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Whether it be for walks, meditations, an apéro with friends, or simply to clear our heads, Parisian gardens offer us refuge, while also showcasing the centrality of design in the French capital’s urban planning. It’s therefore quite fitting that the place where the art of gardening is taught to Paris’s budding gardeners offers visitors an oasis of beauty, tranquility and greenery.
L’École Du Breuil is a school for gardening, landscaping and urban agriculture which has played a central role in in the beautification of Paris. Along with its aesthetic beauty, ample acreage and diversity of gardening styles, this 150-year-old school provides a rich, albeit alternative, lens to know more about the history of Paris. It is for this reason that the garden of L’École Du Breuil has been honored as a Jardin Remarquable, or “Remarkable Garden,” by the Ministry of Culture and Communication. The gardens of this school, maintained by students and apprentice gardeners, are open to the public.
Each time you visit a manicured public garden in Paris, or walk by a street full of blooming flowers, chances are, what you see and experience have been curated by someone who might have been trained in this very school.
History of the school
L’Ecole Du Breuil was opened as a horticulture and arboriculture school in 1867 by a decree passed by Baron Haussmann. The school is named after its first director and principal founder, Alphonse Du Breuil.
One of Haussmann’s essential contributions to Paris planning was the establishment of the “service des promenades et plantations de la Ville de Paris,” or the “promenades and plantations service of the city of Paris.” Under this initiative, Adolphe Alphand was put in charge of designing, managing and beautifying the landscape of Paris, for which trained experts were essential to do the gardening and plantation work. So, the main reason behind L’Ecole Du Breuil’s establishment was to ensure that the Seine department had enough trained gardeners.
More than two-thirds of the green spaces in today’s Paris were created under Alphand’s administration, and seeing how central the role of L’Ecole Du Breuil was in supplying him with the right kind of gardening experts, we can appreciate the importance of this school in fashioning the landscape of modern Paris.
A “remarkable” garden in the heart of Bois de Vincennes
The gardens of L’Ecole Du Breuil are spread over six hectares of landscaped grounds, and arranged around different themes. One of the highlights is the rose garden, built around the main school building. Besides the rose garden, the school also has a charming pool lined with palm trees that is full of budding lotuses and fishes. There are lots of benches to sit and soak up the beauty.
The school also has an English garden with lush trees, including a stunning old chestnut tree. Depending on the season, the garden can be covered in poppies and a variety of other flowers. The pond is lined with shady trees, and the grounds are perfect for spending a lazy day reading or just napping.
Another area of the garden is dedicated to a rockery containing a spectacular collection of 1000 species of perennials, shrubs, and conifers. There’s also a perennial garden, landscape garden, collection of shrubs (fruticetum), orchard, vegetable garden and several greenhouses.
Suffice to say, there is a lot to see and learn here. And just in case your appetite for nature is still not satiated, the adjoining Paris arboretum has an additional 10+ hectares chock-a-block with plants and trees.
The school today
The École Du Breuil prepares young people and adults for diplomas in the landscaping sector, from agricultural CAP to Master 2, in school training, by apprenticeship and in evening classes. The teaching emphasizes plant diversity, landscape composition and drawing. It aims to combine arts and landscape techniques in an urban environment. For several years, the focus has also shifted to include urban agriculture and the promotion and preservation of biodiversity in the city.
In an era with cities choking with pollution and cars, an institution such as École Du Breuil should be noted as a center of invaluable information for a cleaner, greener future for us and our beloved city. Not to mention the fact that the garden is stunning in all seasons, and offers a welcome escape from the bustle of Paris.
Address: Ecole Du Breuil, Route de La Ferme, Bois de Vincennes, 75012 Paris
April 1 to September 30: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
October and March: 9 am to 6 pm
November 1 to February 28: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
How to reach:
By metro and bus, go to Château de Vincennes, line 1 and take bus 112 to the Carrefour de Beauté stop. From here, take Route de la Ferme to reach the school in minutes.
You can also walk to the school from Bois de Vincennes, if you’re in the mood for a scenic walk. The gardens and the school are also easily accessible by bicycle.
Lead photo credit : L'École Du Breuil. Photo: Pronoti Baglary