The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Botanic gardens outside Paris

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256. Among the other botanic gardens of France the following are probably the most important. The botanic garden of the Trianon, according to Deleuze, was established by Louis XV., at the suggestion of the Duc de Noailles, for the display of exotic trees, and a general collection of plants, for the amusement of the royal family. Here B. de Jussieu disposed, for the first time, the plants in the order of natural families. The botanic department of this garden was, in 1828, in a state of neglect; and some years afterwards it was turned into a nursery. The botanic garden of Malmaison, in the time of Josephine, was among the richest in Europe. Various botanical collectors were patronised, some jointly with Lee of Hammersmith. The seeds brought home by the navigator Baudin were here first raised, and described by Ventenat in the Jardin de la Malmaison, in 1803. In 1813 Bonpland published the first volume of Plantes rares cultivees a Malmaison, which ruined him, and compelled him to seek an asylum in America. This garden, though comparatively neglected, contained, when visited by Neill, in 1817, some fine exotic trees as standards in the open ground, and protected in winter by moveable houses. Among these were Magnolia grandiflora, and an orange tree as large as they grow in Spain. In the hothouses were many fine exotics, and the original bulb of that splendid plant Brunsvigia Josephine, which, in 1817, measured two feet and a half in circumference, and produced a head of flowers three feet and a half in diameter. The hothouse contained a rockwork covered with exotics, and watered by a concealed pipe. (Hort. Tour, p. 403.)The botanic garden of Alfort contains the remains of what has been a tolerably complete arboretum; a more extensive collection of hedge plants and specimens of live hedges than that of the Jardin des Plantes; a grass ground containing patches of several yards square of all the principal grasses, including the cultivated corns; and another compartment for large patches of the leguminous plants in field culture, the oil plants, and plants for clothing, cordage, dyeing, &c. Most of these are now run wild, and a great many of the examples of annual plants are wanting. There were at one time here, we were told, upwards of 150 sorts of potatoes, and a great many fruit trees: in 1828 several acres were under a potato crop, as a matter of profit. Close to the college, which is a large building, and was formerly, if we do not mistake, a convent, is a small systematic botanic garden, representing, perhaps, fifty of the Jus-sieuean orders. The botanic garden at Rouen, when first laid out, contained only two acres, but it was entered from the south, which is always a fortunate circumstance in a garden containing hothouses; because, on entering, the glass meets the eye instead of the back sheds. The plants were arranged according to the natural system, and there was an Acacia Julibrissin twenty feet high. The hybrid Syringa rothomagensis was first raised in this garden by M. Varin, one of the directors. In 1840 this garden was removed to the ground formerly occupied by M. Calvert as a nursery, and it now contains upwards of twenty acres in extent. The arrangement, or ecole, is on a piece of level ground in the centre of the garden, in beds 5 feet wide, with paths between them of 3 feet 6 inches in width. There are two rows of plants in each bed, and the classification is that of Jussieu, as modified by the late Professor Marquis, which is also that followed in the Botanique applique of the present Professor Pouchet. There is a department for horticulture, including a collection of fruit trees; and an arboretum and fruticetum is to be distributed round the whole. The botanic garden at Orleans is small, and situated on a poor sandy soil, exposed to the meridian sun. There are some hothouses and pits, and a considerable collection both of hardy and house plants. Here Poinciana pulcherrima has been found to stand the winter in the open air for several years; and Sterculia platanifolia against a wall has attained the height of thirty feet, and ripens seed from which young plants have been raised. (Annales d' Hort., vol. iv. p. 311.)In the botanic garden at Metz, the Anona Cherimolia has been fruited in the stove, though it had not then produced fruit in England. It grew in a pot about a foot in diameter, was crowded by other plants, and drawn up to the height often or twelve feet, when it produced fruit on its summit. (Gard. Mag., vol. v. (for 1829) p. 68.)