After watching Monty Don talk about French gardens on his show called, well, Monty Don’s French Gardens, I was raring to go and see for myself how French gardens are. We had the Christmas holidays coming up, and we booked train tickets to Paris for two weeks to visit my sister Emi who lives there, and I thought, “Perfect! Two weeks is good enough time to just walk around and have a look at French gardens.” In the end, due to the unfortunate combination of very-French transport strike and winter-season flu, I only was able to have a glimpse of a French garden at Parc André Citröen.
December 30, 2019 was a beautiful day in Paris. The sun was up and the sky was a lovely blue. Emi and I decided to take my boys out for a ride at Ballon de Paris Generali. It is said to be the biggest hot air balloon ride in the world, situated inside Parc André-Citröen. At 150m altitude, the balloon ride provided a stunning early afternoon panorama of Paris.
The Parc André-Citröen itself was a nice surprise. From the entrance and throughout the park, I saw the elements of balance and symmetry that Monty Don pointed out in the show about French gardens. The hedges, the lines of trees, even the series of public restrooms and greenhouses, were all made to work on balance and symmetry. The result is a place that looks tranquil and modern, minimalist yet grand.
The bamboos surprised me. I guess it’s because I’ve seen them normally in a tropical setting. The use of bamboos in the park provides a break from the structured look, without going the other way too much. Linear in form, bamboos—even in big clusters—look minimalist, yet its capacity for movement when there is wind adds an element of playfulness to an otherwise structured look.
Before studying horticulture, I thought a garden is dormant in winter, meaning it is not very exciting. But now I am aware that a garden can still be visually stunning in winter, with hardy plants with beautiful foliage, or stems, or fruits, taking centerstage. At this time of the year at Parc André-Citröen, there are still many horticultural points of visual interest, like bare branches with buds, feathery grasses, and winter-fruiting shrubs.
I hope to see this garden again on a different season to see another iteration of its beauty.