The château at the Parc de Bagatelle, in the Bois de Boulogne, where the annual Concours de Roses takes place. Photo by Patrick Giraud.
How well do Parisians love their flowers? Let us count the ways. . . . From the humblest window box to the grandest garden (not forgetting the luscious offerings presented by every florist), flowers help the city define its seasons, and celebrations. Whether you are a gardener or an eco-warrior, or just love flowers, here is a bouquet of Parisian floral favorites.
The Bagatelle Rose Garden is one of the oldest, most beautiful gardens in France. Every year it hosts a public competition to “elect” both the loveliest and most fragrant roses in Paris. Begun in 1907, this competition runs from now until September 26, and anyone can participate. All you have to do is visit the park, inspect the new varieties of rose, then vote for your favorite three. (If your selection happens to match that of the professional jurors, you yourself can be part of next year’s jury.) To vote, simply download a pdf of the entry form and submit it—or fill out one at the park.
The roses in this competition are originals; they cannot be seen (or sold) anywhere else until next year. The flowers are the product of two years’ research, during which three separate juries judged and eliminated many candidates seven times. The final competitors have been picked by international experts, rose breeders and more than 100 “personalities from the world of the rose.”
Created in 1905, the Bagatelle Rose Garden is part of the Parc de Bagatelle, in the Bois de Boulogne. As well as this Concours de Roses, it hosts exhibitions and concerts of classical music—but serious gardeners will know it maintains the French national collection of roses. You’ll see more than 10,000 types from more than 1,200 varieties, presented breathtakingly in all kinds of landscaping. To get there, take the metro to Pont de Neuilly (Line 1), then bus No. 43; or to Porte Maillot (Line 1), then bus No. 244. Entry is 3 euros, or 1.50 euros for guests ages 7 to 26; free to guests under 7.
Photo by Steve Sampson.
If you prefer your flowers between the pages of a book, visit La Maison Rustique, in the chic 6th Arrondissement. A landmark for both gardeners and those who love fine volumes, it also stocks a wide selection of books on interior design as well as many guides (decor specialities include French country interiors). If you really have a green thumb, check out the definitive guides to different genres—from roses to Japanese maples. It’s a perfect spot to look for presents or just browse, with books in English as well as French (and in winter, a cozy retreat).
Maison Deyrolle is another Paris institution, a house of taxidermy and entomology (i.e., filled with magical stuffed animals and mounted butterflies). Established in 1831, this unique “haven for the nature lover” was almost destroyed by fire in 2008. The ex-banker Prince Louis Albert de Broglie had purchased the troubled business seven years before but had no insurance. So the artists and institutions of Paris raced to its aid, forming the Friends of Deyrolle and fund-raising via auctions, exhibits, books and (in the case of Hermès) limited-edition luxuries.
A house of taxidermy and entomology, Maison Deyrolle is an urban haven for nature lovers. Photo by Steve Sampson.
De Broglie, whose Loire château boasts 600 types of tomatoes, is also known as Le Prince Jardinier (The Garden Prince). He gave this name to a line of gardening tools, books, and accessories, all sold in a Le Prince Jardinier shop at Deyrolle. These garden goodies occupy the ground floor; above are rare treats for fans of both flora and fauna. Book after beautiful book (or case) entices, as do Deyrolle’s world-famous planches (wall charts). For a gardener, it’s sheer heaven, and, as with the Parc de Bagatelle, it’s a guaranteed child pleaser.