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On the Street: 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Paris


On the Street: 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Paris

July 26, 2016

Paris is a city of secret gardens. Turn a corner, duck into a doorway, or climb a winding staircase to find tiny parks, quirky courtyards, and hidden slivers of greenery. (And at day’s end, in the last hour of sunlight even the grandest public gardens feel as if they belong to you alone.)

Wandering the streets and gardens of Paris a few weeks ago, I found 10 garden ideas to steal:

Photography by Michelle Slatalla.

The Layered Look


Above: A small courtyard garden in the Marais takes advantage of all available growing space—including the walls. A layer of creeping vines acts as a living trellis for roses to climb.

Hidden Hardscape

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Above: Engulfing a garden shed, roses and ivies create a curtain of greenery to keep the focus on the plants. Dark gray paint on the shed door helps it blend into the surroundings.

Camouflage for Cans


Above: Tucked into a nook between a staircase and a retaining wall, garbage cans hidden beneath a simple roof in an open-air enclosure.

Windowsill Gardens


Above: In a city, a windowsill can double as a garden plot. A deep sill accommodates small pots and planters.

Mix-and-Match Roses


Above: You can mix colors and heights of roses easily because the uniform shape of rose leaves and petals will tie the look together. Plant them close together for a rose hedge. And remember: choosing roses for their scent is as least as important as choosing them for color.

Black-and-White Palette


Above: Thirty years ago, abstract artist Daniel Buren created an art installation of 252 black-and-white marble and concrete columns in the courtyard at the Palais Royal. The columns, designed to match striped awnings on the palace windows, hide  hide ventilation shafts in the former parking lot and look as shockingly modern today as three decades ago when protesters got a stop-work order to temporarily delay the installation.

Gravel Paths


Above: Beneath an allée of trees in the garden behind the Musée Rodin a gray gravel path feels soft underfoot. Permeable paving such as gravel prevents runoff.

Fake Plants


Above: It is impossible to escape Versailles. Even if you don’t make a trip to see the gardens in person, all over Paris you’ll see reminders of the formal designs that landscape architect André Le Nôtre created for Louis XIV. In a nod to tradition, tightly clipped topiaries flank entryways and shop doors. But in a modern update, those boxwood balls are often plastic. Faux plants don’t need water, sunlight, or shaping.

Wild Gardens


Above: Soften the architecture of a formal facade with unruliness. Allow the shapes of shrubs and trees to look a little overgrown to create mystery in the distance.



Above: In the Tuileries, the geometry of clipped hedges and twin shrubbery circles is undercut by unruly flower borders and waves of lavender.

For more inspiration, see 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from France.

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