Trip around Jardin des plantes: Part II

The Jardin des plantes turned out to be way more interesting than we supposed, even in winter. Yesterday I wrote about the garden’s history and its main buildings, today is more about the gardens themselves and its greenhouses.

The garden covers an area of 24 hectares (59 acres). It is bordered by the river Seine on the east, on the west by the Rue Geofroy-Saint-Hilaire, on the south by the Rue Buffon, and on the north by Rue Cuvier, all streets named for French scientists whose studies were carried out within the garden and its museums.

The main entrance is on the east, along the Seine, at Place Valhubert, reaching to the Grand Gallery, which copies its width. It is in the style of a French formal garden and extends for five hundred metres (547 yards) between two geometrically-trimmed rows of platane trees. Its rectangula beds contain over a thousand plants. This part of the garden is bordered on the left by a row of galleries, and on the right by the School of Botany, the Alpine Garden, and greenhouses.

The iron grill gateways and fence at Place Valubuert were created in the beginning of the formal garden on the east is a statue of the botanist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, the director the school of botany beginning in 1788. He is best known for devising the first coherent theory of biological evolution.

Les statues du Jardin des Plantes font peau neuve | Galeries, Jardins, Zoo - Jardin des Plantes

At the other end of the formal garden, facing the Grand gallery, is a statue of another major figure in the garden’s history, the naturalist Buffon, in a dressing gown, seated comfortably in an armchair atop the skin of a lion, holding a bird in his hand. Between the statue and the Gallery is the Esplanade Mine Edwards, beneath which is the Zoothéque, the massive underground storage area for the museum’s collections. It is not open to the public.

Grandes Serres du Jardin des Plantes (Greenhouses ...

Four large greenhouses are in a row to the right front of the Gallery of Evolution. facing onto the Esplanade Milne-Edwards. They replaced the earliest greenhouses, built on the same site in the early 18th century, to house the plants brought to France from tropical climates by French explorers and naturalists. The Mexican greenhouse, which houses succulents, is separated by an alley from the Australian greenhouse, which hosts plants from that country. They were built between 1834 and 1836 by the architect Rohault de Fleury. Each of the two greenhouses is 20 meters by 12 meters in size. Their iron and glass structure was revolutionary for Paris, preceding by fifteen years the similar pavilions built by Victor Baltard for the Paris markets of Les Halles.

Grandes Serres du Jardin des Plantes (Greenhouses ...

A larger structure, the Jardin d’hiver covering 750 square metres (7,500 sq ft), was designed by René Berger and completed in 1937. It features an Art Deco entrance, between two illuminated glass and iron pillars built for night time visits. The heating system keeps the interior temperature at a constant temperature, creating a suitable environment for bananas, palms, giant bamboo and other tropical plants. Its central feature, designed to create a more natural environment, is a fifteen-metre-high waterfall.

Here’s a video showing the gardens in all their glory. Obviously, I shall have to return!

The Alpine Garden was created in 1931, and is about three metres higher than the other parts of the garden. It is divided into two zones, connected by a tunnel. It contains several different microclimates, controlled by the water distribution, the orientation toward the sun, the type of soil and the distribution of the rocks. It is home to plants for Corsica, the Caucasus North America and the Himalayas. The oldest plant is a pistachio tree, planted in about 1700. This tree was the subject of research by the botanist Sebastien Vaillant in 18th century which confirmed the sexuality of plants. Another ancient tree found there is the metasequoia, or dawn redwood, a primitive conifer.

A large section alongside the formal garden, with an entrance on the Allee Bequrerel, belongs to the School of Botany, and is dedicated to plants that have medicinal or economic uses. It was originally created in 18th century, and now has over three thousand eight hundred specimens, organised by genus and family. One of its special attractions is the Pinus nigra or black pine, from Corsica, which was planted in the garden by Jussieu in the 1770s.

In the centre of the garden is monument to the botanist Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. the last director of the garden named by the King before the French Revolution, and the creator of the menagerie. He is better known in France as the author of a well-known romantic novel, Paul et Virginie, published in 1788.

The Grand Labyrinth features a winding path to the top of the Butte Copeaux, a hill overlooking the garden. It was originally created under Louis XIII, then redone in its present form under Louis XVI, on the site of an old garbage dump. At the beginning of the upward path is a Cedar of Lebanon, planted in 1734 by Jussieu. The butte was largely planted with trees from the Mediterranean, including an old maple tree from Crete planted in 1702 and still in place.

La Gloriette de Buffon du Jardin des Plantes des Plantes de Paris (détail d'un pilonne) (Manuel Cohen / MCOHEN)

At the top of the hill is a neoclassical viewing platform called the Gloriette de Buffon. It was made of cast iron, bronze and copper in 1786-87, using metal from the foundry owned by Buffon. It is considered the oldest metallic structure in Paris. The eight iron columns carry a roof in the shape of a Chinese hat, topped by a lantern with a decorated frieze.

Nearby is the Lion Fountain, built in 1834 into the wall of a former reservoir. It is decorated with two bronze lions made in 1863 by the noted animal sculptor Henri Jacquemart.

I’m quite sure that there’s more to see…..maybe next time.

26 Comments on “Trip around Jardin des plantes: Part II

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