Friday, December 25, 2009

Summer Travels - Part 11: La promenade plantée and le jardin de Reuilly

While I am still a bit sickly - the fever ofe the days leading up to Christmas has now evolved into phlegmy throat misery - I need to keep up with my 'Summer Travels' posts if I am going to finish them before the end of the year as planned. So here we are with the "Planted Walk" and the "Garden of Reuilly", two beautiful and unusual parks in the 12e arrondissement of Paris. I first mentioned the promenade plantée on this blog in September in one of my posts about the High Line in New York City, which was partially inspired by the similar but older Parisian park. Like the High Line, the promenade plantée was planted on an old, no longer used railroad viaduct. Consequently, the two parks share their unusual long-but-narrow "geography" and the fact that they stand on pillars well off the ground. Despite their similarities, however, the promenade plantée and the High Line have a decidedly different feel. Part of this might be a result of their respective ages: the promenade plantée was created in 1988 by landscape architect Jacques Vergely and architect Philippe Mathieux, while the first section of the High Line was only inaugurated early this past summer. The plants in the promenade plantée have therefore had considerably more time to grow and as a result the overall visual effect when one is on top of the viaduct is a lot more reminiscent of a traditional park since trees and large shrubs block most views of the surrounding urban scenery. However, the design and planting schemes themselves are also more traditional than those of the High Line, aiming more for classic elegance and lushness than sleek modernity. The plantings consist by and large of the familiar denizens of park plantings: oaks (Quercus sp.) and linden (Tilia sp.) for trees, various evergreens such as eleagnus (Eleagnus x ebbingei) and bamboo (Phyllostachys sp.) as hedges, beds of roses (Rosa sp.), and crimsom glory vine (Vitis coignetiae) as a climber covering arbours. Many of the plantings seemed to be suffering somewhat from lack of water since apparently the weather up until our visit had been unusually hot and dry and the relatively thin layer of soil on top on the of the viaduct gave the plants little to draw on. The roses, however, appeared to be irrigated more heavily for they were blooming beautifully.Besides the roses, there were of course a few more interesting plants, even though the planting was quite traditional overall. One was monk's pepper (Vitex agnus-castus), one of my favorite flowering shrubs. I guess technically it is common enough to not be terribly exciting but I am still happy whenever I see a nice specimen. Then there was a kind of sage (Salvia sp.) with cheerful red flowers and large stands of some kind of Helianthus as well as some pretty combinations of plants I have unfortunately been unable to identify. Let me know if you recognize them!

At its eastern end, the 2.8 mile (4.5km) long promenade plantée feeds into the jardin de Reuilly, a beautiful park with very pretty and varied plantings close to the Bois de Vincennes. There is a large bed planted mainly with Mediterranean species, such as olive trees (Olea europea), umbrella pines (Pinus pinea), cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens), and European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis). Adjacent lies an area planted like a modern take on a cottage garden, with a wild mixture vegetables such as cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) and flowers such as pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) and even a scare crow. More such different beds may be found around most of the edge of the park, all framing a large central lawn for people to relax and play, traversed well overhead by a delicate and elegant bridge, so that those merely travelling across the park and those making use of the green are never in each other's way.

In the west, the promenade plantée extends all the way to la Bastille, and the space under the arches of the viaduct is used to house art shops and craft-related businesses in a program known as le viaduc des Arts. For more information on any of these, you can follow this link to the website of the promenade plantée if you know some French:

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