In winter, the French Riviera turns yellow, the yellow of Menton lemons, and of the mimosa that dots the whole coast, from Cannes to Hyères.
By Jerôme Dumur - Photos DR Morkovochka / Fotolia - January 22, 2012
We never say it enough: everything goes too fast in this world. Even nature, which is saying something! Take the mimosa, for example… Usually, we turn up at Grandma's with a big golden bouquet at Candlemass. Except this year we'll need to find something else to earn our serving of pancakes. Because, you see, granny's apartment already gave off the sweet and dusty perfume of the little yellow flowers at Epiphany. Should we complain? No! For a start, because this precocious blossoming is evidence of a remarkable winter for the south of France.
And secondly, this tree gratifies us with an explosion of color and perfume at a time when, it must be said, nature is rather miserly with these sorts of sensations. You should understand now if you didn't already: Provence is the chosen land for what scientists name the acacia (whereas, for these same, the acacia tree becomes the “robinia”!) More precisely, it’s on the coast, between Hyères and Cannes, between the Maures cliff road and the Tanneron Mountains that the mimosa family first took root. It arrived from Australia in the middle of the 19th century.
The first specimens (Acacia dealbata, one of the 1,200 species of the genus recognized in the world) appeared in Cannes, on the initiative of a few English aristocrats keen to brighten up their winter homes. The local horticulturists, sensing a good deal, took over, assisting for decades with its acclimatization and development. Since then, this tree, particularly invasive, has escaped from Cannes parks and gardens to largely colonize the surroundings before attacking adjacent regions, Nice and the Italian Riviera on one side, up to the first hills of the Pyrenees on the other!
With Cannes having given up on horticulture for looking after the beautiful and sometimes carnivorous plants of the jet set, a few neighboring towns perpetuated the exploitation of mimosa. In this way Mandelieu-La Napoule, Pégomas and Tanneron still host a handful of nurseries. These are workshops dedicated to preparing bouquets of mimosa. As soon as they're cut the branches are stored in a humidified room heated at between 22° and 25°C, conditions which favor the development of the flowers and increases their shelf life up to nine days. It’s a procedure that owes everything to chance: indeed a laundress discovered it almost a century ago; after forgetting a few branches in her premises, she discovered the beneficial effects of the heat and the humidity on the mimosa flowers. The profession of "mimosiste" was born, and it continues to feed a few families from the south.
1 place Gambetta
83230 Bormes les mimosas
Eight towns of the Var and Alpes-Maritimes departments have regrouped to create the "Route des Mimosas" or the "Mimosa Trail,"a circuit that leaves from Mandelieu-La Napoule, the setting for the famous "Fête du Mimosa" festival (a genuine floral carnival which, in 2012, takes place from February 17-26). It passes through the nurseries and perfumeries in the Grasse region, and then follows the coast, passing by Saint-Raphaël, Sainte-Maxime or the sublime garden, the Domaine du Rayol, in Rayol-Canadel/Mer. It ends with a bang, in a village close to Hyères, labeled “one of the most beautiful villages of France,” Bormes-les-Mimosas. A name, oh so deeply evocative! To discover this route in detail : www.bormeslesmimosas.com.
© Caroline Devulder Fotolia
© Laurent Vachier Fotolia
© Sergiogen Fotolia