Paris in the sun is very difficult to beat especially after the weather we have been ‘enjoying’ in England in the last few months. It was therefore a real pleasure to stroll round the Jardin des Plantes this week accompanied by a group of interested students.
First off is the history of the garden. As you walk, the labels attached to the trees indicate when they were planted and stretching before you is the knowledge that when some of the trees went into the ground the world was a very different place. A magnificent Styphnolobium japonicum, perhaps better known as the Japanese Pagoda Tree, was planted here in 1747, only a year after the Battle of Culloden. It is still standing and I would describe this tree as a living treasure. Other trees in the collection are almost as old.
Then there are the plants in this collection that love the warmth and protection afforded by the particular conditions you find in a great city like Paris. Melia azedarach was in full bloom, lilac and white flowers dripping from each branch. Roy Lancaster notes that there is a tree growing outside the Chelsea Physic Garden in London but it is not widely planted and should be grown more in protected parts of the UK.
Along one side of the garden here is an excellent collection of roses with representatives from all the major groups.There are several favourites here and the accompanying labels show dates when they were first bred or grown. Rosa ‘Tuscany’ (1596) with deep red/maroon double flowers and conspicuous golden stamens, R. ‘Plena’ (1700) with double white scented flowers and pleated centres were two of the earlier cultivars. As you leave the rose garden, strong red thorned R. serica was planted just by the path.One or two of the white flowers remained but it is the thorns that steal the show. They are magnificent especially when seen with the light behind them. These roses are popular for winter effect, bringing in an interest very much for the present day and deservedly so.
The Alpine Garden, right in the centre and lower than the main garden is a treasure trove of interest. It is planted in areas given over to particular continents with hundreds of plants all out now and to be enjoyed. Androsace lanuginosa var. leichtlini in the ‘Himalayan Section’ was a real treat to find. This attractive neat plant stays close to the ground. It has a creeping nature with silvery leaves and white flowers with golden eyes that turn pink as they age. This will be one for me to try.
The Jardin des Plantes is packed with unusual plants to appreciate and The Plant School will be holding a second day there this year on Thursday 1st October. These days are open to present students of the school, past students and also other plant lovers from England or mainland Europe. The days are in English and in October will concentrate on seed heads, fruits and autumn colour. If you would like to come and enjoy a Parisian day out learning about the plants then please contact us.