Say it with Flowers: France’s Villages Fleuris


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.

Marcolès in Cantal: not officially a village fleuri, but certainly a flower-bedecked village
More of Marcolès

Coveted award

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.

Local accolades?

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.

Aveyron in Villefranche: the creation of a riverside walkway was particularly praised by the CNVVF jury
The market square in Villefranche: also praised. Not strictly a green space, but now reserved for pedestrians and festivities. Opinions vary about the fountains.

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.

Secret garden behind the cathedral in Cahors, with plants and herbs that would have been cultivated in the Middle Ages
Another of Cahors’ secret gardens

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.

You might also like:

France’s Most Beautiful Villages – Plus Beaux Villages          

Black Wine and Secret Gardens in Cahors

Glorious French Gardens

Geraniums

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About nessafrance

We moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I'm fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs. I also write historical novels and short stories.
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8 Responses to Say it with Flowers: France’s Villages Fleuris

  1. Ever so often I come across a particularly “reussi” municipal planting. In Cruzy, a little village near Saint-Chinian, the town did a wonderful job planting beds along a stretch of road, with perovskia, gaura and tulbaghia amongst other perennials – it looks absolutely fantastic from late spring onwards, and flowers for a very long time with minimal upkeep. We’re lucky in the south with our climate… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I had to look up gaura and tulbaghia! Having done so, I can see how the planting in Cruzy must be lovely. The trick is to plant things that flower for a long time, or in succession, which is obviously what they have done. We are in the foothills of the Massif Central here, at 320 metres, so tender perennials and shrubs risk being frozen in winter. Having said that, the winters have become much milder in the past 5 years or so.

      Like

  2. Oh my I would love our village to become a village fleuri. A small group of us have started to plant up containers in strategic places but the apathy is defeaning. We have some lovely green spaces that could benefit but the mairie won’t countenance anything that disrupts the cutting of the grass. Still we persevere and a little guerilla gardening on the canal banks is beginning to take form. But it’s going to be a long haul. Interesting too that our small group of ‘regulars’ is a half and half mix of English and French who have moved into the village. No long-term residents at all. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      It often starts with volunteer initiative, I think. I suppose communes are strapped for cash, but it doesn’t cost a huge amount to brighten up a place. Like you, I’ve found that the newcomers tend to be the ones who take the initiative – not exclusively, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this, Vanessa. I had been meaning to look up about the villes fleuries–and now I don’t need to.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your posts. I always find something new. Today the secret gardens of cahors. We are down there on Tuesday afternoon for our cartes de sejours rendezvous and may need a tranquil wander afterwards! I note Biars sur Cere, our next town, is on the website. They work really hard to keep the place looking floral all year. Sceptics say it is because Andros pays a lot of taxes into the commune (the town used to call itself the European home of jam!) but a good use of taxes say I.
    Bon dimanche, another glorious day up here

    Liked by 1 person

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