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Green Paris: Gardens for every season

dsc00292.jpgWhen you consider that 500,000 trees grace Paris’s avenues, gardens, and the Boulogne and Vincennes woodlands, it’s easy to understand why visitors and Parisians alike flock to the gardens with the first rays of sunshine and mild temperatures.
Depending upon the time of year you arrive in Paris, you’ll want to be sure to hit some of the gardens known for their specialties. Paris has gardens for every mood and occasion. The formal or ‘royal’ gardens such as the Tuileries and the core of the Luxembourg Gardens are designed ‘a la francaise’ with neat geometric forms and wide, gravel boulevards. These parks are created to stroll and admire the garderners’ artistry. However, if you’re more interested in admiring the beauty and artistry of your partner, you may want to find some more secluded, shady spots in some of Paris’s ‘English style gardens’. The meandering pathways take strollers through a variety of landscapes and vistas – the Buttes Chaumont (19th) and Parc Montsouris (14th) were both designed with daydreaming and romantic glances in mind.
And if all this leads some day to a wedding – you’ll want to choose an elegant backdrop for your wedding photos. Ranelagh Gardens (16th) and Monceau (17th), both located in Paris’s chic Right Bank arrondissements are often the site for wedding photographers during the spring and summer months.
Tulips and cherry blossoms in the Tuileries interspersed with sculpture.
Jardin de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne has stupendous irises. At the complete opposite end of Paris, the Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes flourishes in May.
Jardin de Bagatelle’s rose garden deserves first place for its vast and varied rose collection. This is a favorite Sunday outing for Parisian families (if they haven’t left for their country houses).
Find shade under the canopy of trees in Parc Bercy. You can enjoy this park at ground level or be an unobtrusive observer from the elevated walkway.
Picnics ‘sur l’herbe’ on the grass. Is there a better place for a picnic than Parc Montsouris? More leafy green than floral, this is an English style garden with an artificial lake as its focal point.
Luxembourg Garden is resplendent throughout the summer months, but its fall chrysanthemums are particularly inspiring. Strategically planted in ornate stone urns that top pillars surrounding the reflection pond, these yellow and golden mums capture the slanted rays of an autumn sun.
Parc Floral at Bois de Vincenne Metro: Chateau de Vincennes, dazzles with dahlias, water-lilies and lotus.
Even without flower plantings, the Luxembourg Gardens remains open throughout the winter months. All it takes is a glimmer of sunshine to bring out Parisians – even on the coldest days. Kids get bundled up in their warmest hats and scarfs.
Specialty Gardens
Jardin des Plantes, Quai St. Bernard, 5th
Originally this garden served as a medicinal garden for the King Louis XIII, but it was opened to the public as early as 1640. The Botanical School Gardens contains more than 10,000 classified plants. You can also find Paris’s oldest tree here – a false acacia (robinia) planted in 1636.
Medieval Garden at Cluny Museum (Musee du Moyen Age) at the corner of Blvd. St. Germain and Blvd. St. Michel.
Here you’ll find an herb garden typical of the middle ages. You may recognize some of the same plants that you’ll find illustrated in the famous unicorn tapestries called ‘millefeuilles’.
Fondation Cartier in February ’08
Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2008

Fondation Cartier
, 14th This is a ‘wild garden’ which grows in and around the Jean Nouvel glass facades of this museum. The concept of creating a garden left free (or at least maintaining the illusion of freedom) works beautifully with the Nouvel structure. One of the prerequisites was maintaining a place of honor for the Chateaubriand Lebanon cedar tree which guards the museum entrance.
Parc Atlantique roof garden. Built above the Montparnasse train station, one can always find a corner to ‘get out of the rat race’. I like this garden on cold, inhospitable days in November when the fading shades of fall leaves give way to the harsh geometric framework.
Getting to the Gardens
Jardin de Bagatelle
Bois de Boulogne
Route de Sevres a Neuilly
Take Bus # 43 to Place Bagatelle (There really isn’t handy Metro stop for this park.)
Parc Monceau (17eme)
Metro: Monceau
Parc Ranelagh (16eme)
Metro: Muette
Parc Montsouris (14th)
RER Cite Universitaire
Metro: Portes d’Orleans
Jardins des Plantes (5th)
Metro: Gare d’Austerlitz
Parc de Bercy (12th)
Metro: Bercy
Parc Buttes Chaumont (19th)
Metro: Buttes Chaumont
Parc Floral de Paris
Bois de Vincennes
Metro: Chateau de Vincennes
Luxembourg Gardens
RER: Luxembourg or Metro: Notre Dame-des-Champs
Fondation Cartier
Blvd. Raspail
Metro: Raspail
Parc Atlantique
Metro: Montparnasse
entrance from the Gare Montparnasse or
Rue Commandant Mouchotte
Photos by Chris Card Fuller ©2007