The garden is burgeoning and it’s that time of year when one’s thoughts turn to planning and planting. While driving around France, you might have noticed village signs declaring “Village – or ville – fleuri(e)” and sporting one to four flower symbols. I had never really thought much about this until Le Figaro published an article celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Villages Fleuris organisation. Rather like the plus beau village label, these accolades are not given out lightly.
The Conseil national des villes et villages fleuris (CNVVF) was established in 1959. France was still in a period of reconstruction after the ravages of World War II, especially in the north and east, and the planting of flowers was an important element of community renewal. Today, nearly 5,000 communes hold the village fleuri label, of which 257 have been awarded the maximum four flowers.
This annual competition is about much more than simply displaying colourful pots of flowers. It aims to encourage communes to improve their inhabitants’ quality of life and to promote tourism. Enhancing the natural environment and supporting sustainability are selection criteria.
Any commune can apply for the label and there’s no limit on the number of communes that can hold it, neither is there an entry fee. Départements send the applications to the regional council, which then awards up to three flowers.
To obtain a fourth flower requires inspection and approval by the national council. Teams of experts visit the communes to determine if they are worthy of the fourth flower. The national council also assigns other national awards.
You can consult CNVVF’s website to find out which communes have the label. There’s also a map showing their distribution. The highest concentration of villages fleuris appears to be in Brittany and Alsace.
I was a bit disappointed to see that they are rather sparse in our region. The only ones I could find in the immediate area are Villefranche-de-Rouergue (three flowers) and Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (one flower). Slightly further afield, Milhars in Tarn has two flowers.
I was even more surprised to see that Cahors in Lot isn’t on the list. The city has done a lot to rejuvenate its green spaces, in particular by establishing a series of “secret” medieval gardens linked by a marked trail. Some have been planted on reclaimed waste ground. But, of course, the scheme is entirely voluntary and other priorities no doubt jostle for attention.
Presumably, the accolades can be lost as well as won. Several communes around here seem to be in the latter category. I wondered if this sometimes comes down to cost. While the scheme has no entry fee, maintaining the standards required doubtless involves the investment of effort and money.
I’m not a great fan of municipal planting – begonias and pansies in serried ranks – but a scheme that promotes the natural as well as the built environment gets my vote.
Do you know of a town or village that you feel does this particularly well (it doesn’t have to be in the villages fleuris scheme)? Do share it with us in the comments below.
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