GARDENS OF FRANCE (4)

Jardin des Plantes

The Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France. It is situated in the 5th Arrondissement, Paris, on the left bank of the river Seine and covers 28 hectares.
The Jardin des Plantes maintains a botanical school, which trains botanists, constructs demonstration gardens, and exchanges seeds to maintain biotic diversity. Founded in 1626 as a medicinal herb garden for Louis XIII, Paris’s botanic gardens are visually defined by the double alley of plane trees that run the length of the park. There are three museums from the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and a small zoo .  Other attractions include peony and rose gardens, an alpine garden, iris garden and the gardens of the École de Botanique, used by students of the school.  The beautiful glass-and-metal Grandes Serres (a series of four greenhouses) have been in use since 1714.

On my arrival the amazing display of large, papery, bowl-like Iceland poppies in the seasonal flower beds was a joy to behold. I was greeted with sunshine, blue sky and literally thousands of poppies.  What pleasure I have had over the years as I have watched poppies burst from their bud capsule and open into a radiant display of colour –  a gift from one of my daughters.

Having read of the Paris Carousels I was intent on finding the one in Jardin des Plantes, but was a little disappointed when, because it was early, the carousel was still wearing its night covering. It is a most curious carousel featuring a herd of animals that are now extinct (or may soon be gone). It is called the Dodo Manège and was installed in 1992 at the inspiration of a scientist in comparative anatomy in the adjacent natural history museum. I have read that there are such vanished creatures as the thylacine, the dodo, the aepyornis, the Barbary lion, the horned turtle, and the sivatherium. There are also endangered animals like the panda and the gorilla mingled in the herd.   A small plaque in the front of the carousel offers a guide to these extinct and endangered animals. The thylacine – also called the Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf – was the last large carnivorous marsupial in Australia. It is reported that the last known individual tiger lived in a zoo in Hobart (capital of the Australian State of Tasmania) until the 1930’s. The top of the carousel is adorned with depictions of scenes from the surrounding Jardin des Plantes.  Not only is it a unique carousel, but it cleverly fits in thematically with the rest of the Jardin des Plantes.

Palais-Royal Garden, Paris

The garden of the Palais-Royal is the only garden in Paris classified as “Jardins remarquables” by the French Ministry of Culture and the Comité des Parcs et Jardins de France.    Bordered by the Palais-Royal and the adjacent arcaded galleries, the garden is a peaceful haven in the French capital, not far from the busy thoroughfares of avenue de l’Opéra and rue de Rivoli.

The garden was created in 1633 by Pierre Desgots for Richelieu and redesigned by André Le Nôtre in 1674. Duchess Henrietta envisioned making it one of Paris’ most beautiful ornamental gardens.  It contains some 500 trees, including four double rows of lime trees planted in the 1970s and red horse chestnuts planted in 1910.  The central garden has two long lawns bordered with flowerbeds designed by American gardener Mark Rudkin.

The large inner courtyard (cour d’honneur) of the palace is separated from the garden by a double row of columns, the Orleans Gallery.  In 1986 it welcomed a monumental (and controversial) work of art designed by Daniel Buren. Known as ‘les colonnes de Buren’, it comprises 260 black and white striped octagonal columns of unequal height.

Hôtel de Sens, Paris

The Hôtel de Sens is a city palace in the Marais, in the 4th arrondissement of Paris.  It was originally owned by the archbishops of Sens. The building is in between late Gothic and early Renaissance style, and now houses the Forney art library. This mansion is one of three medieval private residences remaining in Paris. It was built between 1475 and 1507.

The charming French-style garden borders the Hôtel de Sens, which was occupied from 1605 to 1606 by Marguerite de Valois, known as Queen Margot, whose marriage to Henry IV was annulled by the Church in 1599. It is perfect for having a break from the busy streets and admiring its magnificent floral creations.

Jardin du Musée Carnavalet, Paris

This French garden containing a variety of trimmed embroidered dwarf boxwood recalls the time of Madame de Sévigné and the fashion then for manicured gardens. This mansion, built by Nicolas Dupuis and subsequently modified by François de Mansart, received many prestigious tenants. In particular, Madame de Sévigné resided there (from 1677 to 1696) as did the Ecole des Ponts and Chaussés before it was bought by the city of Paris in 1866. The idea of a temporary museum was eventually suggested, and therefore one wing of the building welcomed the history of Paris.

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