The simple road sign that counts so much for 5,000 municipalities in France


A simple sign at the entrance to nearly 5,000 municipalities in France indicates that he has obtained a Cities and Villages in Bloom of France label.

This is a hard-won award as only about half of the applicants who apply each year receive the label. The categories range from one to four flowers with almost equal numbers reaching 1, 2 and 3 flowers and only 235 receive the coveted 4 flowers. There are also special prizes with eight Fleur d’Or, one prize for diversity, another for heritage, one for trees, one for collective gardens and one for tourism.

To win the prize, a city or town must do more than plant beautiful flowers. The judges examine the vast environmental program which includes not only attractive borders and beds, but also the efforts made to protect the environment and promote biodiversity, actions to educate and involve locals and tourists, management green spaces and the motivation of municipalities to obtain the label.

The result is a label apparently appreciated by local populations. A survey carried out in 2011 by the IPSOS market research group revealed that it is by far the most famous label for towns and villages in France and that people who live in a City and Village Fleurie are the most satisfied with the quality of life in their hometown. Satisfaction increases with the number of flowers so that those who live in a municipality without a label give a score of 5.3 / 10 for the quality of life, those with a flower 5.7 / 10 and those with 4 flowers 6, 7/10.

Martine Lesage, director of National Council of Towns and Villages in Bloom affirms that to win a prize, a municipality must show that it has made a big effort to improve the vegetation of the city for the benefit of its inhabitants: “The criteria are very strict. We really want there to be a comprehensive policy to include flowers, plants, grass and trees in town planning so that no new building is created without some kind of green space; that there are parks and gardens accessible to all; that there are educational programs and that the quality of the city is enhanced by a large amount of plant life. We also like to see creativity. In the past, flower beds were systematically planted with classic bedding plants like begonias, but now we like to see the talent of gardeners used to come up with new ideas.

Ms. Lesage says the end result is beneficial: “The label has a good reputation and even a dense urban suburb can improve its image by working hard to introduce plants to the neighborhood and thus transform its negative image into something more positive. There is an impact on public health. People feel better if they live in a pleasant and neat environment. If a city center is attractive, people are more likely to stay rather than move to the countryside, which makes a place more vibrant. It is good for tourism but also for companies and I have seen examples where a company will choose to settle in a region because it has the label.

She says that a municipality can earn the label without huge expense and that it usually only represents 3 or 5% of the total budget: “With new environmental approaches, costs are reduced. Pesticides are prohibited, so it is an avoided expense and new plantings often favor perennials, bushes and trees, which avoids the cost of purchasing masses of annuals each year. Even mowing expenses are reduced because people don’t expect grass to be cut all the time – a little longer is not a bad thing.


Villes et Villages Fleuris was created almost 60 years ago by the Ministry of Tourism. But its origins date back to the 19th century when European and French tourists began to travel across the country. At that time, the main means of transport was the train and stations were often utilitarian places. To make them more attractive, the Touring Club de France has set up a competition to encourage station managers and hotels to compete for the best floral decorations. Its success is such that it spread in the 1920s to the municipalities and “Villages Coquets” were held every year until 1939.

After the war, in the 1950s, the Touring Club, with the gardening magazine Rustica and the Horticulturalists Association, launched the “Flower Routes” with such success that the Minister of Tourism, Robert Buron, set up the competition. national Cities and Villages in Bloom in 1959.

600 municipalities registered in the first year. A growing number wish to participate so that the administration is soon delegated to the Prefectures. In 1988, the organization was transferred to the Departmental and Regional Councils.


If a municipality wishes to apply, it fills out a file sent by the local Department, which then proceeds to a preselection of those it thinks are eligible for a flower. The municipalities are judged by the Departments and Regions for the 1,2 and 3 flower labels. A list of those that the Region considers eligible for the 4th flower is sent to the National Council of Cities and Villages in Bloom (CNVVF) which awards the 4th flower and special prizes. The municipalities are judged by a jury made up of elected officials, horticulturalists, landscapers, tourism professionals and make their visits between June and September. The Regions revisit the municipalities every three years and can change the number of flowers or withdraw the label.


The town is very proud of its label with four flowers. It is proud of “580 hectares of nature” maintained by 92 employees who plant 300,000 flowers per year.

It is an arboretum planted with trees typical of the region but also of the whole world and where the grass is “mowed” by a herd of sheep of the rare Solognote breed. Three years ago, a new orchard was planted to conserve 150 rare and old varieties of fruit trees.

Planting is carefully planned with the aim of using as little water as possible and favoring perennials and bulbs such as daffodils which come back every year. The beds are mulched to prevent evaporation and retain heat.

Chemical herbicides and pesticides have been banned for several years and weed control is done by hand. 3 million Australian ladybugs are released into the city each year to do their job of destroying scale insects which are the enemy of occupied geraniums, petunias and lizzies.

The horses are used to bring the water tanks around the city to water 900 flower planters in the city.

Planting design is also important and planned two seasons in advance. Gardeners choose a color scheme and order the seeds accordingly. It could be pastels in spring and warmer colors in summer. For the shape of the beds, they are inspired by architecture and design. They play with heights and tones and choose from among the 160 varieties of plants that grow in the 5 hectares of greenhouses in the town.

Anne Chaussard, environmental advisor says that the label is a reward for all those who have worked over the years to put in place policies for the city that make it both attractive and respectful of the environment: “ We did not do all this work to hunt for an award but having it is recognition of our efforts and recognition of quality. I think the label is more and more known and respected and we are proud to have it.

She says she thinks the city won the award not only for the flowers but mostly for its environmental policies. “I have only been in post since September, but I know that the municipality has always been well ahead of the others with, for example, its zero-pesticide policy and its attempts to reduce the consumption of water for its flowers. We have developed a system to collect rainwater and use it to water our flower beds. We also choose plants that require less water and a recent example is the massif in front of the station which once housed a mosaic of annuals but which we have now largely replaced by perennials. It’s just as aesthetic but better for the environment.


Cholet in Maine-et-Loire has been awarded the prestigious 4 flowers label since 2005 and in 2016 it also received the special prize for plant diversity.

For the advisor in charge of parks and gardens, Annick Jeanneteau, the label motivates them every year to continue working to improve the local environment: “It would be a disaster to lose a flower. We think about it every day and it encourages us to continue to improve our parks and gardens and the way we manage them. The city employees put a lot of effort into their work and every year they look forward to the results.

Cholet has several parks and gardens and has recently created a wetland with donkeys and goats. She organizes activities with schools to introduce children to the environment, runs campaigns encouraging the public to pick up litter, clean up after their dogs and make their own compost and gives gardening advice. Ms. Jeanneteau thinks Cholet won the diversity award because they produce their own plants: “We have huge greenhouses where we grow our own and work in advance to plan our borders and flower beds. We continue to have lots of projects, for example we want to change the rose garden to make it bigger and even more beautiful.

She says the real motivation is to create a place where people want to live: “We are very proud of our city. It is on a human scale with its parks and flowers and it is a really pleasant place to live. The locals know it and appreciate its beauty. They often ask for the names of plants and flowers they have seen because they are genuinely interested.

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