Let's still take advantage of the mildness of September to explore the winding paths of Jardin des Plantes de Niort by taking a closer look at the history of this park bordered by the Green belt and included in the project to create the Sèvre Niortaise urban natural park.

Originally, this terraced garden was established on theold hillside of Bigotterie which belongs to the 16th century Jacques Yver, lord of Bigotterie and Plaisance, poet and author of “Printemps” in 1572.

In the 1770s, mayor Matthieu Rouget de Gourcez had his charity workshops build* the wall** which supports the terrace, thus creating “ the Saint-Gelais promenade », wide avenue running alongside the cavalry school (current Duguesclin center). This popular place for strolling among the people of Niort, lined with two rows of trees starting at Place de Strasbourg and ending at the belvedere, was abolished in 1793 by General Macors. Today, only the shaded terrace overlooking the Sèvre Niortaise remains.

In 1783, the year of the Treaty of Versailles consecrating Lafayette's victory alongside the American insurgents, a hot air balloon was launched from the esplanade by the students of the Oratory***.
*Free work establishments intended for workers who are left temporarily destitute by moments of crisis or poverty; 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 took a long time to raise due to poor supervision of the work and the slow work of the numerous workers.
***Which precedes Fontanes college.

Alex Giraud

The city acquired the estate in 1847 in order to use it for the inhabitants of this district far from the Jardin de la Brèche by planting on 3,4 hectares various species of trees between which meander up to the Sèvre des winding paths. Today, 60% of trees are represented by three species:if,sycamore maple and chestnut. A purple beech, a tree classified as “remarkable” locally, completes this giant herbarium.
This small, classic park is decorated with a rustic faux wood railing decor* characteristic of the Second Empire; the rock mason thus created a geological landscape imitating nature: artificial rocks and waterfalls, railings and footbridges in fake wood, stump-shaped basins.

Orsay Museum, Debuisson collection

At the end of the 19th century, its lower and upper aisles were decorated with several statues: “Le Réveil”, white marble by Baptiste Baujault; “Triptolemus teaching agriculture”, marble by Léon-Charles Fourquet; “A slave during the sale”, marble by Léon Pilet and “ The Childhood of Bacchus », bronze ofAmédée-Donatien Doublemard. Tagged in the early 1990s, they are currently kept in the museums of Niort Agglo with the exception of the bronze melted under the Vichy regime in 1942. Since 2014, after renovation, only “Triptolemus” stands 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 be cut and assembled.


The city of Niort began a long work of requalification of the historic garden included in the project to create Sèvre Niortaise urban natural park. This project has already started with the restoration of retaining walls, the grassing of the limestone terrace on the upper part of the garden, the removal of the trunks of chestnut trees likely to carry the bank with their fall, the biological treatment against the moth boxwood (devastating caterpillar) and will continue with the renovation of the faux wood guardrails, the redesign of the low path into a promenade (gentle layout for pedestrians and cyclists) and the repair of the Pré-Leroy footbridge.
Ultimately, the Jardin des Plantes will be renamed “the Explorers’ Garden”; the name of a navigator who brought useful plants back to his country (Jean-François de La Pérouse, André Thouin) will be given to each space in order to restore the educational usefulness of this former botanical garden.

Jean-Michel Dallet

This bucolic walk ends at the foot of the stone sculpture from the 19th century representing mid-slope a lion and a lioness holding a shield. The mystery remains as to its origin. Besides, I'm interested if you have the slightest ounce of information.
To blur the lines or just for a wink, four Niort Lions Clubs financed in 2017 the planting, near our wild animals, of nine collection trees (flowering cherry trees from Japan and China, sweetgum from America and hybrid alder)!

Alex Giraud

Let's satisfy our thirst for nature by also taking advantage this weekend of Heritage Days which offer, among other things, a workshop Niort entitled “The garden at the beginning of autumn” and a nature walk in Lapwing-Irleau on chalarosis, a 5 km route to observe the symptoms of this disease, ask all the inherent questions and discover the new plantations.

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