The flowers which grew in the open country of Nice were known and appreciated by the travelers as soon as the XVIII-th century. Smolett reported that at that time carnations were sent by post to Turin, Paris and even London. Flowers were stored in wooden boxes. At their arrival, they were recut and plunged into water with vinegar, this process being considered as restoring their freshness. In the XIX-th century the exotic plants were imported , hibiscus, lantanas, camellias, bougainvillées, mimosa, for the pleasure of the winter holiday-makers. In the middle of the XIX-th century, Alphonse Karr *settled in Nice, cultivated several gardens in the town and sold his production in a shop and moreover organized the expedition, mainly of roses and violets, by answering the orders which were sent to him by letters or by telegrams.

Decisive stages were crossed in 1864 with the arrival of the railway which shortened the delays of expedition and in 1883 with the construction of the canal of the Vésubie which brought water on the hills of Nice. At that time, the dry gravel which composed the hills mainly served as a pasture for sheep. Henceforth, the water was retained in big circular tanks, then poured by gravity on beds fitted out in the side of the hills, in Saint Antoine, Crémat, La Lanterne, Terron, Saint Pierre de Féric , Saint-Pancrace... The culture of flowers will cover up to 1 000 hectares, what will place Nice in the first world rank of the cities for flower production. From then on and for about 80 years, it was the prosperity for the west side of this natural amphitheatre that dominates the city. The growers produced carnations multiplied in big quantities by propagation of cuttings picked from October till May when the blooms were prevented by the climatic rigours. Certain developers as Laurent Revelat ( 1875-1962 ) improved the carnations and created new varieties. The horticulturists of Nice also produced roses, violets, anthémis, marigolds, wallflowers, narcissuses... Thanks to the climate and to the irrigation, few adjustments were necessary: culture was made in full ground; exceptionally rollers of reed screenings could be displayed on pickets to protect the plants from humidity. At the beginning of the XX-th century, about 2 000 exploitations were displayed on the hills of Nice. These domains were generally of small size. A family succeeded in living on less than 2 000 square meters. The profits were considerable because of the intensiveness of the production and because of the importance of the demand. But the system seemed fragile because it was speculative, it depended on the international situation and on the distant centres of consumption. As for the growers, they hesitate to adopt new techniques of production and marketing which developped elsewhere after the Second World war

In 1897, the first flower market in the world was created on the cours Saleya. There, from 4 o'clock in the morning, producers, wholesalers, different intermediaries and retailers met ... In the shops of expedition, flowers were carefully arranged in wicker baskets and sent in all Europe. Czar Nicolas II who, during winter 1904, wanted to reconstitute a battle of flowers in Saint-Petersbourg, ordered two cars of plants which took only one and a half day to cross Europe. In 1965, the wholesale flower market settled down in Saint Augustin, the cours Saleya remained a pole of retail sale. The proximity of the airport facilitates the expedition by air mail. The speed of routing shows itself indeed necessary: the Riviera flower market is harshly competed by the Valley of the Loire and especially the Northern European countries which supply in considerable quantity.greenhouse-cultivated flowers.


Castela Paul : La Fleur en Europe occidentale. Etude de la production et du commerce des plantes ornementales, Thèse de géographie, les Belles Lettres, Paris, 1968.

Ralph SCHOR

 

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