Arbres de Paris

Horsechestnut and Silver Linden Trees in the Notre Dame Garden

A quarter of the total area of Paris is dedicated to parks and gardens and woods of all shapes and sizes making the city the greenest in Europe. We were told there were over 450 green areas to explore within the city starting with large areas of woods just outside Paris, to the numerous ‘parcs’ found in every district, to lovely ‘jardins,’ and the smallest ‘squares’ of green in every neighborhood.

Paris is solidly committed to green for not only do trees cool the air during the heat of the summer, they help to reduce air pollution in the city. All of the green areas provide benches for rest; some provide play equipment, others encouraging sports while music can be found on the lawns of many parks.

Notre Dame Garden

All over the city, orderly rows of trees are common sights along promanades and boulevards. The Silver Linden tree (Tilia tomintosa), a tree tolerant of insect pests and pollution, forms dense foliage and is a popular tree to use in many parks. Silver undersides to the leaves gives the tree a pretty sheen in the light.

Silver Linden in the Notre Dame Garden

While crowds of people filled the plaza in front of the cathedral, photographing, lining up to tour Notre Dame, this quiet oasis on the opposite side invited visitors with cameras a perfect view of flying buttresses of Notre Dame over the silver Linden trees of the garden.Ann Hoheberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

A Living Fossil Goes to Seed

Ginkgo biloba seedsI saw a photo of Queen Elizabeth last month, dressed in pink with a matching pink hat, marking the 250th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Gardens by wielding a shovelful of dirt onto the base of a newly planted Ginkgo biloba tree.  In April, I read that Governor Schwarzenegger celebrated Earth Day by helping to plant a ginkgo tree in California.  These surviving relics date from the Permian period, over 270-300 million years ago, where the great forests of fern-like plants shifted to gymnosperms with offspring enclosed in seeds. The ginkgo actually predates the Age of Dinosaurs.

Two of these majestic trees, large and sturdy, grace the edge of my pond overlooking the river and a third, the runt, underdeveloped and frail, stands apart near the drive.  All three are approaching 40 years of age, mere babies for they can can live for a millennium.   When we first occupied this property, I fussed over the runt like a frail child.  Fertilizer. Water. Compost.  No response.  I eventually left it alone to grow ever so slowly until three years ago when I noticed unusual growths on the tree.  Those formations were the beginnings of seeds.  My runt had been a female all along and was finally fertilized by my robust males by the pond.  In her prime at age 36 she began to produce and drop marble-sized seeds. Dozens fall to the ground each summer and by spring, a large number of offshoots appear beneath her boughs.

Like rotting fruit under a tree, the ripe flesh around the seeds give off a pungent odor, a smell that suggests overripe cheese in my opinion.  Sadly, for this reason, the male is the preferred tree, an unfortunate fact that may impact future survival of the tree as it has made a plant endangered list.  I love my tiny ginkgo offspring and make them available for friends and neighbors who would like to adopt a baby… sex unknown for 30-plus years.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester