Book Reviews, Gardens

Book Review: In & Out of Paris: Gardens of Secret Delights by Zahid Sardar with photographs by Marion Brenner

April 25, 2015

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A collaboration between the design editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and a Berkeley-based photographer, In & Out of Paris: Gardens of Secret Delights provides a rare treat: luminous photography and insightful prose seamlessly integrated and beautifully presented. The result is a literary and visual pleasure that will elevate a visit to Paris to the top of every garden-lover’s travel itinerary.

Comprised of forty-one garden “stories” loosely categorized as garden estates, public parks, and privately owned spaces, In & Out of Paris: Gardens of Secret Delights traces the evolution and adaptation of Paris as a garden city, where contemporary design is infused with historic meaning. The large estates and public parks of the city provide context for its private, intimate spaces, which include courtyards, rooftops, those hidden behind hôtel particulier walls and within suburban locations.

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Pierre Bergé’s private garden designed by Louis Benech and Pascal Cribier. Photograph by Marion Brenner reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith.

Beginning with André Le Nôtre’s 100-acre masterpiece Vaux-le-Vicomte and concluding with the interior courtyard and salon de thé designed by landscape architect Christian Fournet for the hotel Novotel Les Halles, the gardens portrayed within In & Out of Paris: Gardens of Secret Delights inspire inquiry. They are presented from a distinct point of view that is not afraid to frame questions about design, management and maintenance, permanence and impermanence and the relationship between landscapes and gardens.

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Versailles. Photograph by Marion Brenner reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith.

An introduction provides a concise overview of the history of the greening of Paris beginning with Catherine de Medici’s Renaissance influenced Tuileries Palace and Gardens, sited just beyond the walls of the medieval city. The transformation of the city by Baron Haussmann in 1853 into twenty arrondissements where boulevards, squares, public parks and gardens created an environment full of light and air created a “lyrical, magical garden city” which serves as a textbook for cross-pollinating garden ideas at every scale and a model for the city beautiful movement.

It is this spirit of cross-pollination which infuses In & Out of Paris: Gardens of Secret Delights with vibrancy. Père Lachaise Cemetery, described as an “uncommon sculpture park,” is afforded equal stature to Christian Fournet’s Miami-esque poolside roof garden. Monet’s garden at Giverny, a “painter’s box of seasonal surprises” co-exists with Gilles Clément’s tropical gardens at the Musée du quai Branly. It’s an eclectic mix.

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Château de Courances. Photograph by Marion Brenner reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith.

Exquisite full-color photographs abundantly illustrate each of the book’s two hundred and sixty one pages. Each is accompanied by descriptive text that includes an identification of the plant species depicted in the image. A resource section includes contact information about individual designers and a bibliography.

The introduction to In & Out of Paris: Gardens of Secret Delights both begins and concludes with a quote from American statesman Thomas Jefferson, who “bedazzled” by Paris on a visit in 1844 noted, “A walk around Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty and the point of life.” The city of light continues to bedazzle with parks and gardens at its core.

Photographs by Marion Brenner from In & Out of Paris Gardens of Secret Delights by Zahid Sardar. Reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.

In & Out of Paris: Gardens of Secret Delights
Zahid Sardar/Photographs by Marion Brenner
Gibbs Smith: Layton, UT, 2004

This review appeared in Leaflet A Massachusetts Horticultural Society Publication, April, 2015.

Copyright © 2015 Patrice Todisco — All Rights Reserved

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  • Reply gardeninacity April 26, 2015 at 12:18 am

    I read this book and loved it.

  • Reply Patrice Todisco April 26, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    As did I. I read a lot of garden books and found this to be one of the best.

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