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garden tales from a Brit abroad

Jardin du Palais Royal – the only remarkable garden in Paris?

Around 350 French landscapes are currently labelled as remarkable, under a scheme run by the ministry of culture.

The idea is to encourage conservation and to increase accessibility to the best landscapes in the country. Valid for five years, the jardin remarquable designation is awarded to well-maintained gardens that offer exemplary design and botanical or historical interest. Gardens of all sizes, styles and ages are eligible, so long as they are open to the public for a minimum number of days each year.

The only jardin remarquable in Paris is the eighteenth century Jardin du Palais Royal, in the first arrondissement near the Louvre. Presumably there are political or cultural reasons why the Jardin des Tuileries, for example, or parc Monceau, or the Jardin du Luxembourg, do not have the award.

Surrounded by elegant arcades, the jardin du Palais Royal features two flower-filled parterres separated by a large circular pool and fountain, bordered by tree-lined allées.

There are two splendid examples of contemporary art to the south of the garden: Pol Bury’s mirrored spherical sculpture in the Gallery d’Orléans and, in the courtyard that had previously been a car park, the infamous striped columns by Daniel Buren officially known as Les Deux Plateaux.

The garden seems to me a surprising choice as the capital’s only jardin remarquable. Although it may be rather tucked away, it is certainly open to the public, and has been since Revolutionary times. Today it provides welcome shade, seating and even a little children’s playground. And, yes, it has an important history, having been created by Cardinal Richelieu, lived in by royalty, provided a flashpoint for the Revolution, and subsequently been a hotbed of vice and a home to both high culture and destructive violence.

It is the standard of maintenance that makes me question the award. The statues are grubby – and the planting, last time I visited, was lamentable. There were some lovely roses, but also unclipped hedges, big patches of bare, unkempt soil and lots of straggly weeds.

In its defence, the palace and its exterior space have been undergoing a major programme of renovation. I plan to go back and see whether it now feels like the worthy holder of its jardin remarquable award.

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4 comments on “Jardin du Palais Royal – the only remarkable garden in Paris?

  1. Adam
    November 16, 2010

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog – and for introducing me to yours. It’s a very interesting subject for a blog and you have the kind of job I envy!

    This information about the Palais Royal surprises me too, because although I like wandering around there, I hardly even consider it to be a garden at all. Surely the Jardin des Plantes – one of my favourite spots of all in the city – is more deserving.

    Looking at your interests, you absolutely have to go out to the Jardin d’agronomie tropicale. As gardens go – particularly in France – it’s wild, but so full of atmosphere.

  2. landscapelover
    November 16, 2010

    Adam – thanks for calling by!
    It is odd about the lack of jardins remarquables in Paris – presumably the mairie has decided not to put forward all the great gardens that the city manages, but that does not explain why somewhere like the state-owned Tuileries is not designated. I’ll have to investigate further.
    And how funny that you are a fan of the jardin des Plantes – it always seems a rather sterile place to me, but then I love the parc André Citroën, which some think is one of the worst parks in the world.
    I will definitely be finding a nice late autumn day to visit the jardin d’agronomie tropicale at Vincennes… Thanks again for the tip.

  3. Anonymous
    April 26, 2012

    I just discovered your website, it’s exceptional :)
    Ok, this is so so random I know but i have had a nagging memory that I am hoping someone could help me with …
    when renting an apt. on the garden more than a year ago it has been stuck in my mind there must be something hanging in each tree in the garden?? There were rarely, if ever any birds “in” the trees. Was there something? What is it?

  4. Pingback: Note The Chocolate Tour!

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This entry was posted on November 16, 2010 by in Gardens, Paris and tagged , , , .

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