Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jardins, jardin aux Tuileries, Paris

People in France are passionate about their gardens and have been advancing the art of gardening for many centuries. The formal gardens of the nation's aristocratic dwellings have been cited, painted and photographed since being opened to the public, but there is also tremendous interest in the small private gardens within small walled areas or on terraces or patios. I cannot recall ever seeing an open market without at least one vendor selling cut flowers to those who have no garden.

This weekend (29 May-1 June 2008) Parisians can enjoy the fifth garden show for professionals (Friday) and the public (Saturday-Sunday), Jardins, jardin aux Tuileries (Gardens in the Garden of the Tuileries, just west of the Louvre Palace. This 'garden' is essentially a formal arrangement of large trees, but since there are so many thousands of tourists and visitors, there is no grass, only hard packed clay soil compacted with small stones. This was transformed in amazing ways for the garden show.

We were greeted with an area on the hard ground that was covered in grassy sod which outlined each of the globe's continents. This was in keeping with this year's theme focusing on how plants have traveled from one part of the world to another. Avid gardeners would pause and admire rare plants brought here from exotic climes. Sitting directly on the compacted soil of the Tuileries would be long flowing streams of water nourishing tropical plants requiring wet feet. Misters would emit delicate sprays of water which protected other plants or added bits of fog to a Japanese fountain, moss was brought in and added to dozens of large displays. Some of the trees imported for the occasion would surely require small cranes for moving. When I was trying to catch my breath afterwards, someone reminded me that 'this is Paris', the city which once turned the entire Champs Elysee into a wheat field. Of course this made international news, but it shows the extent to which some government officials support gardening endeavours and garden extravaganzas.

But other things caught my eye as well. Someone created the outline of a golfer finishing his swing. This was achieved with a metal mesh frame into which one inserts lots of moss. Since Vancouverites have all the free moss they want, I started thinking to myself . . . .

One garden shop cleverly wrote plant names and prices on an old laurel leaf, which looks more natural and is certainly ecological. Janice wanted a picture of the beautiful metal sculptures of chickens and a rooster, all created from scrap metal by an artist in Zimbabwe. Since the day was heavily overcast and since the flower displays were under the dark shade of the large plane trees, lighting was nearly ideal for photographers trying to capture at least some of the beautiful colours of the orchids, lobelia, and hydrangeas. I enjoyed watching two professional photographers take pictures with equipment I will likely never even touch. They worked so quietly, quickly, efficiently, and when they were obtrusive, managed to set up and smile in ways which made you want to cooperate fully.

I suppose there were quite a few gardening innovations and hybrids being introduced, but one idea that was new to me was the display of metal columns in which the metal was hidden, being covered with grass--sod placed absolutely vertically all around the structures. How one mows this grass beats me, possibly with a scissors or electric trimmer? Then, just to add to the novelty, the artist added a window in the column showing a plant on the inside, having a lighter contrasting colour.