The Garden Guide

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

French public park designs

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242.Public gardens are common in almost all the towns in France; and a short description is given below of some of the most remarkable. The principal public garden of Rouen contains only about two acres, but it is laid out with great care, and planted with the rarest trees, shrubs, and flowers which can be procured in that neighbourhood. In 1828, we observed Magnolia grandiflora, conspicua, glauca, tripetala, and acuminata; rhododendrons, azaleas, kalmias, &c. There was a small greenhouse placed against the church, in which were kept pelargoniums, for turning out into the borders, and in the groups, during summer, along with balsams and other articles raised in hotbeds. The whole of this garden, notwithstanding the fine plants and flowers which it contained, was open to the public every day. In the most ornamental part of the garden were a basin and fountain, with waterlilies, flowering-rush, sagittarias, &c., and gold fish; around which was a collection of chrysanthemums in pots. Near this was a parterre of roses and other flowers, and a sundial (meridien a detonation), (Gard. Mag., vol. v. p. 491.) Promenade and public gardens at Rheims. �Just out of Rheims,� observes Wood, �there is a fine public promenade, planted with several rows of good-sized trees, with many diverging paths; it leads from the highest gate of the town down to the water side, and is really a very pleasant place in itself, and particularly so in a country so generally bare as this is. Beyond the promenade is a public garden called Trianon; here a ball was given one evening, the price of admission to which was two sols: �une mise decente� was essential, but a person might be admitted in a jacket and trousers. (Letters of an Architect, vol. i. p. 63.) The public garden at Strasburg, called the Constadt, consists of three or four acres laid out in alleys, in the ancient style, and planted with catalpas, gleditschias, sophoras, robinias, tulip trees, planes, American oaks, and acers. The catalpas and gleditschias flower beautifully; and when we saw them, in 1828, were conspicuous from their long seed-pods. The honour of projecting and planting this garden, or, as it may be called, public arboretum, belongs to Professor Hermann, a distinguished naturalist Connected with the garden is an extensive public orangery, which is used as a coffee-room, and for public meetings, assemblies, and balls. In 1828, the orange trees were most luxuriant, and were finely covered with fruit. At Lyons there are public coffee-houses and gardens, on ascending terraces from the Rhone, which are much Frequented. They contain orangeries, summer-houses, and Chinese pavilions; and one of them has a saloon 150 feet long, and 40 feet broad, splendidly ornamented with looking-glasses, &c. (Duppa's Obs., p. 134.) The public garden at Nismes may be termed an architectural one. It includes the ruins of the temple of Diana, and a fountain, with a copious spring of delightful water, which supplies the town. �This garden,� says Wood, �is the finest thing of the sort I have ever seen. The columns and balustrades which adorn the fountain, and the basins made for the reception of its waters, extend all through it; and there is an abundance of stone seats, vases, and statues. The character of art is nowhere lost; but it is a beautiful character of art, and the more so, because all the parts are consistent, and there is no appearance of pretence or affectation. Every thing is part of one design; whereas, in England, where we have such ornaments, they are too detached, and seem to have dropped from the clouds, rather than to belong to the scene. Even at the Tuileries the principle of distribution is by no means sufficiently apparent; they want more architecture to support them. The trees here are of a good size, and uncut, principally the linden. (Wood's Letters, &c., vol. i. p. 152.) The Place du Peyrou, at Montpelier, is a large square, in a commanding situation, planted with trees, and laid out with straight gravel walks. In the centre was an equestrian statue of Louis XIV., which was destroyed when the French hated kings with the same enthusiasm as they had once idolised them. Voltaire was so pleased with this place, that he suggested a plan to arrange the busts of all the illustrious men who had adorned France in the age of Louis XIV., around his equestrian statue, �pour inspirer aux siecles a venir, une emulation eternelle.� (Duppa's Obs., &c., p. 36.) There are several public promenades at Marseilles. The cours is more than a mile in length in a straight line; it is very broad, and has handsome houses on each side, with double rows of large trees before them. Between each of these rows is a carriage road, and the centre forms the promenade. There are stalls among the trees, heaped with fruit and flowers, &c.; and abundance of fountains. (Carey's Tour, p. 108.) Aix is remarkable for the fine trees and fountains which adorn its streets. The trees are generally elms, but different from ours, the leaves being extremely narrow, and the branches so long and drooping that they hang almost down to the ground from the top of the tree, which is of extraordinary height. (Carey's Tour, p. 104.) The public walk at Avignon winds round the town: outside the town, between rows of trees, there is also a promenade on the bridge, which is very long, extending some distance beyond the bed of the river. (Ibid., p.94.)