garden tales from a Brit at home and abroad
La Roseraie de l’Haÿ is a glorious summer garden, just a few kilometres south of Paris. Dedicated to the queen of flowers, it is the oldest rosarium in France and claims to be “the world’s first rose garden.”
It was created in 1890 by Jules Gravereaux, who spent his career working for Aristide and Marguerite Boucicaut, creators of Parisian department store Bon Marché. Gravereaux then dedicated his retirement to collecting over 3,000 different roses. Such was his passion that he travelled widely, through eastern Europe, Asia Minor and the Balkans, to collect new plants, and helped establish other rose gardens, notably the Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne. Gravereaux also bred many new roses, including the highly-scented rugosa seedling called rosa ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’, which was introduced into cultivation by rose breeder Charles Pierre Marie Cochet-Cochet in 1901.
Gravereaux commissioned landscape architect Edouard André to lay out his garden. André was internationally famous as a designer of public spaces through Europe and South America. His career began when he won a competition to design Sefton Park in Liverpool. As Head Gardener of Paris, he worked on the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and the Tuileries. For Gravereaux, André created a classically French garden, with geometric beds, long allées, sculpture, and a central octagonal pool. The roses were displayed not just as bushes, but trained into different shapes, grown on trellis, along wires and over arches, and cultivated in pots and urns.
Since 1968 the garden has been owned by the municipality of Val de Marne, and is carefully maintained, both as an extraordinary rose museum, and as a lovely public park.
The roses are displayed in box-edged flower beds, and the labelled plants are carefully arranged by type and origin. You can learn about the evolution and breadth of the species; equally, you can just enjoy an hour or two immersing yourself in the scents and colours of this most beautiful of flowers, the essence of early summer.
The photos in this post were taken in late May; the garden was lovely, but the bulk of the flowers were still to come. June is the month to visit.
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The estate of Malmaison comprised of 650 acres and was first rose garden.Between 1804 and 1814 Empress Josephine built her rose collection. It was to become the greatest and largest rose collection in the world, unsurpassed until the creation of Sangerhausen in Germany and L’Hay outside Paris.
Josephine grew 167 Gallica roses, 27 Centifolias, 22 Chinas, 9 Damasks, 8 Albas, 4 Spinosissimas, 3 luteas, R. moschata, R. carolina, and R. setigera”. Being Empress had its benefits and rewards during time of war. The French Navy was enlisted to confiscate any plants or rose seeds from ships at sea and her large purchases from the British nursery Kennedy and Lee were permitted safe passage through the naval blockade.
Josephine’s rose garden was important for other reasons besides being the largest collection. The acquisition of Slater’s Crimson China, Parson’s Pink and Hume’s Blush Tea Scented China (through Kennedy and Lee) was of great importance for France, for they were among the first new everblooming roses to come from China which would later produce everblooming rose cultivars. Her collection encouraged French hybridizers to work on new varieties. Josephine’s own head horticulturist Andre du Pont grew 200 new varieties, many of them new introductions. In addition, by 1830 some 2500 different rose varieties would be available to Parisian rose lovers.
This Summer Garden is great! Roses are really lovely especially during summer where it blooms at its best. I am dreaming of visiting that rose museum, such an interesting stuff!
Kate, thanks for stopping by, and for the comment. Over the next few weeks will be the very best time to visit Roseraie de l’Hay.
I’m a landscaper at trade but a gardener at heart…and to read of this rich history amazes me.. This was a great read this was looking forward to reading more!!!
P. S. I love roses!
Ì loved our trip to Paris.
Wow Great!Roses are really Beautiful