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Smiling Geraniums Overlooking La Rue

Overnight, the clocks moved forward one hour, the weather turned balmy and Spring has definitely SPRUNG. Thank goodness. If I would have woken up to one more day of cold, rainy weather, I might have thrown in the “serviette” and headed back to Los Angeles.

Instead, I dragged the rolling cart (“chariot” or “Caddie®”) out of its hiding place and headed to the quai de la Megisserie along the Seine between Place du Châtelet and Pont Neuf to do the annual and ritualistic purchasing of new geraniums to pot in the window planters.

When I lived in Los Angeles and had a garden behind the house, I took great pleasure in spending Sunday mornings tending it, planting and reaping the rewards of fresh herbs, trimming and pruning the lush greenery that perfect Southern California weather affords you all year ’round. Life in a Paris apartment is quite the opposite, especially if there isn’t a balcony where you can more fully satisfy your agricultural yearnings.

At least I have four windows from which planters hang where I can nurture my favorite urban flower — the geranium. Being a purist, I refuse to pot any color but red — the redder and bigger the better. So, when I set out on the quai, the goal was to walk the length of it seeking out the best the sellers have to offer, and of course, at the best price.

It didn’t take long to make one trip up and back before settling on two cartons of ten potted plants for 20 euros each at one of the bigger shops, loaded a huge bag of soil into the cart and headed home for the big project I was about to undertake.

I’ve tested different methods of planting and have learned the hard way NOT to do the planting IN the apartment, but to make use of the beautiful courtyard with its ancient faucet and trough as a more reasonable spot to unearth and re-earth the flowers. The down side is that means carrying all the half-dead and pathetic planters, not only DOWN the 70 steps, but back UP the steps, too, and once they’ve been watered, they’re heavy, not to mention messy.

I imagine all the neighbors are watching me closely from their windows as I unearth the old, scale back the root ball with my fingers (in rubber gloves, of course), trim the old leaves and then alter the old with the new in the planters, filling them with fresh earth, watering them well and setting each aside to drain and dry. That’s the routine.

It took about one hour to have the planters ready to hoist up the stairwell two at a time, but the mess I had made in the courtyard would surely have gotten me reported to the “Syndic” (manager of the homeowner’s association) if I didn’t clean it up to perfection! Brooms, buckets and elbow grease got the mountain of old soil and debris into the trash, its final remains washed down the drain to leave this 17th-century courtyard just the way I had found it — lovely and calm.

The planters found their way back to their rightful homes outside the windows, I dropped a kilo or two thanks to the exercise and once again, red geraniums are smiling at me, seemingly quite happy and content overlooking rue de Saintonge.

For those of you who get as much of a thrill as I do over something as simple, yet natural as colorful flowers, don’t miss the Forum en Fleurs going on now through April 5th at the Forum des Halles. Click here for more information (in French). For serious gardeners, the city of Paris encourages everyone to plant their windows and balconies to beautify the city and has held a contest for the last three years to discover the most original floral creations, those most harmonious in color, and the compositions with the greatest volume! You have now till July 15th to submit your entry. Click here for more information (in French). And for more information about parks and gardens in Paris, click here.

A la prochaine…







Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. STRIKE! Tomorrow beginning at 12 noon, demonstrations will begin at place d’Italie protesting against the CPE employment contract, marching to place de la Bastille, and then along the boulevards to place de la République. A major transportation strike follows suit. Most of the TGV and regional trains will be affected along with the Métro, RER and bus lines. Put on your walking shoes, your skates or take a ride on your wheels, but don’t plan on using public transport.


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