Sunday, September 29, 2019

Greenery and Gourds in Le Jardin de Plantes...

A few weeks ago I went back to Le Jardin des Plantes in Paris to check on the progression of the decorative gourds that are the main feature of a number of flower beds there. The most impressive of these herbaceous vines are to be found in a tunnel trellis arrangement along the main path leading to the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle.

From the outside, the tunnel appears rather ordinary - like a leafy bunker - but once you peer within and the sunlight pours in between the drapes of greenery, you catch sight of the strangest suspended forms, dangling down, heavily from stalks, defying the laws of gravity and logic too! 

The length and weight of these gourds was truly incredible, as was their shape and the surface of their rind-like skin. Smooth, serpentine fruit hang alongside gnarled, oblong varieties, and odd pendulous clubs. It was difficult to believe that these are the fruit of rather delicate, unassuming flowers.

Gourds come from the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes squash, pumpkin, cucumber and melon. Whilst most of this group of tendril-bearing plants are grown for consumption, the gourd is generally cultivated for its decorative, ornamental qualities.

However, it also used for its practical usages - as vessel and utensil - and finally as the basis of an amazing array of musical instruments. Some of the names alone are food for thought, with self-explanatory animal references; the snake, hedgehog, buffalo, coyote. My favourite name is, however, the Turk's turban...
I'm not sure what use will be made of the gorgeous gourds at Le Jardin de Plantes, but here are a selection - along with pumpkins and squashes - in my local health food shop.

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