Archive for September 2011

“Hotel” Gardens in Paris

September 24, 2011

While in Paris in August, I stayed in an area called the Marais, which straddles the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Scattered here and there, within easy walking distance, are buildings called “hotel particuliers,” many of which have large, imposing facades fronting on the street. For example, the Rodin Museum, subject of an earlier post, is housed in the Hotel Biron.

Behind their facades, most hotel particuliers have a courtyard, and sometimes, like at the Rodin, a garden behind the building.  Closest to our apartment was the Musee Carnavelet, two “hotels” that now serve as the museum honoring various periods of Paris’s history. Passing through the outer gates, I found a courtyard embracing a statue of Louis XIV, and the entrance to the museum. Cretin that I am, I breezed through the museum in record time, in search of the “garden” of the hotels, which I had seen in a book before I left home. Le voila!

Carnavalet Museum, Carnavalet gardens, hotel particulier, Marais, Paris

A view of the garden of the Carnavalet Museum in Paris, from above. The French do love boxwood parterres. There is a second, smaller vegetable garden area, in a different part of the site.

Carnavalet Museum, Carnavalet Museum garden, Marais, Paris

Summer annuals softening the boxwood parterre plantings.

I liked the way the summer annuals helped brighten up the otherwise very formal boxwood parterres. I’m not always a fan of a mix of really strongly-colored plants together – but in this case it worked.

This approach was also in evidence when – earlier in my stay – I visited the Hotel de Soubise during a walking tour of the Marais. Formerly the residence of French dukes and princes too numerous to count, it’s now the Museum of French history.  The courtyard, or “cour d’honneur,”  somewhat stark in the winter, sported brightly blooming swaths of summer annuals when I was there. The Verbena bonariensis was an especially nice addition.

Hotel de Soubise inner courtyard

The Cour d'Honneur of the Hotel de Soubise, with the ubiquitous yews and swaths of annuals

Hotel de Soubise courtyard, Paris, Museum of French History

Verbena bonariensis contrasting with other annuals in hues of yellow, red and orange

The one other “hotel” garden I visited was that of the Hotel de Sully (also in the Marais).

Hotel de Sully facade, Marais, Paris

A portion of the facade in the first courtyard of the Hotel de Sully, with beautifully intricate carvings.

Unlike the Soubise or Carnavelet sites, here I found no annuals to liven up the conical yews and boxwoods. But in their place, something even more interesting: in a classical formal garden, a freestanding stone lattice on the right side as you enter,  and a “sculpture” of a mole (or badger?) encased in soil. There was no sign or any kind of information about the piece, which I can only assume is temporary.

Hotel de Sully orangerie, Paris, the Marais, hotel particulier

The circular lattice and the earth-bound mole (?) in the Sully's orangerie.

For a look at another art installation in this garden, called “Bee’s Dance,” which apparently I missed (more’s the pity), click here. And be sure to explore these hidden gems if you’re in Paris in the spring, summer or fall! Next post – on to Oxford.

Roses and More at the Rodin Museum

September 10, 2011

My vacation last month was a big splurge – a trip to Paris and Oxford, in belated celebration of a significant birthday. I treated myself to a week in the City of Lights with my two sons, then took the Eurostar to London (senior discount: half price! I guess there are some advantages to getting older) where a friend who lives in Oxford whisked me away to stay with her for a week.

August may not be the best time of year to visit Paris, but I had no complaints. And although I didn’t go to photograph gardens, my new Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens proved to be a reliable walk-around friend and I brought back a boatload of photos. Today, some scenes from the garden of the Hotel Biron, home to the Rodin Museum.

Rodin Museum, Hotel Biron garden

From the garden in front of the Rodin, you can enjoy not only roses and tightly pruned yews but also a stunning view of the Invalides.

As it exists today, this garden looks nothing like it did originally. (Rodin’s secretary – the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who discovered the site – described it as having “an abandoned garden, where rabbits can be seen . . . jumping through the trellises like in an old tapestry.” Add that to the fact that other artists such as Jean Cocteau, Isadora Duncan, and Henri Matisse were already occupying the premises, and one can understand the allure of moving in.) The rose garden in front of Rodin’s masterpiece, The Gates of Hell, was initially planted in the 1920’s, shortly after the building became the museum of Rodin’s works that it is today.

Rodin Museum garden, Hotel Biron

Paths flanked by sculpted yews, softened by roses, lead visitors to Rodin

A garden dedicated primarily to sculpture has to have its planting scheme and components chosen carefully. Most of the Hotel Biron’s grounds – as is true of many other public garden spaces I saw in Paris – are dominated by lawn areas and large yews carefully sculpted into conical shapes. The roses soften an otherwise very formal feel to the garden.

I was impressed with how many roses in bloom I saw in the garden, despite the lateness of the summer. There was even one named “Rodin,” created by the famous hybridizing firm Meilland. It originates from the Knock-Out rose; seven hundred of the Rodin roses were planted on the southern terrace of the Hotel. The color has been described as a “Tyrian purple,” but I thought it more pink in hue.

Rosa Rodin, Rodin Museum, Hotel Biron

The

Speaking of the southern side of the Museum, it is a “knockout” by itself. A long central axis of lawn is flanked by two parterres (designed by landscape architect Jacques Sigard in 1993) with “thematic circuits.”

Hotel Biron gardens, Rodin Museum

The rear garden area of the Hotel Biron

Hydrangea paniculata shrubs were at peak bloom in the parterres.

Hotel Biron gardens, Rodin Musum

Panicle hydrangeas and other shrubs edge the parterres.

At the end of the rear garden is a large pond with Rodin’s sculpture Ugolino devouring his children (a cheery thought).

Hotel Biron, Rodin Museum, sculpture

A view of the Hotel Biron from the rear of the garden, with one of Rodin

The grounds are meticulously maintained.

Hotel Biron, Rodin Museum

A groundskeeper at the museum prunes roses in one of the beds on a hot August day. Note the horse chestnut tree in the foreground, with leaves affected by a bacterium that has spread to many of these trees in France and Europe in general.

For more information on the garden of the Hotel Biron, click here. If you are in Paris and interested in visiting, the Museum is located in the 7th arrondissement, near the Invalides, on the rue de Varenne.

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This post marks the 100th “episode” of Garden Shoots! I’m grateful to everyone who has visited, whether regularly or only once.
Thanks to the demands of my fall design and planting schedule in the “real world,” Garden Shoot posts will appear on a every-other-week basis for the remainder of this year.


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