On the western edge of Paris, the Parc de Bagatelle includes a variety of beautiful gardens — including a gorgeous rose garden — perfect for wandering.
Inspired by images of Parc Bagatelle
The wife of a professor of mine is a professional photographer who creates dreamy images of the great American and European gardens. One of Lynn Geesaman’s photographs — of spring flowers below budding trees in the Bagatelle — hangs in my home office.
It wasn’t until I started planning a trip to Paris that I realized the Bagatelle is located in Paris. I could go there myself!
Of course, a little more research led me to realize that the Parc de Bagatelle isn’t exactly convenient to get to without a car. The descriptions of the park in travel guide sounded wonderful, but no one I knew had ever heard of it, let alone been there. Would a visit be worth the time and effort required?
I pondered this for some time, until a friend told me he knew Eric of the [wonderful, but no longer updated] photo blog, Paris Daily Photo. Seeking an unbiased opinion of where I should spend my precious time in Paris, I wrote Eric, telling him that I love gardens and wanted to know what one garden might be “particularly inviting” in late May and early June.
What I would recommend without any doubt is Le jardin de Bagatelle.
Wandering in the beautiful gardens of the Bagatelle
As I alluded to, the Parc de Bagatelle is not particularly easy to get to without a car.
But it happens to be very near the Marmottan Monet Museum, another off-the-beaten path gem on our itinerary. And the Marmottan Monet is easy enough to reach by transit.
So, after a lovely morning of medieval illustrations (a special exhibit) and a gallery filled with Monet’s waterlilies and more, it was time to grab a taxi and head to the gardens.
After a confusing ride through the park, our cab driver stopped at an intersection and asked which entrance we wanted. Unfortunately, “the one nearest the kimono show” (something else Eric alerted us to) didn’t seem to mean much to him. He told us we are near the second entrance – it is just a short walk – and dropped us off right there. (I think he had somewhere else he wanted to be.)
I’m sure there are gardens here somewhere
Now we are somewhere within the vast expanse of the Bois de Boulogne, in which the Parc Bagatelle is located. Unfortunately, [as this is was in the days before smart phones with Google maps], we aren’t sure exactly where the Bagatelle is. Or, for that matter, where we are at the moment.
We choose a likely direction, circle part way around a large pond filled with wild yellow water lilies, and hike through grassy field back to and across the road.
There seems to be a trail through the woods going in what we guess to be the right direction.
We take it.
It is a hot day and neither of us are particularly appropriately dressed for a long hike. I’m envious of the bikers that whiz past us.
It is a relief to see the park entrance finally come into sight.
Despite the grand entry, they don’t have a map of the park for us.
We are still lost.
Paths lead off in all directions.
Secluded paths and shrieking peacocks
With no idea where the gardens are located, we simply choose a path and start walking.
It leads us through woodland and open fields, a few carefully landscaped ponds scattered about.
It is pleasant and quiet. . . . well, mostly quiet, as the shrieking of peacocks regularly shatters the peace.
There are peacocks everywhere, but they are impossible to approach. Even the children trying to entice them with food are given the evil eye, leaving the proffered treats to the flocks of pigeons that huddle close by anyone who might have food.
Eventually we find the main entrance to the park. We also notice signs directing us to a kimono show Eric had mentioned. Since the mid-day sun is hot and harsh (not at all conducive to good garden photography), we start with the kimono show.
Anyway, back outside, the sun is still intense and we still don’t have a decent map. However, there is a well-developed path system, so we follow it past a colorful boarder garden to a large, lushly landscaped pond.
A bend in the trail leads to an open field with scattered beds of roses, lovely vistas, and a few more shrieking peacocks.
Some time later the sun vanishes behind a bank of heavy gray clouds. The light flat and even – perfect for photographing plants!
I linger ridiculously long (too long) in each.
Of course, the peacocks make sure no one becomes so entranced by the plants that they are forgotten.
Being lost isn’t so bad now, but the path does eventually lead us back to the main entrance.
But I don’t think I have found the roses Eric told me about – there have to be more of them!
Time to ask for directions.
The security guards I approach are friendly and helpful, eager to show-off their park. My request for a map yields not only the map, but a rave review of the park’s key attractions of the moment (the iris and rose gardens are at their peak) and directions for reaching them via the formal presentation gardens.
A glorious presentation garden
Following that recommendation, we enter the presentation gardens. There are lots of other people here, but the gardens are absolutely gorgeous!
A lovely kitchen garden
A small house sits amid the gardens. I wonder if it is the gardener’s cottage or a guest house. It turns out it is indeed the gardener’s house. It’s vacant today, but this is where the head of gardens for Paris lived after the gardens were acquired by the city in 1905.
Behind it, a formal kitchen garden overflows with flowers for cutting, vegetables, and espaliered fruit trees.
My vegetable garden never looked this good!
The iris garden in full bloom
At last we reach the iris garden.
The security guards were correct. The irises are at their peak and the gardens filled with color.
The sky has become increasingly dark – we’d better find the roses before it rains.
Raindrops on roses
At last, we find the rose garden.
And what a rose garden it is! It is an amazing fairy-tale garden, with stark metal trellises and sharply pruned greenery that serve as perfect foils for the rather unruly clumps of bright roses.
This beautifully designed Paris rose garden must be one of the finest in the world. It’s certainly the most alluring I have found!
We wait under a tree while the rain falls.
Dark skies indicate there is more rain to come, so it is time for our day here to come to an end.
Plan a visit to the Parc Bagatelle