garden tales from a Brit abroad
Here’s a couple of slightly off-the-beaten-track places to enjoy Paris in the springtime.
First, the Square des Batignolles, which was one of twenty-four gardens created in the mid-1800s as part of the modernisation of Paris by Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann. It is a park à l’anglaise (that is, laid out naturalistically) with undulating lawns and a fine array of old trees, including four of the biggest plane trees in the city. The planting is generally slightly unusual for a public park – walnuts, elms, a twisted willow, purple beech, Turkish hazels, a hardy bitter orange, and a giant sequoia.
With its rustic concrete bridges, grottoes, cascades, false rocks and meandering waterways, the whole thing has a delightful nineteenth century feel. The flower beds are maintained in the same spirit, particularly so in spring, when the city parks department plants out tulips and massed spring bedding.
The park also boasts a rather lovely round glasshouse installed in the 1990s, hundreds of ducks of a variety of breeds, flocks of chaffinches with their distinctive song, and a range of activities for kids, including a carousel, pony and trap rides, and two very popular playgrounds.
In these photos you can see the park as it was planted a couple of years ago. I was there again yesterday (in a major downpour) and the flowerbeds this spring are a mass of yellow tulips among purple bedding.
Square des Batignolles is rather hidden away in the 17th arrondissement, near Porte de Clichy, and not very easy to reach on public transport, so it tends not to be on the typical tourist trail. As an added attraction to visit, all this week until Sunday (3 April) there is a brocante (a vintage market) immediately outside the park in Place du Docteurs Félix-Lobligeois, with a tempting range of furniture, linen, china and jewellery for sale. Also in the neighbourhood, every Saturday morning, is a wonderful organic market, with bio-dynamically grown vegetables and fruit, cheeses, breads, fresh fish, herbs, cut flowers and home-made produce.