Monday 24 August 2009

The Secret Garden

It is said that if left alone, nature would reclaim an abandoned city in a matter of months. In such a dense city as Paris though, nature struggles to break through the stone and the smallest gaps are quickly plugged by ingenious constructions. The Cartesian French have always preferred to tame and control the exuberance and vigour of the wild, trimming grass to millimeter precise lines, and creating parks that are little more than geometric tableaux. How refreshing therefore on a hot August day to find a thriving garden of fruit and flowers carved out amongst concrete and bitumen.

The garden is the Jardin Partagé Leroy Sème
in the 20th arrondissement, one of several such spaces in the city that have been given over to associations. For around 20 Euros a year, subscribers here can access the garden at will and plunge hands into the city soil, planting, pruning and plucking. The result of their work over the four years that the garden has been in existence is a profusion of flowers, vegetables and fruits, the buzz of bees and a backdrop of birdsong.

The history of the site bordering the Rue des Pyrenées is an inspiring one. The garden today runs alongside a small cluster of charming houses and looks a little like a tiny village which has slowly been swallowed up by the expansion of the city, but this rural scene only exists today thanks to the efforts of a group of local residents. In the early 90s, a project was on the table to level the ground here and build upwards of 130 apartments, a plan that may have succeeded if the residents group had not pointed out the fact that the terrain is an unstable one, and that any construction would severely damage all surrounding properties.

Although major construction had been seen off, it took another long battle to finally get the site protected and to install the shared garden here, and it wasn’t until 2005, 13 years after the residents began their protests, that the garden was finally opened. Today anybody can wander through the gate and watch the gardeners at work, or talk to members of the association and share a coffee with them around their powder blue shed. There are even deckchairs and benches where you can relax and watch butterflies flutter by.

Although it is little more than a pocket sized English country garden, this space, along with other similar projects around the city, helps Paris to refill her lungs and gives nature a place to stretch out her shoots and branches once more.

Note: This garden features briefly in my Street Art walk. Download a free copy if you haven't already done so!


Gina V said...

paris garden synchrony!...I just posted on the lilolila garden on rue de belleville...
there is definitely a widespread movement to reclaim unused and abandoned lots as community gardens and natural outlets for productive therapeutic activities from congestive urban living...more oxygen, more fresh food, more tiny creatures, more healthy happy people!!

ArtSparker said...

These urban gardens are pure magic - like the Filbert Street Steps, which I have posted about. There are also pocket gardens in New York City, also in that city an elevated train line now a promenade with native grasses. In London, as you probably know, there is a green belt along a portion of abandoned railway line.

Karen said...

I like this movement which has spread to othe large cities. A garden is so soothing and rewarding and if veggies are planted some nice meals, too. It works well in bringing neighbors together, too. Many in these urban areas are isolated and don't know their neighbors.

Mark said...

Adam, my wife and I walked through here while taking your Street Art walk last week - congratulations on another well done view into a Paris so few get to see. Mark

lovelyprism said...

That's lovely! I wish I had seen some of this on my visit to Paris. Maybe next time.

Starman said...

One of the lovely things about Paris is the lovely bits of greenery in places you least expect it.

PeterParis said...

I also visited this little garden recently! Thanks to you, who brought me to the top of Menilmontant! There are a few of them - one quite close to where I live.

I'm also happy to see that more and more of the Paris parks make room for some wild flowers to grow.

I have also generally noted a great difference during the 35 years I have lived in Paris; it is, after all, much greener today.

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