Flowers bloom brightly in the villages of France..
Bertrand arrives at his workshed at 8 am, and plans his day according to the season, and the needs of his flowers and shrubs. In spring he orders flowers from the catalogue, then pulls out the barrel pots to fill them with compost in preparation for his floral displays. Through the growing season there is grass to mow, hedges and trees to prune, and flowers to water. In autumn all has to be stored away, leaves need collecting, and in December, christmas lights to put up. Apart from the gardening chores, his duties extend to general maintenance of the village gîtes, as well as municiple buildings. His responsibility to create a beautiful village is demanding, but his reward is, a flower from the ‘Concours des Villes et Villages Fleuris’.
12,000 cities and villages across France, participate in the ‘Concours des Villes et Villages Fleuris’ ( flowerdecked cities and villages contest). This contest awards participating communes with one flower to four, depending on criteria realised, such as; attractiveness of floral decoration, tree health, landscaping, wild plant flowering, water ecosystems, and more. The highest award is the golden flower, given as special commendation.
The historic roots of this contest take us back to the early years of the twentieth century, and the beginning of tourism. In the interest of attracting customers, hotels and railway stations competed in horticulture, and this idea grew when The French Touring Club created the first competition for villages in the 1920’s called ‘Concours des villages coquets’ (cosy villages contest). After World War 2 the club went further to create the ‘Routes Fleuris’ (flowerdecked roads). Its success led to the present ‘Concours des Villes et Villages Fleuris, (flowerdecked cities and villages contest) set up in 1959, administered by the Conseil National, with links to the Ministry of Tourism.
This contest initiated a European competition called, ‘Entente Floral Europe’ (europe floral harmony), which began in 1975 between France and Britain, and now includes all members of the E.U.