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  • Sue

Wear your bleuet with pride

Plant of the month for November 2021 is the bleuet - or cornflower. It is not in bloom now, but is the flower the French associate with Remembrance Day; the equivalent of the poppy in the UK.

The French chose the cornflower for several reasons including the colour blue, which is perhaps the colour most traditionally associated with France and for the fact that it is seen as pure and delicate. You will not see it worn to the extent that poppies are worn in the UK, but you can still buy lapel pins, as you do with poppies and the proceeds go to war veterans charities.

The stylised image of a bleuet on the left is a lapel pin which can be bought from the charity site

Cornflowers are great additions to the garden - they are easy to grow, excellent pollinators, indigenous to Europe and fit well with current trends for wildflower meadow style planting. They are members of the asteraceae family (so are related to daisies, asters and sunflowers) and come in either annual or perennial forms.

The annual form, which is most closely associated with Remembrance Day is Centaurea cyanus. Sow the seeds in March to May for flowers later in the same year or in August/September for flowers a little earlier the following year. They like a well prepared soil which is rich, fertile and does not dry out. They must be in a sunny position.

There is also a perennial form which is called Centaurea montana. This is tougher and looks coarser than the annual. It will tolerate some light shade and is more forgiving of the soil. We have grown this successfully in SW France. I find it needs staking and can look untidy if you don't manage it closely so is best in informal areas of the garden.

In France Remembrance Day is celebrated on the 11th of November. The day is taken as a public holiday and at 11am that day it is not uncommon for villages and towns to hold a brief ceremony at their war memorial. During the ceremony an address from the President or other minister is read out to the assembled congregation, the sacrifice of individuals who came from the town and died for France is recognised, often by naming each individual person, and a wreath ( "gerbe" in French) is laid at the foot of the memorial.

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