Posts Tagged 'southern france'

The Man Who Planted Trees

Illustration by Frédéric Back, 1987

The tale of Elzeard Bouffier, a solitary shephard who devotes himself to reforesting a desolate portion of Provence, in southern France, was originally written by Jean Giono, who was asked in 1953 by an American Publisher to write about an unforgettable character.

Apparently they meant him to write about a real character. When the editors objected that there was no record of a Elzeard Bouffier ever having died in Banon, France, Monsieur Giono informed them that, even though fictional, he was none-the-less unforgettable. Unable to publish the work now written, Jean Giono donated the story freely “to all humanity”, seeking no compensation then or in the future. It was soon after published by Vogue in 1954 and has been retold repeatedly and in many different languages. Never having received financial compensation for this tale was felt by the author to be completely fitting to the values expressed in the story.

I have a copy of this story published in 1985 by Chelsea Green, with beautiful wood engravings by artist Michael McCurdy and an afterword by Norma L. Goodrich (Professor Emeritus of French and Comparative Literature at the Claremont Colleges).  I have never forgotten this story and recently picked it up and reread it yet again, prompting me to post this information.

In modern times, some publishers have sought to take over the copyright of this popular story, generating outrage from many literary and environmentalist camps. There has even been a movement to remove the text of the story from various internet resources and prevent the online publication of works such as what I am sharing with you now.

Here the storywas adapted into an animated short by illustrator/animator Frédéric Back in 1987, narrated by Christopher Plummer, and produced by Radio-Canada (posted to YouTube in four parts) .




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Phlomis species in the garden

The trial garden at Pépinière Filippi (www.jardin-sec.com), Meze, France
In the above shot of the trial garden at Pépinière Filippi, Meza, France, many different Phlomis species still wearing their spent flower stems, contrasting nicely with the various shades foliage color. Phlomis was once planted extensively in California by gardeners wishing to decrease the water footprint of their gardens. On late I note that these plants seem to be seldom used, and indeed many type we once saw in California are becoming difficult to find.

I wonder what has caused the trend away from these interesting and useful plants? Like many plants in our horticultural trade, after an initial enthusiasm for a plant they are often considered passé. Possible this group merely fell off the radar and have not yet been taken up again by growers?

Relatively speaking, these are shorter-lived plants, needing to be renewed after a time in order to keep them looking their best. This is possibly exacerbated by the fact that California soils are far richer than those in the Mediterranean homelands of most of this genus, causing these perennial shrubs to grow faster, looser, and more untidy than they would otherwise. At the inevitable time of replacement, if these plants were not available in nurseries, perhaps they’ve been replaced now by others that were.

The plantings above are on lean, stony soil, and received supplemental water only upon planting (i.e. they get only rain falls on them or what moisture they can find deep in the soil) – note their compact form. While it is true that many parts of the Mediterranean do receive occasional summer rainfall, it is clearly not in the amounts that Californians dump on their gardens year-round!

With a renewed interest in creating gardens that are not heavily irrigated, I think Phlomis species should be considered. Their foliage alone can satisfy our current trends in composing foliar contrast, and their seasonal flowering (and spent flower stems as pictured) are also an interesting and unique counterpoint to many of the plants we currently grow in our gardens.

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A blog by Seán A. O'Hara

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