Dans le Jardin Botanique de Bordeaux
There you go, a title in French. Pretentious? Moi? Now, if your French extends to giggling like a child every time you hear someone say ‘Oui’, or shouting ‘Gargon’ at waiters just to piss them off, I’ll explain the title. A Jardin is a big jar of artificial body parts, and a Botanique is a vat of custard. Okay? Right, allow the rest of us to move on.
Now, I haven’t visited a lot of Botanical Gardens. That might shock a few of you, but it’s true. I have been to a lot of kitchen gardens, herb farms, allotments and even orchards, but only two proper Botanical Gardens. Well, three now! So, why is it that I’m not too keen on these places? Well, it’s that in my mind they tend to teeter between being so educational they’re dull, and so new-age self-righteous bastarding pompous that I just want to shout obscenities at the weirdy beardy freaks that work there (well, those that volunteer and then act like they’ve done Mother Nature some great service).
The two I had previously visited were Kew Gardens in London, and the Botanical Garden in Kandy, Sri Lanka. At Kew I was more impressed by the hothouses than anything they contained, and in Kandy they had some funky trees. However, they weren’t ‘must visit’ places, more somewhere to idle away a few hours.
I nearly forgot; I went to the Eden Project just after it had opened. We paid full price, queued to get in, and then found out that they’d planted next to fuck all. What had been planted was at the seedling stage. The external areas were mud banks littered with diggers. It was, quite frankly, shit.
Therefore, when I found myself aboard an the A Tram heading to Jardin Botanique de Bordeaux – the Botanical Gardens of Bordeaux – I didn’t expect much. In fact, I was prepared for some utter dullness as the bad translation I had read wittered on about ‘modern life in a juxtaposition with plants and trees’.
All I can say is this: much as the French annoy me, they’ve got something right. This is a Botanical Gardens that actually offers more to those that want to experience botany than want to learn about it or show off to their friends how many Latin names they can spew out.
There are five main areas, all of which are free to visit. There is a public growing space, filled with little beds where the public grow things. This is edged by an urban garden. Next you head inside to a hot house (it’s closed on Mondays – the hot house, not the rest of the gardens; I learned this because I went on a Monday, and then went back on the Tuesday to see the bit I missed), built in a modern style, with displays of cacti and palms and other exotics from around the globe, including a close-up and personal section of carnivorous specimens. Even the looped soundtrack playing in the tree-tops makes you feel involved in the surrounding plants and trees, rather than looking at some dull exhibition planting.
After this, you head back outside for three large open spaces. The first looks at plants in everyday life. The exhibits are varied, from tomatoes to roses, with artichokes, onions and herbs included. The beds are varied, one had roses side by side with globe artichokes and onions.There are shrubs interspersed with lettuces and squash. Some are cropped, but others are allowed to flower and go to seed, thus self-seeding and creating impressive and interesting displays.
The second open area is an interesting walk around ‘islands’ which rise out of the ground, towering above you, containing the varied environments of Aquitaine, and the vegetation commonly found on them.
The final open area is a water space, with rock areas and some fantastic lily ‘pens’ at one end. It even has a resident stork/heron bird thing with a pointy beak, loads of fish, more frogs than the nearby town centre, and a sole duck. I bet his mate ended up in a confit!
The best bit of all, the real star of the show, was the way they water the beds. It’s so good, I’m going to write about it separately, and I’m going to attempt to replicate it next year on my allotment. I’m currently scouring Fleabay for bits!
I must admit that for a Botanical Garden, I really enjoyed it. It was like being on an interesting allotment, but without having to do any work. If you find yourself in Bordeaux, go. That’s all.
Tagged Botanical Gardens