The Garden Guide

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

Promenades and public gardens of Paris

Previous - Next

239. The principal promenades and public gardens of Paris are those of the Tuileries and of the Luxembourg; but those of the Palais Royal, Tivoli, &c., may also be reckoned among the number of public gardens, as the Boulevards, the Champs Elysees, and the Bois de Boulogne, may among the promenades. The gardens of the Tuileries are invaluable from their situation in the centre of Paris, and from their being open at all times to the public. They have open airy walks for winter, and shady walks and deep yet airy groves for summer; flower-borders, in which a constant succession of showy flowering plants is kept up; lawns kept green by daily watering; fountains, which however do not play so frequently or so magnificently as they should; and a number of very beautiful statues. During the summer, the principal walks are bordered by lofty orange trees in tubs. The gardens of the Luxembourg resemble, in general character, those of the Tuileries; but near the palace they are, perhaps, more ornamented with statues, and with basins of water. A defect which strikes a stranger, at first sight, is the ascent from the platform in front of the palace to the central avenue. This ascent is much too near for dignity of effect. Had it been considerably greater, it would have had a character of its own, and might have proved a feature of interest; as it is, it militates against the idea of freedom of choice as to situation, or of liberty to extend operations on every side; and, consequently, against general grandeur of expression. The avenue is long and flat, and its termination is bad; a commonplace observatory tower in the horizon, backed by the sky. Notwithstanding these disadvantages, the groves, or bosquets, as they are called, are good of their kind, and constitute great luxuries in the midst of a crowded city. The gardens of the Luxembourg are celebrated for the cultivation of fruit trees, vines, and roses. In one of the quarters there is a compartment for experiments belonging to the Royal Agricultural Society. The garden of the Palais Royal deserves to be mentioned for the beautiful verdure of its turf, which is Maintained by nightly watering during the summer season. The garden itself somewhat resembles those in the squares of London. In the centre is a fountain, and a sundial (meridien a detonation), for indicating midday by the filing of a small cannon, the gunpowder being ignited by the concentration of the sun's rays. In 1840, this was the best kept public garden in Paris. The beds were richly stocked with flowers regularly placed, each plant forming a large mass, and kept quite distinct, though nearly touching the adjoining plant. The width of the bed admits only of two rows, and there are always two plants of the same kind placed opposite each other. The number of kinds of plants employed is, perhaps, not above a dozen, but they are finely grown, and produce a most brilliant effect. Tivoli was called the Parisian Vauxhall; it was, however, very inferior to its London prototype, both in extent and variety. The principal attraction consisted in sliding in a car with great velocity down inclined planes called the Montagnes Russes. The gardens of Beaujeu, and many others, were of a similar description. All are now destroyed. The Guinguettes are public gardens for the lower orders, and are generally neatly kept gardens, with alcoves, &c., within thickets of young elms. These alcoves are usually complete bowers, cut in the trees, and have each a little table, on which the people take refreshment. The number of each alcove is suspended by a wire from the trees; and almost every garden has a saloon appropriated for dancing and music The Boulevards consist of two belts or zones which encircle Paris, one within the other. They were planted with fine trees of the small-leaved elm, but many of these were cut down during the Revolution of July, 1830, and the remainder during the Revolution of 1848. The Champs Elysees partake of the mingled characteristics of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. The ground is planted with trees, which are cut into alleys, in various directions. The grand avenue is very fine; the view being terminated at one end by the palace and gardens of the Tuileries, and at the other by the triumphal arch at the Barriere de l'Etoile. The alleys in the Champs Elysees were decorated, about 1846, by the erection of eight new fountains, and by the erection of a large building called the Jardin d'Hiver (fig. 65.), which was placed between the Rond Pont and the Avenue Morb�uf. The building formed in 1846 consisted of a reading-room, which was at one extremity, and two small rooms at the other; one of which was called the Salle des Bouquets, and the other was a counting-house. Between these and the reading-room was the garden, 120 feet long and 30 feet wide, with a triple span roof about 16 or 18 feet high. On one side, about half the length of the gardon, was a camellia house; and on the other, three greenhouses for rhododendrons, pelargoniums, and fuchsias, a propagating house, and a stove. This building did not please the Parisians; as, from its length and comparative want of height, the effect was heavy. It was, therefore, pulled down six months after its erection, and another commenced on its site, which was first opened to the public in December, 1847. This magnificent building is supposed to be one of the largest and finest in Europe. The entrance is by a circular vestibule, which opens into a larger hall about 30 feet wide. Immediately behind this is the ball or concert room, about 100 feet long by 60 feet wide, supported by a double row of pillars, and lighted from the top. The walls are high, and fitted up to receive pictures and works of art for sale. �Upon leaving this you at once enter the corridor, or lower gallery, of the Jardin d'Hiver, or, as it looks at first sight, fairy land, so grand, lofty, tasteful, light, and elegant does the whole appear. From this corridor you look down upon the garden, which is in the form of a cross, 300 feet long and 180 feet wide. Toward the farther end you see the 'Jardin Anglais, ' about 150 feet long, laid down in grass, intersected with borders containing large shrubs and trees, among which rises a noble Araucaria excelsa, from the Jardin des Plantes [see fig. 55. in p. 85.], about 50 feet high; beyond, you see a cascade and fountain playing nearly to the top of the building, and the whole terminated by rockwork; at the sides of the cross on the corridor, are arranged noble orange trees, and below you, thousands of ca mellias and other plants; the corridor or lower gallery extends round the interior of the entire building, and is about 15 or 20 feet wide. The roof, which is exceedingly light and elegant, is of iron, and supported by more than one hundred iron pillars in a double row resting upon the corridor.� (Gardeners' Chronicle for 1848, p. 70.) About 30 feet up the pillars is suspended a smaller gallery, about 6 feet wide, which also runs round the building; and in this are placed large pots containing rhododendrons, dwarf palms, &c. The pillars and palisadings are tastefully decorated with climbing and pendant plants. To the right and left of the cross stages are erected for camellias, ericas, azaleas, &c.; and near them is a noble collection of cacti from Monville. Farther on, stalls for the sale of bouquets, clerks' tables, &c. Under the corridor are reading-rooms and other offices. On the other side is a coffee-room and a pastry-cook's. In the open space in the centre are four ornamental fountains; and in the middle, besides ample space for the promenaders, are numerous chairs and tables, the latter furnished with conveniences for writing, the daily papers, &c. The �Jardin Anglais� is planted with various kinds of greenhouse and stove trees and plants. The walls of the cross, and also those of both ends of the building, are entirely covered with looking-glasses, set in ornamental filagree work; and in the promenades there are basins of gold and silver fish, and aviaries of singing and ornamental birds. This immense building is heated by a powerful steam-engine, to as to keep the thermometer at 56� Fahr., even in the coldest day in winter. The Hots de Boulogne (also a kind of grove) is one of the most frequented promenades in the neighbourhood of Paris. It is situated on a flat sandy surface, intersected in all directions by straight roads bordered with trees. Even where the boundary of the wood had found by nature, or by accident an irregular line, the surrounding trees have been reduced by engineers to lines recognised by their profesion. The greater part of the trees composing this wood are of kinds indigenous to France and are chiefly oak, birch, and hazel, though art has added some species of exotics in different places; and among these are cedars, different species of pines, and American oaks. The indigenous wood is chiefly undergrowth; and in this there are a number of open glades which form the chief source of variety to the spectator, looking from the straight avenues.