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Garden Design

Paris post script: Parc Monceau erupts

Jill Sinclair

Jill Sinclair

December 5, 2013

My visit to Paris this year revealed some odd goings-on at the venerable parc Monceau, in the heart of the city. Originally created in the 18th century as a flamboyant private garden, Monceau is now a majestic swathe of ancient trees, lush grass and stone follies.


parc Monceau

The city of Paris (or at least one of its gardeners) has been introducing some rather novel elements among the traditional shrub borders and flower beds.

First, an earthen volcano complete with red and yellow annual flowers representing lava, and a water jet or two occasionally bursting out of the nearby perennial plantings.



Then, alongside the main path, the earth opening up as if in some Halloween horror film, with elaborate cantilevered sections of turf and more lava effect.


monceau-6And by the rotunda at the main entrance, another installation, with square tunnels carefully chiselled out of a large log. I am afraid the symbolism of this one escaped me.



I just didn’t know what to make of these new features. A friend thought them interesting and different, and was puzzled by my disapproval. Maybe she was right. Perhaps they were contemporary artworks designed to challenge the rather staid representations of nature all around them, or deliberate modern references to Monceau’s creation in the 1770s as a “land of illusions“?

At least they were more thought-provoking than the terrible, scrappy planting in place in the Tuileries, Le Nôtre’s great processional gardens along the Seine. Here’s an example, with the Louvre in the background, the whole sorry mess set off perfectly by that officious little sign telling people they are not welcome.


[Editor’s note: when attempting to choose tags for this story I was somewhat confounded, not finding anything appropriate in GardenDrum’s current list. ‘Bizarre monstrosity’? ‘What were they thinking….’? ‘Earthworks’?]

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10 years ago

Like you, I don’t think that a crappy-looking pseudo volcano made out of red dirt can be called an illusion. And when there are two of them, some crazy gardener has delusions of grandeur. There’s a big difference between being a good gardener and being able to design them.