Parc de Bercy – Les Parterres

The Parc de Bercy was created on the site of the old wine warehouses of Paris and was once known as the world’s biggest cellar. Wine was brought up the river Seine on barges to be traded and sold around the world.  It was also the site of many ‘guinguettes’, bars on the banks of the Seine, where the wine ran freely and Parisians came to enjoy a party in summer.  Better transport links meant that the warehouses fell into disuse and so in the 1990’s the area was transformed into a public park.  Today’s Parisians still flock here, especially on sunny weekends, to enjoy the ancient plane trees, flowers and fruit.

The central part of the Parc de Bercy, between the rue Joseph Kessel and the Cinémathèque Français, is called “Les Parterres”.  Coming over the pedestrian bridges from the eastern “Jardin Romantique” we descend into an open, more formal space.  The theme of this part of the park is cultivation for human enjoyment – of flowers, fruit and vegetables.  It includes a formal parterre (or knot garden), a potager, a vineyard and an orchard.

Passerelle 3Looking back from the bridge to “Le Jardin Romantique”.

Passerelle 2The steep pedestrian bridges take the visitor over the rue Joseph Kessel below.

PasserelleDescending the other side of the bridge into the “Le Parterres” section of the park.

Tree in pathLooking back towards the bridge.  Here the new tiled path crosses the old cobbled street.  The designer deliberately left the old plane tree to grow in the path and the strong geometry of the new paths within the park is maintained. (See last weeks post for my comments on the park structure).  I am told that the mature plane trees in the slope had earth mounded around their trunks to create this bank – something that Landscape Architects are told never to do.  However, they seem to have survived.

FernsEvergreen ferns bring a wild charm to this coppiced area – they are possibly Phyllitis scolopendrium (Hart’s tongue fern).

ParterreThe formal parterre is reminiscent of formal French gardens with low box hedges and topiary.  You can see the interesting way the levels change in the park.  The lower level is that of the old wine warehouses and the upper levels show where the paths of the new park have been superimposed.  This happens throughout the park, but here it brings an added dimension, that of an Italian sunken garden.

Wooden benchesThese beautiful benches are probably custom-made.  It’s great to find good design and quality materials in a public park.  So often metal anti-vandal benches are used which are too hot to sit on in summer and too cold in winter.  A wooden bench is both a pleasure look at and to use.

East west axisThe different axes of the park are shown by the colour of the granite strip in the paths.  The pink granite strip runs from east to west and the blue granite from north to south.

Ice houseThe ice house is a folly built for the park in the 1990’s.

Maison du jardinageThe lovely old building of the Maison du Jardinage was formerly the old tax office where merchants paid the duty on their wine.  Today the building houses a reference library dedicated to gardening and horticulture, hosts gardening courses for children and adults and provides a centre of exchange for allotment gardeners in Paris.

Chalkboard Maison du Jardinage

Tax officeThe old rails for transporting wine barrels run in front of the Maison du Jardinage.

VignesThe vineyard reminds the visitor of the origins of the park.  This chimney folly is a new addition that hint at its industrial heritage.  I like the way the form of the chimney is mirrored in the form and colour of the fastigiate hornbeam trees beyond.

PergolaThe last golden leaves of a Parotia persica frame la Maison du Jardinage and a huge wooden structure supporting vines.

Pots potagerThe entrance to the Jardin Potager.

PotagerTraditional brick paths and box hedges divide up the potager cultivated by local residents and schools.

Potager 2……..

butterfly bug hotelThe black painted shed sets off this imaginatively designed insect refuge.

This picture is taken from the gate into the third section of the park, “La Grande Prairie”,  the subject of my next post.  I think the beautiful clear yellow leaf on the small tree is that of Acer monspessulanum also known as the Montpelier Maple.  It has a very pretty small leaf as you can see below.

Leaves and feet

To be continued…..

Practical Information

The Parc de Bercy can be reached on the driver-less and super-speedy metro line 14.  The Bercy Village metro stop is Cour Saint Emillion.  You can also walk through from the other end of the park from the metro stop Bercy on the same line.   For a bit of extra sight-seeing, the other option is to walk over the pedestrian passerelle de Simone de Beauvoir from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

The Maison du Jardinage reference library is open to all.  Gardening courses for adults and children are run from June to October by the horticultural school of Breuil.

The Bercy Village shops are open 7 days a week including Sundays!  Monoprix is a good spot to pick up a picnic.  There are a lot of cafés, bars and restaurants here too.



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