Alison Jane Harley

- botanical and floral artist -

TWELVE HUNDRED Varieties

This was the ‘Week-end de la rose’ at the parc de Bagatelle which promised to be quite spectacular both bloom and weather wise. To avoid the crowds though, we visited the day before it opened It was the right decision, it was blissfully quiet and peaceful and the sky was overcast enough to dim the scorching sun and take some heat out of the air. It was so tranquil, only the exuberant call of the peacocks hit the airways as they strutted their glorious stuff on the catwalk.

Peacock’s shimmering fan display to the peahens

There are apparently 1200 varieties of roses in this garden (not that I was counting), They were delightful as always and lots still to bloom, due possibly, to the unusual lack of sunshine in May so it will be worth another visit in a couple of weeks. The perfume from the damask roses was exquisite and reminiscent of childhood summers taking petals from cherished roses after the rain and creating a scent worthy of the great perfumeries around Grasse in the south of France. Not that I knew anything of great perfumeries – I was only five-ish – but I had it on good authority (from my mother) that I had made something very special from these drooping, mushy petals.

The Rose Garden

There were climbing roses, standard roses, rose bushes of every imaginable colour. One rose smelled of Turkish delight, my all time favourite sweet, whether dusted in sugar, coated in chocolate or flavoured ice-cream. Although not edible, this rose is just simply… delightful. In my haste for a lungful of its delicious smell I came the closest ever to inhaling both a bee and a hornet in one full sniff. That did bring me back down to earth but I’m still dreaming about this beautiful specimen and wondering at what stage my garden became so full that it just cannot accommodate one more modest sized little treasure. It really can’t.

a few of many in the iris garden

After our fix of roses we wandered round the rest of the beautiful park and enjoyed the iris garden, the country garden and the wooded area. We watched the antics of a tiny little red squirrel as it shimmied up and round the trunk of a tree only to pause several times to peek round as if coyly playing with us – it was so pretty and quite happy to be admired …keeping its distance of course – unlike the pretentiously, posturing peacocks.

bald cypress tree knees (Taxodium distichum)

At the edge of the herb garden, planted just above a large pond we came across what looked like triffids or some prehistoric fairy ring coming up through the ground. The ‘growths’ varied in size from centrmetres to around 1 metre and really grabbed our imagination. They turned out to be nodules (root knees) from the nearby cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) which had its roots almost in the water. Apparently the tree is a haven for wildlife and ground nesting birds like ducks.

Red squirrel at Parc Bagatelle

So the Parc Bagatelle is not just coming up roses … there is always something new to be learned.

… always work to do at the Parc Bagatelle

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