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Françoise Brivet

Text by Martine Soucail

Brivet FrancoiseFrançoise Brivet passed away on 04 April 2023 in her 93rd year. She was born in Casablanca on 10 January 1930, and both her parents were doctors. Her father, with whom she was very close, had a country estate near Casablanca, then a citrus fruit farm at the foot of the Atlas mountains. Françoise got her first taste of horticulture with the Moroccan gardener (an ex-convict whom Françoise's father had hired because he couldn't find work after his prison sentence).

In 1946, she passed both her baccalaureate and the entrance exam and entered the horticulture school in Versailles, the only girl in her class.
After her studies, she joined the ‘Institut des fruits et agrumes coloniaux’, where she selected interesting articles and wrote bibliographic records. She learned about computers under the guidance of the highly innovative essayist Philippe Ariès.

Back in Morocco, she worked in the plant protection department. As travelling to "the boondocks" was inadvisable for a woman, she took up a teaching post.

In 1960, in Casablanca, she married with Claude Brivet, an engineer, with whom she had two daughters: Pascale and Sophie. In 1966, they left the Morocco they loved so much and settled in Sèvres. Françoise worked as a journalist for ‘Le Quotidien du Médecin’ and ‘L'Ami des Jardins’, where she launched a green telephone service.

The photographer she used to work with told her one day that a camellia farm in Sèvres was going to close due to retirement. This made a good subject for an article, she got in touch and the article appeared in ‘Jardins de France’. The land on which the farm was located was divided into 3 lots and put up for sale at that time. One of the lots contained the large greenhouse* built around 1900 and planted with camellias of the same age.

Françoise and her husband, who already lived in Sèvres and were looking for land to build on, were obviously very interested. They bought the plot in 1971 and the house was subsequently built.

It was the large greenhouse that triggered Françoise's interest in camellias, which she didn't know much about before this famous article.

Françoise developed a passion for this plant and became very active in the SNHF (French National Horticultural Society) and the International Camellia Society, of which she was director for France for 10 years (1995-2005) with Max Hill. On the death of Jean Laborey, she became president of the SNHF camellia section. Over the years, she wrote numerous articles for Jardins de France and took part in all the SNHF's activities, for which she was awarded the ‘Mérite agricole’
in 2010.

She and her husband had supported Jean-Claude Rosmann in his camellia research in Vietnam. In gratitude, he dedicated one of his new varieties to them, a Camellia sasanqua, which was christened 'Souvenir de Claude Brivet' by Mrs Giscard d'Estaing in 2005, wife of the President of the French Republic at the time.

She had a passion for flowers, animals and politics, and her strong ideas were combined with a particular “joie de vivre”. Very curious, she had a great culture (flora of course but also fauna, history, mineralogy, arts...) which she knew how to share with others because she had a gift for storytelling.

* The structure of this greenhouse with its old camellias and others planted by Françoise still exists. A few years ago, Françoise approached the Sèvres town hall to start the process, to have the greenhouse listed as a protected monument.



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