Begin at the beginning…
Cathedrale de Saint Pierre.
On my walk to the cathedral through old town, up Rue de la Cite and Grand-Rue, there was absolutely no plant-life, so I my heart fluttered when I turned the corner into Cathedral square and was greeted by these beautiful Linden trees. As groups of tourists gathered awaiting the opening time for their tour of the Cathedral, I was entranced by an old Lime tree growing amidst the paving stones. The Cathedral is surrounded by Lime trees (Tilia). All are laden with seeds. Lime trees were traditionally planted in the centre of the village green for court to be held under them. Their flowers are relaxing medicine for the nervous system, no doubt helping to keep order and calm through meetings about difficult town affairs. The tree in front of the cathedral is clearly much older than the others. I like to think of it having brought peace and tranquility to many a pilgrim before me.
In a nice twist, the house of the botanist, Augustine Pyrame de Candolle and his descendants is opposite the Cathedral. A huge contributor to the field of botany, he created a new plant classification system and his work influenced Charles Darwin. His studies of plants was so vast, he was unable to complete it in his lifetime and it was continued by his son and grand-son.
Another Lime tree at the back of the cathedral…
I start seeing the Santiago de Compostella signs on the route and I am on my way.
A huge mimosa tree is around the corner and I wonder if it is the pink mimosa, the bark and flowers of which are used in Chinese medicine for healing depression and calming the emotions. I found a lovely recipe for combining the power of hawthorn to heal a grieving heart with mimosa in Jean Willoughby’s book, Nature’s Remedies: An Illustrated guide to Healing Herbs…
“In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Mimosa is referred to as He Huan Pi which translates to ‘collective happiness bark’. It has an uplifting effect on mood and appears to act as a mild anti-depressant. When combined in a liquid extract or tincture [with hawthorn], the two herbs work together to allieviate the heavy hearted feeling many of us experience during difficult times, helping to relieve some of the physical effects of stress and improving the mood.”
Another beautiful lime tree stands in front of Place du Bourg-de-Four and is the marker of the many lime trees that line the Chemin de Saint Jaques in Geneva.
The restaurant Le Carnivore has planters filled with Rosemary and Bay – sadly none of which were going to seed. But it’s great to see that herbs really are so often within reach even in the most urban of settings – even if it might mean getting a little creative – though of course the author does not condone stealing in any way!
The entrance of the Parc des Cropettes was banked by beautiful beds of flowers that included some stunning yellow cone flowers. I would guess that these are ornamental hybrids that will not produce progeny, but I gathered the seeds none-the-less in case I am wrong. A good reminder to be conscious of whether the seeds you buy are open source, hybrid or GMO.
I wander through the park along Rue Saint Leger. There is a beautiful Cedar of Lebanon laden with the female cones.
Then a glorious Yew tree full of bright red berries. I have a munch on the sweet slimy flesh of the berries – careful not to eat the very toxic seeds in the middle of them – I need to keep them for the project anyway!! The Yew, so often ancient – in the thousands of years old – and found in church grave-yards. Known as the tree of the dead, this is often attributed to its toxicity, but the Seed SistAs think of it as a gateway tree. The one that supports the transition between worlds.
Funnily enough when I was researching ancient Ewe trees in Europe, one came up in Aldworth Berkshire, thought to have been planted by the Saxons that was measured by Augustine Pyrame de Candolle in the early 1800s. He compared his measurements to those taken by John Evelyn a hundred years before and came up with a circumference/age ratio for Yew trees. Michael Dunning has dedicated his life work to these magnificent trees. You can check out his Yew Mysteries.
A single wild strawberry grows beneath the Yew tree – I love how strawberries wear their seeds so proudly on their exterior – truly wearing their heart on their sleeve.
A café on Place des Augustins has wormwood, sage, yarrow, horseradish, lemon balm and fennel growing in their planters. The wormwood, yarrow and lemon balm are flowering, so no seeds sadly, but I gather some of the uplifting fennel seed.
This strategically placed “specist” sticker protesting the use of animals for entertainment makes me think of my last residency with Utopiana.
I hear that the garden at Avenue des Eidguenots has been turned into a car park – wiping out so many plants and animals from that diverse corner of the city – a micro example of prioritizing humans at the cost of all else.
And on I walk to cross the river into Carouge…