The Jardin des Plantes

“Her Highness”, the Giraffe given to Charles X by the Viceroy of Egypt, by Nicolas Huet the Younger (1827)

I looked in the last post at the early history of Paris’s principal botanic garden, the former royal garden or the Jardin du Roi. Today’s is about what happened there between the French Revolution and today.

It’s a good story involving the first giraffe in France which became an instant celebrity and fashion icon, as well as some pioneering architecture, and shows how post-Revolution science in all its branches, including botany and horticulture became central to French culture.

This was summed up by Joseph Lakanal,  during a debate in the revolutionary National Convention  in 1793, who asked if “the Tree of Liberty is the only one not to be naturalised at the Jardin des Plantes” before going on to  declare that “of all the monuments raised by the munificence of nations to the glory of natural science, none has deserved the attention of legislators better than the Jardin des Plantes”.

And  don’t forget if you’re self-isolating you dont have to wait for  Saturday mornings  to read something new about garden history. There are another 322 posts covering all sorts of  topics  for you to read over breakfast  [or at any other time!] just check out what’s available under Topics on the top menu bar – or take pot luck and choose a month from the archive column on the right and see what pops up!

The menagerie and natural history cabinet

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The Jardin du Roi

I was supposed to be researching something serious the other day, when, as so often, I saw something much more interesting and decided to follow that lead instead. It was an image of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris that had been painted at the very  height of  the French Revolution.  You might have expected it to be a scan of chaos and destruction but far from it. Instead it was a scene of tranquility and calm, with apparently well cared for gardens and garden buildings.

A bit more investigation revealed that far from damaging the former royal gardens the revolutionaries recognised their importance and made them a key part of their programme for cultural and scientific advance…and there wasn’t just one but a whole series of paintings which show the gardens in great detail.  So I decided to investigate the story behind them and the gardens…


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The Daffodil King of Tooting

Inspiration for this week’s post came from daydreaming & looking out of the window and noticing some daffodils coming into flower.  I  remembered that ages ago I wrote a couple of posts about their  history:  The Daffodil most dainty and their use in decoration: The Daffodil most dainty2

So I reread them and saw  that I’d  mentioned Peter Barr a  Victorian nurseryman  who I’d said  was “the unsung daffodil hero” and “who deserves an article of his own”  A bit more research led me to a very lively local history blog and then I finally got down to writing about Barr.  It’s only taken 5 years but here it is!


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It’s not just children who love dinosaurs, everybody seems to, and that includes Historic England  who have just put several of them on the 2020 Heritage At Risk  Register. And no… that’s not because our leading heritage body is about 65 million years too late, but because a group of slightly more recent ones in a London park are falling to bits and are in danger of becoming as extinct as their ancestors.

If you’re confused about how  and why these “antediluvian monsters” got  there in the first place  and  how they became, and indeed still are, one of the city’s most popular attractions then you might be surprised by their story,

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The Pagoda at Chanteloup

If I asked you to think of a pagoda in  a European garden I suspect your automatic reaction would be to think of the one at Kew. But there is another, perhaps inspired by it, in an imposing position in the Loire Valley near Amboise.

It’s virtually all that remains of the great palace of Chanteloup, home to Louis XV’s prime minister, the Duc de Choiseul, who fell from grace in 1770. While the palace was destroyed like so many others in the aftermath of the French Revolution, the pagoda remains standing on the highest point of the estate. Although not for the faint hearted it can still be climbed and gives fantastic views over the surrounding countryside.

The pagoda overlooks a large formal semi-circular lake and [now dry] canal which was once part of the 8000 acres of the original park and formal gardens, and nearby are two pavilions,  with another lodge remaining nearer the town.


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