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The Garden of Plants of Niort budding at the arrival of spring

Nature Frédéric - assistant base de données et TIC By Frédéric - assistant base de données et TIC, the 15 March 2019

The spring is officially announced on Wednesday, March 20th. But, the month of February has already celebrated it with fanfare! The new season has taken hold and the Jardin des Plantes de Niort is starting to blossom.
Let's take a moment to explore its winding paths and take a closer look at the history of this garden bordered by the Coulée Verte and part of the project to create the Sèvre Niortaise urban natural park. 

Originally, this terraced garden is established on the old hillside of the Bigotterie which belongs to the sixteenth century to Jacques Yver, lord of the Bigotterie and Plaisance, poet and author of "Printemps" in 1572. 

In the 1770s, the mayor Matthieu Rouget of Gourcez has built by his charity shops* the wall** that supports the terrace, thus creating "the promenade Saint-Gelais", wide avenue along the school of cavalry (current center Duguesclin). This popular place to stroll in the Niortais, lined with two rows of trees starting from Strasbourg to finish at the belvedere, was removed in 1793 by General Macors. Today remains only the shaded terrace overlooking the Sèvre Niortaise.
In 1783, year of the Treaty of Versailles consecrating the victory of Lafayette alongside the insurgents of America, a hot air balloon is launched from the esplanade by students of the Oratory***.
*Free work establishments for the workers whom moments of crisis or misery leave temporarily without resources; here, in this case unemployed chamoiseurs.
**This large wall, measuring 200 m. long, 5 high and whose creation date "1772" is inscribed in the stone, receives the name "Malgagne", because it was long to raise due to poor supervision of the work and slow work of the many workers.
***Which precedes the Fontanes College.

The city acquires in 1847 the domain to destine it to the inhabitants of this distant district of the garden of Brèche by planting on 3.4 hectares of the species of various trees between which snake up to the Sevre of laces in laces. Today, 60% of trees are represented by three species: yew, sycamore maple and chestnut. A purple beech, a tree classified "remarkable" at the local level, completes this giant herbarium.
This small classical park is decorated with a rustic decoration of faux wood balustrades* characteristic of the Second Empire; the rock mason created a geological landscape imitating nature: artificial rocks and waterfalls, railings and footbridges in fake woods, basins in the shape of a stump.
At the end of the 19th century, its low and high aisles are adorned with several statues: "Le Réveil", white marble by Baptiste Baujault; "Triptolemus teaching agriculture", marble by Léon-Charles Fourquet; "A slave during the sale", Léon Pilet marble and "L'Enfance de Bacchus", bronze by Amédée-Donatien Doublemard. Tattooed in the early 1990s, they are currently kept in the museums of Niort Agglo with the exception of molten bronze under the Vichy regime in 1942. Since 2014, after renovation, only "Triptolem" sits in the garden of the Bernard d’Agesci Museum.
*Iron wires covered with reinforced cement; liquid stone being preferred to heavy blocks of stone to cut and assemble.

The City of Niort has begun a long work of requalification of the historic garden included in the project of creation of urban natural park of Sèvre niortaise. This project has already begun with the restoration of retaining walls, the sodding of the limestone terrace on the upper part of the garden, the removal of the trunks of chestnut trees that could carry the bank in their fall, the biological treatment against the borer boxwood (devastating caterpillar) and will continue with the renovation of railings made of faux wood, the redesign of the low alley (a soft layout for pedestrians and cyclists) and the rehabilitation of the Pré-Leroy footbridge.
In the long term, the Garden of Plants will be renamed "the Garden of the Explorers"; the name of a navigator having brought back useful plants to his country (Jean-François de La Perouse, André Thouin) will be given to each space in order to give back its educational usefulness to this former botanical garden.

This bucolic stroll ends at the foot of the nineteenth-century stone sculpture representing a lion and a lioness holding a shield at mid-slope. The mystery is still whole as to where it came from. Besides, I'm interested if you have the least ounce of information.
To blur the slopes or just for the nod, four Lions Clubs niortais have funded in 2017 the plantation, near our big cats, nine collection trees (cherry blossoms from Japan and China, copalme from America and hybrid alder)!

Photo Credits: Allées en lacets (Town Hall of Niort, Alex Giraud), fake wood balustrades (, water basin at the foot of the terrace ( ), belvedere (, engraving of 1847, entrance gate (, the childhood of Bacchus (Musée d'Orsay, Debuisson fonds), lion and lioness holding a shield (Jean-Michel Dallet), flowerbeds (Niort Town Hall, Alex Giraud) and map of the promenade Saint-Gelais.


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