiore.html
Posted by: Anne Woodyard | Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 09:30 PM
And in English we have the word carding, the mechanical process whereby raw wool is combed to make it ready for other sorts of processing, depending upon its end use: dried teasels once being used for the task
Posted by: Michael | Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 02:41 PM
Kristin, my name is Clarisa Henderson. I live in Va. and I sometimes read your site. I love it. This is off subject, but I suffer with a very serious heat intolerance, having to keep my house at 60 degrees year round and I have had to give up my job at the Post office after 25 years, but they will not let me retire nor approve my disability. I covet your prays, and wonder if, perhaps, there are any French persons you know with this malady (anhydrosis). This is very debilitating and isolating because of the heat , (9 months out of the year, here. I get a peace from reading your site and need all the prayer I can get. It would just help to know someone else with thid malady.I get the impression that you are a very sweet Christian person. If you can highlight this problem for me to see if any of your readers are aware of this malady, I sure would appreciate it . God Bless! I just felt moved to share with you today, after 2 years of reading your site.
Posted by: Clarisa Henderson | Monday, August 01, 2011 at 06:26 PM