Posts Tagged ‘parc de Bercy’

Fashion dictates that gardens should offer year round interest. In particular, winter needs to be forced to play its part with evergreen shrubs, coloured bark, late-flowering perennials, quirkily-shaped stems, early bulbs. All must be colourful and bright and perky.

But increasingly I am inclined towards gardens that reflect the reality of nature, in its disorder, decay and death. Such places help us grasp the reproductive purpose and ready mortality of plants. In the end, perhaps, they remind us of our own mortality. The iconic essay “Systems, Signs, Sensibilities” by Catherine Howett makes the case for such an approach on ecological grounds, arguing that we need to celebrate the beauty of natural cycles and processes in designed landscapes, rather than continuing to create bland ornamental images.

Certainly I am not much interested in lurid forced flowers and shiny alien evergreens at this time of year. January feels wan and cold to me; it is bleak, lifeless, the colour of straw and trodden snow.

Gilles Clément garden

Gilles Clément gardenIt feels suitably like mid-winter in the garden at the musée du Quai Branly in the 7th. Designed by Gilles Clément, the undulating garden is apparently meant to be experienced as a contemplative journey. At this time of year (these photos are from last February) it is full of ghostly miscanthus stems, oaks with their fine tawny leaves still attached, bare soil, twiggy shrubs. The contrast between the pale wintry plants and the bravura coloured forms of Jean Nouvel’s architecture is striking.

Gilles Clément gardenThe parc de Bercy in the 12th is not one of my favourite landscapes, but the eastern end at the moment also has a charmingly quiet, slightly desolate, January feel about it. Frost has turned some exotic pink camellia flowers into a pleasing brown mush. You can also see tatty, straw-coloured miscanthus, brown buddleia seedheads, little clusters of snowberries amid rotting autumn leaves, and signs of damage by snow and wind.seedheads

Buddleia and miscanthussnowberriesWe know Spring will come, in all its brazen colour and exuberance. For now, I’m savouring the quieter charms of slumbering January.

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Most people think about climate change with either skepticism or despair. In a new campaign, the mairie de Paris is trying to introduce a third response: optimism.

Paris s'invente !

Vegetable plots in rue la Boëtie, designed by collectif et alors. Image from http://www.paris.fr

A group of architects, collectif et alors, has imagined how Paris would respond to a rise in temperatures of 2 degrees. The results, presented as twenty postcards, show how courage and investment could transform the city into a slower, calmer, greener place. An old canal near Bastille is exposed again after years of being diverted underground. The walls, roofs and passageways of tower blocks in the 13th are thickly planted with greenery. Private cars have vanished (a common theme in most plans by mayor Bernard Delanöe) to be replaced by tramways and barges, which bring deliveries to the grands magasins. Vegetable gardens spring up in the fertile soil currently buried under the concrete of rue la Boëtie in the 8th (recalling the royal nurseries that once were cultivated there). Green, shady spaces welcome pedestrians and cyclists around the Hotel de Ville. Everywhere from the Seine to the Tour Montparnasse is redesigned to provide renewable energy for the city’s inhabitants.

As my husband remarked, the images are so deliberately Utopian that you almost want the climate to change more quickly.

You can learn more about the campaign +2°C… Paris s’invente ! on the city’s website, or in an open-air exhibition in the parc de Bercy, until 31 January.

Parc de Bercy exhibition

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carpinus betulus?We have enjoyed a glorious Indian summer in Paris, lingering well into October, with temperatures in the 20s and bright sunny skies almost every morning.

But the trees know. Shorter days and cooler nights have signalled the changing seasons to them.

Here is one beautiful example from last weekend, in our local parc Monceau. I think this tree in its full autumn livery is a young hornbeam (carpinus betulus), but could be wrong.

liquidambarAnd in the parc de Bercy in the 12th arrondissement (where we picnicked last Saturday in summer dresses), a view from the mount at the eastern edge of the park shows – amongst a mass of still-green summer – the distinctive dark red autumnal leaves of a young sweetgum (liquidambar).

We are ready for more.

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