During the past three and a half weeks, I’ve been to France, Baltimore, and New York without having time or access to my laptop to tell you about my adventures.
We (Niki and I) spent six days (July 13-18) in Provence (more about that in another post) and then five days (July 19-23) in Paris. I had read about the Promenade Planteé, the Paris equivalent of the New York High Line, and was anxious to see it since I’m such an enthusiast of The High Line. The Promenade is much older, dating back to 1994 when a defunct suburban railway was converted to a green corridor, known to the Parisians as the “green stream”.
It is relatively narrow and you only know that you are strolling on a defunct rail bed in a few places where vestiges of the railroad exist. The majority of the plantings are shrubs, roses, and trees, unlike the High Line that is also filled with a multiplicity of perennials and ornamental grasses.
Not far from the entrance at Aveue Daumesnil is a beautiful set of delicate arches that frame the concrete path. Such arches are repeated periodically, offering an interruption from the path that goes on and on. Some of the arches are almost toally hidden by luxuriant wisteria that would have bloomed earlier in the summer. Further along, painted the same turquoise, are trellises beside the path and curved benches. These benches are most welcome because the promenade is quite long. In fact, part way into the Couleé Verte René-Dumont, wilder path for hikers and bikers, there is a marker that demonstrates the length of the Promenade as well as its beginning and ending spots.
Strolling along the Promenade made me more aware of French architecture because, when walking at street level, I often forget to look up. A later portion of the Promenade was bordered on both sides by extensive plantings of bamboo; I almost felt as though I were walking through a jungle, albeit on a hacked out path.
Atypically, about two thirds of the way through, some beds were planted with an annuals mix (Convolvulus, Godetia, Calendula) that was quite lovely. These beds, as well as more arches, appeared before, after, and beside a series of pools. Always the design was quite linear.
At one of the exits, near the Jardin de Reuilly, I was very pleased to see a series of planted terraces that softened what would otherwise have been a high, stark wall beside the stairs. The Reuilly garden had a high raised bed that was quite colorful as well as a resident cat. I was informed by a regular attendee that the cat loved to be petted. Most of the flowers and foliage in this bed were annuals, well chosen for a variety of heights, colors, textures, and forms. The main color scheme appeared to be orange and yellow with purple for contrast.
Just a bit farther into the garden was a small bois (woods), only nine shade trees and benches with a raked gravel floor, quite a contrast to the nearby annuals bed. Parisians spend a lot of time in their parks and shade is greatly prized.
Sadly, much of the Promenade is in dire need of maintenance. I assume that the city parks department, like most others, has had to contend with budget cuts. What the Promenade needs is a coterie of volunteers. Many of the shrubs were in desperate need of pruning although those that were pruned were done so in the typical, formal French style. In other beds, the scale of perennials next to some shrubs was out of whack. Happily, the Promenade was very clean. Trash receptacles were plentiful although ugly.
Although the Promenade is a public park, it is full of ideas that can be used in residential landscapes. Next week, I’ll contrast this public park with my most recent visit to the High Line (Sunday, August 2).