Bordeaux botanics


Asclepias curassavica, Bordeaux Botanical Garden, September 2016

The rain is pouring down, and so the mind turns to drier delights experienced in the last few months.  We had a fabulous introduction to Bordeaux courtesy of a weekend visit guided by our friends, Hyacinthe and Martine.  Knowing that there would be no stopping me if a garden was in the offing, we spent an hour or so in the original Botanical Garden, tucked away near the Jardin Public.  Sometimes, botanical gardens can be amazingly dull- it seems to me as if the science impedes the space working as a pleasure for the visitor.  Bu this small garden was a delightful, human-scale, slightly topsy-turvy mix of some very lovely plants- and so it felt personal and inviting.  Here are some of the plants that caught my eye.

Asclepias or Milkweed has not worked for me, but I have tried.  Their main claim to fame is their attractiveness to the monarch butterfly, native but under threat in the US.  The eggs are laid in the milkweed foliage, and so the plant is a vital part of the survival of this butterfly.  But, there is a flambuoyance about Asclepias that I really enjoy.  The orangey-red hooded flowers are really eye-catching, although, to be honest, the foliage is nothing much to write home about.


Asparagus broussonnettii, Bordeaux Botanical Garden, September 2016

This plant is a complete mystery. I have been able to find almost nothing about it, except that it features in the index of ‘Le Bon Jardinier’ the Almanach for 1856, written by Vilmorin amongst others and published in Paris.  This journal appeared annually from 1755 until 1962.  Versions have since been published but it is no longer the French encyclopedia of choice for the serious gardener.

The photograph doesn’t really capture what drew my eye.  I think it was the myriad stems and fine needle-like leaves together with the small bobbles of flower buds, it looked like a friendly barbed wire in its tangle and complexity.


Erythrina crista-galli, Bordeaux Botanical Garden, September 2016

This Erythrina crista-galli, on the other hand, is a real head-turner. For something so exotic and tropical looking, it amazes me that it is as hardy as it is.  Root-hardy down to 14F, which is pretty Arctic by our standards.  The flowers are produced on this years wood, and hang in very fetching bunches and swags.  Very Carmen Miranda.

Here is a cousin, Erythrina falcata, seen a little further along the path.  This makes a much bigger tree in California, up to 50 feet, but again is surprisingly tough.  Though maybe not when you consider it grows at 6000 feet in Bolivia. I would go for one of these for definite if our frosts were lighter than they can be.  Stunning.


Erythrina falcata, Bordeaux Botanical Garden, September 2016

This member of the climbing pea family, Pueraria lobata var montana is a giant of a plant. Daily growth can be more than 30 cms- see what I mean!  So, although the flowerspikes are very attractive, hence the photograph, this plant is a big beast and a serious pest in parts of the Ukraine, South Africa and the US.  Best not.


Pueraria lobata var.montana, Bordeaux Botanical Garden, September 2016

Lastly, a great survivor.  Though to be honest, it is pretty hard to get rid of wisteria once you have it.  This wisteria was planted sometime in the 1860’s and makes a fabulous flowering tunnel in Spring outside the original building of the Historical Archives in the old city.   Unfortunately, the courtyard wasn’t open to visit when we passed (shame!) so I take it on trust.


Ancient wisteria sinensis, Hôtel du Ragueneau, Bordeaux, September 2016

Next time we go, we must visit the other Botanical Garden on the modern site, Jardin Botanique de Bordeaux Bastide….there will be a next time.



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