2 Nov 2017

All Saints' Day Survivor

In the Christian calendar, November 1st is a celebration of the dead, All Saints' Day, a bank holiday in France. Traditionally families purchase chrysanthemums, heather or cyclamens (usually impressive potted displays) and take them down to cemeteries in order to fleurir les tombes, flower their (loved ones) graves. Needless to say, florists and garden centres make a tidy profit that gears them up into the festive season, by then less than 8 weeks away!

Mum's the word! (June 2017)

You guessed it, All Saints' Day has been co-opted into a consumerist feat, with a sea of floral displays that pours out of the flower shops onto the pavements and inflates in volume by the day, in the run-up to November 1st. Then plants migrate from flower shops to car boots and from car boots to the tombs, and before Christmas most will have migrated from the tombs to the cemetery bins - in heaps! Incredibly wasteful and downright ridiculous but this is the way it has been programmed into the French.

Because sadly family values in France are not as sacred as they once were and catholic religion has taken a nosedive, graves are rarely visited, although All Saints' Day remains the one and only yearly reminder still anchored in the collective psyche that encourages the modern busy Christian to pay graves a visit - and leave a proof of their visit behind, in the shape of a big fat chrysanthemum that battles it out for space with other relatives' mums! Don't you bother watering your offering because par une opération du Saint-Esprit, by the Holy Spirit intervention, pots will somewhat self-water or at least absorb little morning dew they can in order to survive the run-up to Winter if they don't get knocked off the tomb by the competition and the elements and roll down the alleyway like a poor cosplay version of Jackie Chan to end up wedged between the tool shed and a bench.

Chrysanthemum to the left, nasturtium to the right, under the watchful eye of Némo! (Sept. 2017)

Life as an All Saints' Day chrysanthemum is all about survival: it's mean out there. Tampered with genetically in order to yield all sorts of crazy colours and patterns, chemically fattened up in order to grow fat and fast like a Christmas turkey of the floral kind, produce blooms ten a zillion that will magically burst open in time for the Day of the Dead. Showtime in the graveyard but by November 2nd there is no-one left around to admire the flowers! Then the draughty unforgiving graveyards take a toll on their petals into a crumpled-up, dried-out worn-out affair. Lack of care its toll, and the trip to the bin is a short, disdainful and unceremonious whack and go.

Through this tale of doom and gloom interspersed by a brief showtime stint and casting couch moment on the florist's shelf, one of those mums I saved from the basket of deplorables. Now it takes pride of place on my south-facing terrace, pampered and watered and whispered to! I saved it from my village's overflowing cemetery bin last December as I was gingerly walking past with Tickle, casting a sideways glance in search of a discarded, unloved, unrequited empty flower pot container (or filled with a dead plant) which I could save from trash and call my own and take home to repurpose into a pot for my Winter seedlings.

Pride of place! (Nov. 2017)

The mum was totally dried out, a browned-out crispy sorry sight! I took it home, disposed of the dead twigs and stored the pot with the soil in it in the cellar for a good month, almost forgetting about it. Then one day I noticed a shoot on the surface of the soil and then another one! I took the pot out onto the terrace, took a long hard look at those incredible green shoots battling for survival. I watered them and witnessed the gradual resurrection of the mum! It has since rewarded me with several flowerings. It is currently a feast of multicoloured blooms of white, canary yellow, orange and magenta red, a rainbow of delight! Let me tell you: I am the proud mum of one proud mum!

The moral of the story: when everything looks dead and done, give it another go, it might surprise you!

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