If you haven’t ever, you should. Bordeaux is a delight. Small enough to walk everywhere in the centre, brilliant Metro that can cart you about when you are tired, fabulous and gracious buildings, a riverside packed with life and activities, not to mention food and wine- and public gardens, as well as a Botanical Garden that is not to be sniffed at. We spent a weekend there for the ‘Portes Ouvertes’ weekend, during which all sort of interesting and normally closed, public buildings as well as special events celebrate the beauty and history of Bordeaux. Actually, weekends like this open up the whole of France, every town will be doing something special and will have an air of festivity about it.
The city centre is mediaeval in origin at its core, with the eighteenth and nineteenth century town spilling outwards from it. Although not replete with green spaces in the very centre, there were numerous examples of planting enlivening buildings.
The Jardin Publique has an important civic pedigree for France. Opened in 1746, it was the first public garden expressly conceived and designed as a public space. Its designer, Anges Jacques Gabriel, created a ‘Le Notre’ inspired design for the space, with grandeur and perspective in mind, perhaps wishing to create for the citizens of Bordeaux the kind of space normally reserved for royalty or the ennobled families of France.
At the perimeter of the eighteenth century garden, eight years before the Revolution, two grand residences were built for the two of the most powerful men in Bordeaux, Jean Valleton de Boissière and Nicolas de Lisleferme. Separated by a grand, central staircase, these residences are now modified and restored, and will form the anticipated Museum of Natural History at the centre of the modern garden.
Meantime, back in the main garden, the garden was revamped in 1858 a la Anglaise by L.B. Fischer- and that style prevails, with wide promenading pathways, wide planting beds, a lake constructed in 1856 to also provide a sinuous waterway through part of the garden and many gracious statues and points of view. But for all that history, I found much of the planting to be fresh and a little quirky, with some surprising combinations and unusual plants. People were out in force on a sunny day enjoying the space and the greenness.
Below, a good mix of pink dahlia, white single dahlia, panicum virgatum and convolulus cneorum make an airy, heat-proof mix. The gardens looked in really good shape with planting that had withstood one of our driest summers with ease.
Standing back from that border, when seen with the crowning backdrop of mature conifers and broadleaf trees and the edges of the 1856 lake, you can see that the planting can handle the scale of the backdrop thanks to the bright-green banana and the floating height of one of my favourites, Eupatorium capillifolium ‘Elegant Feather (or Plume)’.
Never dealt with cleomes, but if this is one, then yes, it’s on the list…