In the previous Invisible Bordeaux item , we explored the compact botanic gardens which have been located in the grounds of the Jardin Pu...

The botanic gardens of Bordeaux 2/2: the Right Bank gardens

In the previous Invisible Bordeaux item, we explored the compact botanic gardens which have been located in the grounds of the Jardin Public since the 19th century. This time we are in the Bastide quarter on the Right Bank of the Garonne to visit the bigger, more ambitious and, yes, slightly crazier botanic gardens which were first opened in 2003.

Built to the designs of landscape gardener Catherine Mosbach and architect Françoise-Hélène Jourda, the 4-hectare gardens (that's 9 acres or 6 football pitches) are made up of a succession of distinct zones, taking visitors through a wide variety of scenery, greenery and ambiences.

Perhaps the best place to start is in the building which the official literature calls “The Botanic City”. This is essentially an enormous eco-friendly greenhouse where a Mediterranean climate is steadily maintained day in, day out. Shrubs, plants, palms, cacti and fruit-trees from Mediterranean and Australasian climes (all requiring little water) can be viewed at close quarters... while my favourite features are the giant magnifying glasses (such as the one pictured at the top of the article) which enable visitors to have a particularly close look at flowers and some scary carnivorous plants which you feel might snap your finger off if given the chance.

Other parts of the building host temporary exhibitions, while a permanent exhibit showcases the history of the classification of plants, going way back as far as the foundations of binomial nomenclature laid in the 18th century by the Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist Carl Linnaeus, regarded as the father of modern taxonomy and one of the initiators of modern ecology.

Once back outside, there is a 600-metre stretch of diverse landscapes to take in, starting with the “Shared Garden” where experimental techniques are tested by amateur gardeners and professional horticulturalists. Then it’s on to the “Cultivated Garden”, which combines diverse types of plants and flowers in such a way as to (again, according to the literature) “introduce visitors to the concept of ethno-botany”. Whatever, with plenty of sunflowers, tomato plants and colourful wildflowers to admire, it’s all very pretty…

Elsewhere, the “Vertical Garden” comprises a wide range of creepers which each have their own way of ascending towards the sun. Some of the climbing plants have their own metal frames to aid development while others utilise the garden’s perimeter fence, which is entirely made of wood recovered from the Charente region after the devastating storm of December 1999.

Deeper into the park and we reach the “Gallery of Eco-Systems” which reconstructs eleven natural landscapes of the Aquitaine Basin. The footpath which runs through the middle represents the Garonne with sections on either side reminiscent respectively of left-bank and right-bank scenery.

At the end of the pathway is an extensive water feature, the “Aquatic Garden” which, aptly enough, comprises different types of aquatic plants ranging from species which are medicinal to others which are fragrant or simply decorative. Of course, there are plenty of fish to spot in the pond… although there may have been one or two less by the time the heron pictured below had flown away.

On a day as hot as it was when Invisible Bordeaux was last there, the penultimate stop had to be for drinks at the rock-like restaurant-bar located in the gardens, Le Caillou, which has even branched out into becoming a music venue, putting on a series of jazz concerts over the summer. From there, the final salute was for the bust of Carl Linnaeus himself, the work of the talented Bordeaux-born, Madrid-based sculptor Lucie Geffré… who kindly agreed to answer some questions about the statue. You can read the interview by clicking here! 

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