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A Colorful Tradition Of The French Riviera

Before living in France, I had only heard of “mimosa” in reference to the cocktail made from one part champagne and one part orange juice – a delicious and refreshing aperitif. Little did I realize, at that time, that the drink’s name was based on the vibrant, yellow color of a flowering tree.

The French Riviera, called La Côte d’Azur in French, is well-known for its “mimosa”  but not the beverage. Here, it’s a golden flower which blooms between November and March and symbolizes the “Bataille des Fleurs,” where bunches of mimosa are traditionally thrown to the crowds every year during the Nice Carnaval.

This flower was indigenous to Australia, and reportedly, was introduced to Europe by Captain Cook on one of his voyages at the end of the 18th century.In 1850, it was the wealthy, English, winter residents who first planted mimosa in their lavish gardens. Due to the local, favorable climate, this tree now grows abundantly in Cannes, Sainte Maxime, St. Raphaël, Grasse, Mandelieu, and Bormes-les Mimosas, among others.

Representing a production of around 550 tons per year, with 11 million stems produced in the Alpes-Maritimes region and an exportation rate of 90% to Italy, Canada, Japan, Scandinavia, and the U.S., the mimosa business only involves around 70 mimosistes – a disappearing trade. Known for its abundance and sweet odor, mimosa is used in the making of soaps, cosmetics, perfume, and culinary specialties.

Mimosa’s Main Characteristics:

In the language of flowers, mimosa evokes security, secret love, enhanced sensitivity, and is also the flower of reunions.

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• 1200 species worldwide
• Soil type: fairly poor and particularly well-drained or even dry soil, and stony soils because mimosa cannot grow in stagnant water
• Soil quality: acid
• Soil moisture: normal
• Use: cut, tubs, cut flowers
• Height: tree 6 meters high (30 m in the land of origin)
• Type of plant: tree with flowers
• Type of vegetation: hardy
• Type of foliage: persistent
• Hardiness: up to-10°C in a sheltered place
• Planting potting: Spring
• Watering: particularly in the first year, one watering a week will suffice
• Pruning: recommended, every year, especially in windy regions. After flowering, cut branches, which have flowered to prevent pods forming unnecessarily.

The “Route des Mimosas” (Mimosa Trail) runs along the coastline ending at the village of Bormes-les-Mimosas – a distance of 130 km. comprising a circuit of eight towns:
• Grasse – the perfume capital of the world
• Pegomas – known for “La Mimosette,” a brioche filled with mimosa-flavored cream, a specialty made at “Le Fournil du Logis” and only during the mimosa period.
• Tanneron – home to the largest mimosa forest in France, with around 200 hectares (440 acres).
• Mandelieu – La Napoule – home to the annual mimosa festival. held in February in, with about 12 tons of the flower, used to throw to the audience and to decorate floats to produce floral works of art.
• Saint-Raphaël – known as the Garden of Eden on the sea
• Sainte Maxime – February weekend Mimosa Festival
• Rayol Canadel sur Mer – Seaside resort
• Bormes-les-Mimosas – Mimosa capital in the Var region

Each town has its unique charm, of course; but, for a beautiful and colorful local tradition, these towns are woven together by the golden blooms of the mimosa!

Kim is a lifelong Francophile, and former French teacher. Having moved from the U.S. to the French Riviera, she enjoys writing about France and French culture on her blog, 24/7 in France. From the simple beauty of a Mediterranean sunset to her passion for all things French, Kim shows us that dreams can come true!

Kim Defforge is the author of "Solitary Desire: One Woman's Journey to France" and "Sun, Sea & Savoir-Faire: Travel Focus on the French Riviera".

Read Kim's other Expat Focus articles here.

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