When I was growing up in Bury St. Edmunds, a favourite treat (as an under-five) was a visit to the Abbey Gardens to feed the ducks. Once you'd gone through the magnificent Abbey Gate, you followed a wide path between very formal flower beds. Flawlessly geometric, they were the absolute opposite of my parents' rambunctious herbaceous borders. These were gardens to be looked at, not played in, with "Please Keep Off the Grass" signs everywhere . The inspiration behind these were probably the formal gardens of France such as you see at Versailles.
When we go to Paris, I'm always fascinated at what the gardeners have planted in the numerous public gardens. One day I'd like the meet the brains behind those in the enchanting little park just east of Notre-Dame cathedral. Scouting through the x thousand photos I've saved on iPhoto, I found these that I took a few years ago. Poppies, wallflowers and foxgloves wouldn't be the first combination you'd think of but it's enchantingly pretty.
On to the next garden. Even though the Jardin des Plantes is right beside the Gare d'Austerlitz, the station we arrive at/leave from is we don't take the TGV, we've never been inside its gates. Possibly because we're always towing luggage. This time, I was determined to go there, so I metro-ed over to the main station, and made my way outside, just across from the Seine, and into the gardens.
They are huuuumungous. To wander off for a moment, Paris is a glorious mix of intimate narrow streets and grand, colossal spaces. France's largest, the garden is a grand enormous space and then some, with a pathway that seemed to go on for miles. Museums, a plant school, a zoo, vast greenhouses, you could easily spend a day here. The National History Museum's web site calls the collections the "archives of the planet," possibly because they have over 60 million stones, bones, meteorites and plants. That's for next time.
I only had a couple of hours so all I can give you is a little taste.
|You walk and you walk and you walk and you walk. You're so close to the city but the only sounds you hear are birdsong and schoolchildren.|
|All plants are identified.|
|Four men went to mow....I think this scene has an Alice and Wonderland feel to it. You almost expect the Red Queen to appear suddenly.|
|Every French garden has a potager. The one here is quite small and tucked away in a corner.|
|If I ever grow raspberries, I'm going to train them like this rather than straight up. I'm sure they get more sun this way.|
|Really big greenhouses. Really large numbers of schoolchildren.|
|A demonstration meadow shows how beautiful wild flowers can be.|