Gardens are meditative spots: they immerse us in nature without exposing us to the harsh faces of the untamed elements. Evidently, I do not have the soul of the explorer and I prefer to admire the peaks of the Himalaya or the desolate white poles in a TV nature program. Yet, a bridled expression of the natural world suits my temperament. Standing in front of a vast arrangement by Le Nôtre, like the water mirrors of Chantilly, my imagination expands its boundaries. Size funnily matters.
From those majestic expanses to the more contained landscaping of urban gardens, my feelings settle comfortably in gentle serenity. Paris hides behind its urban facades a wealth of small intimate green patches. Some surprise us at the end of a maze of alleyways and passages, like the Jardin de Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur, where climbing roses are the grand protagonists. There, an aging spinster reads a book on a bench, a pretty girl keeps an eye on two unruly toddlers and a couple insouciantly display their affections. This is a Parisian garden with its main characters at its best.
Other gardens stand out for originality and location.I am particularly attracted to the Jardin Naturel, only created in 1995 and flanked by the south-eastern wall of the Père Lachaise cemetery. It is an outburst of wild vegetation in the heart of the city. Weed killers, fertilizers and pesticides are happily ignored. Planted exclusively with species grown in the countryside occupied later by the city, it lacks the immediate glamour of its local competitors but it has the appeal of being unique, unconcerned with prettiness. Its heart beats quietly, sheltered below the silence of the dead at Père Lachaise.