A recent post praised the January drabness of two Paris gardens. It seemed to strike something of a chord, so today I offer another place where winter is at her unassuming best.
The musée Albert Kahn is a trove of early films and photographs from around the world. Named after the wealthy French banker who commissioned the images, the museum sits on the edge of four hectares of gardens in Boulogne-Billancourt, just to the southwest of Paris. It is easily reachable from the city centre by metro or bus.
Of the museum’s distinct garden areas, the most visited is the contemporary Japanese garden. In late Spring (when I shall write more), it is dazzlingly luscious, bursting with greenery and vibrant flower colour. Later, in summer, the adjacent classical French garden is lovely, with its trained roses and fruit trees.
But, in winter, it is the woodland that beckons. Inspired by forests in the Vosges, where Kahn grew up, this tiny (third of a hectare) space is a mixture of spruce, hornbeam, oak, beech and hazel. It is all mossy softness and quiet in the low January sun. While the museum’s website may trumpet the area as a mass of daffodils and foxgloves in the Spring, now everywhere is drab green and brown. The little forest is resting and waiting.
As a careful abstraction of nature, it is less dishevelled than the other two gardens I praised. There is little evidence here of decay or abandon. But in its dappled stillness, this small woodland is still a fine place to visit in mid-winter.