Out of all Paris gardens,  which number in the hundreds, there is an exceptional one that deserves attention, for it is not as known or as accessible as the others, such as the more famous Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens. It is one of the 4 floral parks of Paris, and is hidden within the Bois de Boulogne. I am speaking of the Bagatelle Gardens.

Its park and chateau, a surface of roughly 62 acres, was built in only 64 days, after a bet between Marie Antoinette and the Count of Artois, her brother in law. He had bought the site, which contained a ruin. She bet 100 000 pounds that he could not replace it with a completed chateau by the time she returned from a journey, 2 months later, nor would it be ready for a reception intended for her at that time. The count won the bet by hiring 900 people to work on it for 2 months, and he completed it after considerable effort and hard work.

The building is emblazoned with the words ‘Parva Sed Apta,’ Latin for ‘small but convenient.’ The gardens came to life after the completion of the small chateau. It was an era of frivolous and exuberant creation, meant to convey a dreaminess away from the world, and influenced by Enlightenment ideas and philosophies: Rousseau’s “State of Nature”, and Voltaire’s “One must grow one’s garden”. It was also a time of influence from eastern cultures, following a period of expeditions and explorations of new and exotic lands. These are manifested in the form small bridges, pagodas, gazebos, picturesque scenery with ponds, grottoes, and side paths leading to hidden secret spaces. Most of all, there is an amazing display of flowers, with blooms that are unique to each season, and many, many magnificent trees.

The Bagatelle Gardens are of an Anglo Chinese style, but it also contains a French Garden in which there is an astonishing rose garden. In June, it hosts one of the major international rose competitions, with more than  1500 different types of roses competing, held there since 1907. Side gardens also shelter many Irises in April and May. At other times, throughout the park, carpets of snow drops, crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and azaleas surround you. Throughout you perceive dominant English lawns of epic sizes, in which peacocks are masters of ceremonies, and they set the pace with their chants. You will also find geese, ducks, some swans, and a rather vast quantity of cats, all moving freely. Wild pheasants are also sometimes  seen.

The rose garden during the season

The small chateau is itself in the tradition of follies, structures designed for decorational purposes, which was a fashion of the aristocracy at the end of the Ancien Regime, in the late 18th century. The place emanates a magic aura, including the trees which are extremely diversified: with black pine, weeping japanese sophora, all sorts of sycamores, gingko, monkey trees, sequoia, oak, beech, hornbeam, and walnut trees, among many others. The weeping and purple beech trees beyond the pond behind the Bagatelle chateau are my favorite.

The small palace of Bagatelle seen from the pond

Do not forget to have a look at the fruit and vegetable gardens in the small side gardens located between the orangery and the restaurant of the park. They are as interesting as the flowers, and confirm the talent of the gardeners of the park.

The park is open every day. An admission ticket of 2,5 euros is asked to enter, 5,50 euros during events. A bargain.

D.A.