Magical Mimosa

Sometimes I don’t think I bang the drum enough about the fabulous area where I live. This week it’s half-term (for two weeks) and it’s time for the Carnival in Nice, the Citrus Festival in Menton and Mimosa celebrations the length of the coast. Mimosa (or wattle as I understand it’s called in Australia) is the vibrant sunshine yellow symbol of winter in the south of France and a sure sign that spring is just around the corner.

The bright yellow flower of this scented plant grows prolifically in southern France, particularly in the Var region, where the Cote d’Azur and Provence meet. Between January and March, from Bormes-les-Mimosas to Grasse, eight villages offer a journey through the land of these gorgeous, scented, little, yellow flowers: artisan chocolate-makers and bakers, ‘corsos’ and other traditional festivals, greenhouses, garden centres, perfumers. This route provides 130km of magnificent countryside where the blue sea and sky mixes with the brilliant green and yellow of the Mimosa-covered hills.

With its roots in the Carnival, the Corso Fleuri are now a key part of Var festival traditions. On the Saturday, the floats are decorated with thousands of flowers, and on the Sunday, they are paraded through the streets of the village.

Part of the acacia family, Mimosa was originally found in tropical areas, and was imported to the French Riviera by the English during 19th century to decorate their gardens. The newly introduced plant loved the climate and the soil, and Mimosa growers proliferated. It’s now used exstensively in the perfume industry and, of course, in bouquets for its exquisite beauty and gorgeous vibrant colour. So where are the best spots to see Mimosa?

Bormes-les-Mimosa

One of the prettiest floral villages in France. This ancient town is home to 90 different species of mimosa and celebrates with an annual festival at the end of January. ‘Mimosalia’ is the first botanical event of the year. An event for plant-lovers, it brings together the biggest garden centre owners and collectors in France. There are over 80 exhibitors of rare and unusual varieties, decoration and garden furniture, as well as plant-related activities, such as workshops for all ages, visits to the Town gardens and exhibitions.

Mandelieu La Napoule

The principal area of Mimosa production on the Riviera is also famous for its annual Mimosa festival (19-26 Feb). Plus, local restauranteurs the Raimbault brothers created La Tarte Mimosée.

Grasse

Huge bunches of cut mimosa flowers in a shop near Grasse, Provence

Internationally famous for its place in the world’s perfume industry, the town boasts gorgeous architecture including a magnificent cathedral. The Perfume Museum shows the part Mimosa has played in the success of Grasse’s perfume industry.

Rayol Canadel

Take the staircase from the centre of the village down to the sea and enjoy the spectacular views over the mimosa forests.

Sainte-Maxime

Beautiful botanical gardens, an elegant seaside resort and a laid back vibe make this town well worth a visit.  Local chocolatier Jean-Louis Vaissaud (pictured above) has created mimosa-flavoured chocolates to honour the famous flower.

Saint-Raphael

The reddish coloured volcanic rock contrasts stunningly with the yellow Mimosa. Another famous local chocolate maker, Didier Carrie, has created a unique recipe called Le Mimosa d’Agay, a white truffle chocolate, flavoured with plant liquors and lemons, covered with mimosa powder.

Tanneron Massif

This crystalline rock mountain forms a link between the Var and the Alpes-Maritimes, and is almost entirely covered in Mimosa and eucalyptus forest. This is the largest area of Mimosa, with both cultivated and wild areas covering 200 hectares! A real riot of emerald green, azure blue and gold.

Mimosa flowers for sale, measured in weight on an old fashioned weighing machine, Provence

Keen gardeners will love this place which has the largest concentration of mimosa in the whole of France, forests of mimosa glow in winter. I confess I love riding around here solely because of the Mimosa.

Pégomas

Mimosa, olive trees and vines all grow here in abundance. But there’s also another edible, local speciality, La Mimosette, a cream-filled brioche from Pégomas, decorated with mimosa seeds which is only made during the Mimosa festival.