The day after the National Garden Scheme Old Vicarage garden opening, we flew to Paris. Our taxi arrived to take us to the airport at 5.00 a.m. We were tired, but, still talking about the success of the weekend and the number of people who’d visited us. Everything was a bit of a rush but we were looking forward to our 3 night trip. We had tickets for the French Open tennis at Roland Garros, courtesy of our children who had bought them for Susan’s birthday.
A few days relaxation without gardening – or so we thought…
Not a garden in sight?
We negotiated the usual, organised chaos at Manchester Airport, despite my red face at baggage screening. My hand luggage was pulled for a search and, just as a feeling of righteous indignation started to rise, my iPad was revealed – Oops!
It was lunchtime when we finally set our bags down in our room at Adele et Jules. A small, perfectly formed boutique hotel tucked into a small side street in the 2nd arrondissement. A discovery via Mr and Mrs Smith. When we finally ventured out to explore this largely working neighbourhood, famous for its textile shops, we stumbled across a most extraordinary garden.
Oasis d’ Aboukir
With perfect serendipity, the Oasis at Aboukir, “The Green Wall”, appeared before us. We’d been wandering down a small street leading from the famous Rex Cinema on Boulevard Poissonniere towards Les Halles. To be sure, it stopped us in our tracks.
It rises vertically in diagonal green waves and magically transforms what would, otherwise, be the drab concrete gable end of a nondescript grey building. To find it, just go to the corner of the Rue d’Aboukir and Rue des Petits Carreaux.
As soon as you take it in, you realise that it circumscribes a tiny triangle of green open space. This hosts a thriving mix of locals, and occasional tourist, just sitting around chatting, resting or lazily eating a sandwich. It was created for Paris Design Week, in Spring 2013, by Patrick Blanc, the french inventor of “living walls”. He ‘planted’ 237 species of plant which appear to grow up the five storeys of this concrete facade.
Meet the Architect Gardener
Patrick Blanc is a botanist and scientific researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research where he specialises in plants from tropical forests. According to Wikipedia, he invented the modern vertical hydroponics garden.
Needless to say, not all of his designs around the world are tropical. The Oasis at Aboukir contains all manner of temperate plants and shrubs. Its amazing longevity, it was created/ planted in 2013, is testament to how versatile and how life enhancing an innovative horticultural project like this can be.
He has led the way in bringing nature back into towns which, in turn, brings conversation and soul back as well. We walked past this oasis every day and stopped to take in its relaxed charm. Each time, we noticed more of the atmosphere of neighbourliness it’s inspired, including new street art. Even Tin Tin and Captain Haddock are there – caught in an intimate moment nearby!