Not sure which flowers are vivace and which aren't, but the little boy is awfully cute.

vivace (vee-vas) adjective
  1. long-lived, undying, inveterate, vivid
  2. hearty, robust

le pois vivace = everlasting pea
la plante vivace = perennial
  les souvenirs vivaces = vivid memories

:: Quote / Audio File ::

L'absence n'est-elle pas, pour qui aime, la plus certaine, la plus efficace, la plus vivace, la plus indestructible, la plus fidèle des présences ? For to one who loves, is not absence the most effective, the most tenacious, the most indestructible, the most faithful of presences?
--Marcel Proust

Listen to my daughter's marraine (godmother), Rachel, pronounce today's word and quote: Download vivace.mp3 . Download vivace.wav


Today we're going to talk about flowers and asparagus and even asparagus flowers if we so fancy and, by the way, does asparagus flower?  I wouldn't know, being a "newbie gardener". At least I've quit saying, "I don't have a green thumb", for as Mom always said: what you say is what you get! And while I don't want my thumb to turn literally green, I do want what the French figuratively call "la main verte".*

I've a hunch that Aunt Marie-Françoise has "la main verte" even though I've never seen chickpeas or chard or even a scarecrow chez elle.* To be fair, none of those exists in my own garden either, though I did plant onions, radishes, and betteraves* last week! During my first guided tour of the newly plowed grounds, Jean-Marc's aunt offered nods of encouragement.

I showed off the flower beds as well: sunflowers, morning glories, shasta daisies, and those pink-faced "farewell-to-springs," or godetia. As I pointed to the dusty, barren plots (not a sprouting plant in sight) my mind's eye saw towering tournesols,* aromatic herbs a go-go, radishes galore, and more!  I wondered, did Marie-Françoise see the same?

Look! she said, turning from the muddy garden patch. I followed her over to the grassy outskirts of the potager* only to examine an ugly, stubbled weed. "This one is no longer good," she mumbled. "Ah, here's one!" I watched Marie-Françoise pinch off the tips of the "asperge sauvage",* motioning for me to do the same.
"Not much... but enough for an omelet!" she explained, handing me the spear-shaped tips.

Making our way along the banks of the stream, our asparagus stash growing, we stopped to study the wild flowers: indigo blue muscari* (Marie Françoise tells me she used to dye her doll's clothes with the boiled flowers), mustard yellow "genêt"* (also good for dye and used in edible flower salads), and "fumeterre".* I learned that Uncle Jean-Claude collected fumitory as a kid, selling it for centimes to the pharmacist, who, in turn, made up potions that cured everything from conjunctivitis to evil spirits. And although pharmacists like fumeterre, so do the local turtle doves--which the flowers cure not of love but of hunger.

By the time we returned home from our walk, we definitely had "la main verte." And our hands were literally green with edible weeds. There were curitive flowers, too, and even dye (for our hair?) albeit blue. Why, that ought to scare the crows out of my new garden (once I get the American corn planted...) and send the snails and slugs "running" from the green-thumbed giant with blue locks trailing down her back.

la main (f) verte = the green hand (French term; the English equivalent is "green thumb"); chez elle = at her place; la betterave (f) = beet; le tournesol (m) = sunflower; le muscari (m) = grape hyacinth; la fumeterre (f) = "fumée de la terre" or "smoke of the earth" (fumitory flower); une asperge (f) sauvage = wild asparagus; le genêt (m) = broom flower
Selected mail in response to today's post:
Hello Kristin:
Your piece on your garden adventures makes me have to come clean about my unstoppable pangs of jealousy of the gardens of France when I am there each summer. (We are the couple you met in Portland who are "commissaires" at the LeMans 24 hour race each year) Not only is central France several climate zones ahead of us in Oregon, but the plots have been tended for 600 years in many cases. I so desperately want my place to look that nice that I go into a frenzy of garden augmentation each year upon my return. I feel empathy for you starting from scratch in your new home, but as the attached picture will attest it is possible to make progress. I feel good about my progress and will continue to feel good until my rental car exits the denseness of Paris and finds the verdant countryside of your adopted land. The first "Ville Fleurie" sign will make my heart both sing and ache at the same time. Here, a few petunias scratched into the curb by a Chevron station passes for municipal beautification. In France everything drips and drools with flowers and the climbing roses are up to the chimney tops. Your new home will soon look that way. Keep digging.

Frank Levin / Barbara Blizzard

(Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Q. Levin)

Michel Thomas Speak French For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program

In French music: French Playground, a musical rendez-vous of fun French and French Creole songs that will delight children of all ages.

Lego Make & Create Eiffel Tower kit lets builders re-create an impressive replica of this famous Parisian structure -- based on original blue prints!

Goldilocks in French (with accompanying CD) presents an engaging reading of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in both English and French that will entertain kids while they hear correct French pronunciation. You can read along with the narration or learn along with your kids!

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety