Rather than spending the past several weeks weeding, deadheading, and watering, I've been exerting my efforts on the pleasures of drinking Gewürztraminer, devouring Munster cheese, and admiring flower-filled window boxes. Yes, that means a trip to Alsace, the sliver of eastern France that hugs the west bank of the Rhine.
Although we did enjoy plenty of the traditional Alsatian fare of red geraniums, there were also geranium mixes of rosés, whites, and pinot noirs--all the colors that you might expect to find in wine country. I have never been a fan of geraniums, ranking them somewhere around pedestrian carnations and impatiens, but after seeing how Alsatians embraced this plodder of the plant world and amped it up to over-achievement by care and variety selection, I'm willing to reconsider.
Alsace is also the area from which, as a teen-age orphan, my great-grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1868. I've written in the past about his farming background, so I was interested in seeing his homeland. The fields around his village, Aschbach, were indeed glorious: wide rolling banks of corn and hay sweeping up to the horizon. The farm tracks across corn fields and by orchards guided my eight-mile morning run through his neighborhood.
The road entering Aschbach was bordered by long, well-tended beds of white liatris and hydrangea, yellow potentilla and rudbeckia, and blue salvia. Although only common plants were featured, with their perfect repetition of color and shape, these beds welcomed visitors with the very Alsatian message of orderliness, hard work, and solidity.
Yes, this is a place where people take their plants seriously. Even this old farm cart, laden with--of course--red geraniums, had been drafted into the effort. Vehicles like these were in use well into the 20th century. The cornfields planted right up to the road verge and to the house yards left little unused space. I think that I may have discovered my predisposition to all things horticultural.