Today is the birthday of French author of "The Three Musketeers" and gourmet Alexandre Dumas (" Doo-Ma").
Alexandre also wrote the Count of Monte Cristo, which contains many passages about the garden. Here's one for Chapter 44:
“The garden was long and narrow; a stretch of smooth turf extended down the middle, and at the corners were clumps of trees with thick and massy foliage, that made a background for the shrubs and flowers.”
Alexandre was a larger-than-life character, and there are actually quite a few stories about him that gardeners will find charming.
For instance, in the mid-1860s, the Library in Cavaillon ("Ca-VAY-on"), France was just getting started, and they asked Alexandre for a donation of some of his books.
“I agree on one condition: Just as the town and the Cavaillon authorities love my books, so I love their melons. In exchange for my 300 or 400 books, I request a town by-law be passed giving me a life annuity of 12 Cavaillon melons a year.”
The town happily agreed to the terms Alexandre set forth, and Alexandre received a dozen Charentais ("Shar-en-TAY") melons every year until he passed away in 1870.
The cantaloupe melons of Cavaillon are perfectly suited to growing in the soil and climate of the Durance River Valley and are perfect for growing cantaloupe. Cavaillon is still the home of the sweet, Charentais melon. In fact, visitors to Cavaillon are greeted by a nine-ton statue of a Charentais melon, and the annual melon festival happens every year the weekend before Bastille day.
Now gardeners may wonder if a Charentais is similar to French cantaloupes or North American musk melons. Although they are related, they are not the same. Charentais melons are sweeter and have a jasmine and apricot fragrance.
Just before he died, Alexandre finished his final book, and he titled it Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine (The Grand Dictionary of Cuisine). It is especially poignant to see that Alexandre included an entry on the Charentais melon. In fact, Alexandre did not mince words, and he gushed that it was the greatest melon he'd ever encountered.
There is yet one more hilarious story about Alexandre that occurred when he was traveling in Switzerland. One day Alexandre decided he wanted mushrooms for supper. Now Alexandre spoke only French while the owner of the inn he was staying at spoke only German. To convey what he wanted, Alexandre quickly made a charcoal sketch of a mushroom on the wall. After seeing the sketch, the innkeeper went out for a while and then came back and presented Alexandre with an umbrella.
It was Alexandre Dumas who said,
"All human wisdom is summed up in two words; wait and hope.
It is not the tree that forsakes the flower, but the flower that forsakes the tree.
To despise flowers is to offend God."