Marais garden, Paris

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The “hidden garden” of  the Musée des Archives Nationale in early September.

A quiet place to retreat to while exploring the popular Marais section of Paris.

I particularly liked the row of wire grid columns just inside the entrance from Rue des Quatre-Fils.  They enclosed upright pyracantha bushes and were underplanted with fountain grass.

And in Lyon

During three days in Lyon, France, last month, we also found some wonderful pollarded London plane trees in the old city areas of Vieux Lyon and Presqu’île.

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Pollarded trees in Brussels

An advantage of visiting Brussels in the final days of winter is being able to see the bare knobby limbs and whippy branches of the city’s many pollarded trees.  They “can look weird,” wrote Landscape Designer Clive West in The Guardian at this link.  But, like him, I am fascinated by the particular aesthetic of their gnarly forms — ancient and modern at the same time.

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Where happiness dwells. . .

The courtyard.  The original linden trees were imported from Europe when the house was built.

I love to see rows of  pollarded trees in French squares and courtyards. The quality of light and shade they produce, the formal rhythm of their trunks, and the sculptural qualities of their branches and old “knuckles” have a timeless beauty for me.

Pollarded trees aren’t common in the United States, so I was surprised and delighted when I walked into the lovely, serene courtyard of Meridian House on Friday morning.

Meridian House in Northwest D.C. (just a stone’s throw from Meridian Hill Park on 16th Street) is home to the Meridian International Center.  Since 1960, the Center’s mission has been to advance American public and cultural diplomacy efforts.  It manages international visitor exchanges, holds cultural exhibitions, and hosts conferences and seminars.

I was able to see it — and the garden — last week, when I attended a seminar on Rwanda.

The house, built in 1920 as the home of diplomat Irwin Boyle Laughlin, was designed by architect John Russell Pope, who also designed the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery, and the National Archives.  The style of the house, both inside and out, is neoclassical and French.

The front of the house. The inscription over the door reads “Quo habitas felicitas nil intreat mali” —  “Where happiness dwells, evil will not enter.”

The rectangular courtyard just outside the house’s reception rooms is paved in pea gravel and canopied by 40 pollarded linden trees, which were imported from Europe when the house was built (more links on pollarding are here and here and here).

The side garden has a large lawn and planting beds bordered in pink and white impatiens.  The design of both areas is largely original to the house.

The courtyard in early morning.  Click on the photos to enlarge them. 
Young trees the size of poles have been planted to replace the old.
The umbrella-like canopy of the pollarded linden trees.
The old “knuckles” of the trees.
On the south side of the house, the inscription reads, “Purior hic aer: late hinc conspectus in urbem” — “Purer here the air whence we overlook the city.”
Moving from the courtyard to the side garden.
Looking to the right.
An old oak in the center of the lawn.  Its roots are protruding into the grass.
Looking up into the oak.
Looking to the south.
The statues throughout the garden are original to the house.
Several limbed-up fig trees in the southwest corner.
The staff have planted some vegetables around the greenhouse on the south side.
A walkway along the west perimeter of the garden.  
Leaving the house at 1630 Crescent Place.

Not surprisingly, Meridian House is one of the outstanding wedding venues of Washington, D.C.

To see more photos of the courtyard and garden, click on “Continue reading” below and click on the thumbnails in the gallery to enlarge them.

Continue reading “Where happiness dwells. . .”