In sharp contrast to the neatly manicured gardens like the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tuileries, 82 gardens in Paris are audited officially for ecological management and allowed to grow more naturally. Under the larger rubric of the Paris Climate Protection and Biodiversity Plan, the city aims to have all of its parks audited for ecological management by an independent body by 2014. The main goals of the ecological management plan are to reduce air and noise pollution, reduce the risk of soil and water pollution, promote diversity of flora and fauna, and conserve non-renewable resources.
One hidden spot that was incorporated into the city’s initiative is Le Jardin Naturel (The Natural Garden), created by local authorities in 1995 to bring nature back into the city. Located near the Père Lachaise Cemetery and the Petite Ceinture (Paris’ abandoned railway), the Jardin Naturel has been allowed to flourish in the wild. Intervention is minimal–while the other gardens are required to reduce chemical treatment, Jardin Naturel uses exclusively organic methods to maintain the natural eco-system.
The garden is just 1.5 acres but is packed with biodiversity. The plants and trees in the garden are native to the Paris region, similar to a more recent city initiative, the Archipel floating barges along the Seine. The wild oaks, maples, ferns and bluebells which used to flourish in metropolitan Paris region have been brought together to create a shady woodland in the heart of the capital. The garden also has a rich variety of fauna, including tadpoles, frogs and hedgehogs.
On entering the garden, follow the undulating path past an overgrown pond, under a shady treetop canopy and into a pungent chamomile-scented prairie. The upper promenade offers panoramic views over the garden, which is dotted with limestone that used to be quarried here in the 19th century.
The Jardin Naturel has become a destination for Parisian eco-tourism among both adults and school children, with an educational kiosk displaying information about the plants. It’s a mini example of biodiversity in an urban context and a refreshing corner of countryside in Paris’ urban fabric. The city is also concurrently promoting community gardens as a means of facilitating relationships among key institutions and residents within neighborhoods.