Lavender, olive, pine, oak, cypress and of course our sweetly scented garrigue. Famed worldwide, Provence’s varied vegetation overflows with sometimes-fragile treasures to be admired with utmost respect.
As far as the eye can see
A symbol of Provence, lavender adorns the landscapes of Provence from mid-June to late August. Its properties have been known for centuries: Romans used it to perfume their bath water and in medieval times it was incorporated in medicinal and cosmetic preparations. It grows wild in the chalky hills of Provence, thriving at altitudes of between 500 and 1,700 metres. Lavender was first farmed in the 19th century. If you want to admire a spectacular show as far as the eye can see, head to the Haute-Provence area, the vast plateaux of Valensole and Contadour, and vicinity of Digne. You will also find lavender fields in Vaucluse, on the Plateau d’Albion and in the Luberon.
An ancient growing tradition
The star of Provence’s flora, olive trees swathe the hillsides and plains of the South of France. Thriving in hot, dry climates, this tree with its nubby trunk and deep green foliage tinted with silver bears deep violet fruit in November and December. Crushed then pressed, the olives deliver up a flavourful and fragrant oil – an essential ingredient in Provencal cuisine. Olive trees were domesticated as far back as the Bronze Age. But it was the Ancient Greeks, the founders of Marseille, who first planted them in Provence. A major industry until the 19th century, olive growing was then gradually overtaken by wine growing.
From pines on the coast…
…To oaks and plane trees in the countryside
Umbrella pines, Aleppo pines and verdant cypresses are found all along the azure shores of Provence, lining the creeks and rocky coves stretching from the Côte Bleue to Saint-Tropez. To the North of Provence, you’ll find white oak, evergreen oak, beech, almond and various varieties of pine, while Provence’s little villages are adorned with majestic plane and hackberry trees, offering the local squares welcome shade on hot summer days.
The Garrigue: A Fragile Flora
Most people associate Provence’s dry garrigue with the heady scents of wild lavender, thyme and rosemary. In fact, it is a remnant of Mediterranean forest, compromised by crops, intensive farming and forest fires. The garrigue is made up of a hotchpotch of evergreen oaks, bushes, thistle and broom. Wild lavender, thyme and rosemary thrive in every nook and cranny, diffusing the delicious perfumes that have earned the garrigue its reputation. In summer, this arid vegetation is particularly vulnerable to hill fires.
ROAD TRIP IN THE LUBERON
Enjoy a captivating 1-day motorbike tour in Provence filled with colours and fragrances, from the fiery ochre reds of the Luberon to blooming lavender fields and the refined and unforgettable flavours of truffle and honey...