On a freakishly warm May’s day, we left the house on foot and headed towards Bois de Boulogne. The plan was not to visit the Boulogne wood, but to stop by Paris’ botanical garden in Auteuil. The large black gated entrance remained firmly closed, so we double backed on ourselves and took another way in, through the adjoining park with the presence of spring establishing itself all around. I should also mention at this point, that the entrance is free.
The first thing I noticed, asides from the large botanical greenhouse in the background, were two large wire mesh snails in the opening flowerbed. I imagine in the summer the plants grow up and around their structure, but I enjoyed their denuded form. My girlfriend had not been here for a great many years, and told me that they used to supply the plants for all the parks in Paris. As you walk down the steps and follow the edges of the paths along the walls, the flowerbeds appear to grow freely and almost wildly, in an explosion of harmonious colours. Sculptured faces appear on the walls that I believe are based on the designs of the sculpture, Rodin.
As you approach the carefully mowed central lawn, the symmetrical layout of the park leads to greenhouses in all directions. In fact the more you wander across the seven acres of this garden, the more greenhouses you will discover. Each greenhouse is temperature controlled to create the ideal climate for the particular country-themed vegetation growing within. You will find everything from Japanese, Mediterranean through to Ethiopian and American. My particular preference lay with the cacti, which brought back sad memories of the ones I had to abandon in England.
Although the temperature outdoors was close to 30C, stepping out of a 45C heated greenhouse was a breath of fresh air. You will find not all the greenhouses are open, although if you have a particular interest you can track down one of the park wardens and ask to be let in. Security are everywhere, which I initially thought a little over the top, but I was told certain Parisians (or tourists) would just help themselves to the plants if they were not here. There is a tiny amount of wildlife to be found in the park, although not much. In one small obscure greenhouse, near the fly eating plants, sat a lonely terrapin, and opposite a small fish tank. Large goldfish and caged birds are housed in the main greenhouse which dominates the park’s view.
The funniest moment of the afternoon came when my girlfriend let out a yelp. I turned around surprised at the outburst, and she’d been given a jump by a freakish looking seed pod, which she’d momentarily mistaken for some strange alien insect. I took a photo for prosperity.
The botanical garden was built between 1895 and 1899, designed by Jean-Camille Formigé. I wonder if he could have envisioned his beloved creation becoming a WIFI zone (like most parks in Paris) and that people may still be sitting and enjoying (or surfing the Internet) more than a hundred years later.
The Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil is a great place to come and relax and if you have an interest in plants from around the world, this is a place you cannot afford to miss.