Candidate – France
Submission by: Nantes Metropole
Project Name: Le Jardin Extraordinaire, the incredible transformation of a wasteland into a magnificent 3.5ha public garden.
Short description of the project
The project is situated in Nantes, West of France where an old Miséry stone quarry has been transformed into an extraordinary and lush garden. A 25 meter waterfall reveals the face of the cliff. An incredibly rich plant palette (tree fern, century-old ivy, banana trees …) generates an exotic atmosphere adapted to the pre-existing micro climate on site.
From a former urban neglect, the 101st garden of Nantes has become one of the most attractive. It is linked to the Chantenay district by a promenade punctuated by 7 belvederes offering stunning views of the city and the quarry itself. This new garden is a fantastic example of how plants and landscapes can provide solutions to make our cities more resilient, more attractive and better places to live.
The garden is in the first place meant to be a “connecting place,” atrue connexion between various neighbourhoods in Nantes, connecting the Jules Verne museum to the Loire River…“. The garden also forms a link between activities and habitats, between the different periods of Nantes’s foundation.
Le Jardin Extraordinaire will also be part of the future “Green Star”, which will soon connect all parks, gardens and green spaces in Nantes. A major focus of the Nantes green policy has been for many years to provide easy access to urban nature for all its inhabitants, especially the most fragile. Anyone living in Nantes is now less than 300 meters away from a green area, partly explaining a shared sense of experiencing a certain quality of life.
Last but not least, le Jardin Extraordinaire is making the people of Nantes proud of their city. They share this experience of beauty and wonder; they experience their historical and cultural heritage, apprehending in real life the magical universe of Jules Verne (French novelist and creator of the Voyages extraordinaires). Jules Verne made the impossible possible, so was the former “Misery stone quarry” turned into a truly Extraordinary Garden.
One of the initial ideas of the project was to preserve parts of existing wasteland and combine this with newly planted areas. Parts of the wasteland is now completely integrated to the garden walk route. This means that both gardeners and visitors can walk through real brambles and also see banana tree leaves arising from these rambles.
The diversity of habitats, arid to humid, is reinforced and enhanced by the establishment of an exceptional range of plants adapted to the microclimate of the quarry.
A closed-circuit fountain system program manages the intensity of the waterfalls and turns them off at night.
The western part of the garden reveals the spectacular aspect of the site. The closed-circuit waterfall is the marker of the quarry’s difference in level and highlights the majesty of the hundred-year-old ivy which adorns the working face. Nearly 200 plant species were planted during this first phase of work, astonishing species with their foliage, their colours, their blooms, sometimes straight out of the universe of Jules Verne (French novelist and creator of the Voyages extraordinaires). In short, extraordinary, lush and tropical vegetation, that will benefit from the site’s microclimate.
The creation of the garden was enriched with 25,000 plantations not to mention the 15,000 bulbs planted in the fall of 2019 during participatory workshops with the inhabitants of Chantenay.
List of plants in the Jardin Extraordinaire:
For years, Nantes has been developing an active promotion of its “green” identity. Parks and gardens have long been a strong feature of its very specific territorial identity. Le Jardin Extraordinaire is a major new asset to expand Nantes tourism, promote its renown way of life and reinforce its economic as well as cultural beauty .
By rehabilitating a forgotten and abandoned place, the city has acquired one of its most attractive gardens. Already well known, even beyond Nantes and garden enthusiasts, it is a travel destination, and a factor of tourist and economic attractiveness.
The garden plays an important role in providing a calm walking area. It is an island of freshness in the city. Deviations of several degrees Celsius are measured between the heart of the garden and the sidewalk on the other side of its fence.
Wellbeing of visitors/users
Le Jardin Extraordinaire is an additional example of how important it is to give urban citizens a close access to nature.
“We feel totally immersed in this stunning garden”, “So many plants, so nice, it makes you feel good”, “Properly extraordinary”, these are several quotes of visitors, interviewed at the opening of the garden.
Selection origin and quality of used plants
All plants were provided by two local nurseries, selected for their highest plant quality and exceptional plant range.
Pépinières du Val d’Erdre, St Mars du Désert, 44. Pépinière Lepage, Angers, 49.
Urban context and development objectives:
The garden is first of all conceived as a unique open place, working like an urban ecotone, at all scales of the site: between granite and water, between hillside and valley, between the up and down, between upstream and downstream, between activities and habitats, between the different eras of the city’s constitution, between the wilderness of the spontaneous vegetation of the quarry and the regular Schwob Square, between different humidity gradients (from very dry to aquatic), between the different parks and squares that integrate it.
The first stage of the garden concerns the development of a pedestrian walk at the upper part of the hill.
This belvedere walk brings together places that exist or have been created from scratch on the Butte Sainte Anne (the Jules Verne museum, the Kawamata belvedere, the Maurice Schwob square…). A veritable belvedere on the future garden and on the banks of the Loire. This course is directly connected to the garden by existing or specially created stairs.
It is at this unique site that the future monumental “Heron tree” will be placed, forming the heart of a quality garden, thought out and integrated into the general reflection carried out on the whole of the district of Bas Chantenay.
The development project responds to the urban plan of Bas Chantenay designed around three routes: the hillside, the plain and the river. The Misery quarry is one of the junction points of these three routes. At the meeting point between the two geographical monuments that constitute the furrow and the river Loire, the site offers an extraordinary place as much by its materials, its points of view, its microclimate, its history, as by its urban situation. The project reveals, continues and amplifies these characteristics in the service of a new place for the people of Nantes, nature and the influence of the metropolis.
Impact on the environment
Le Jardin Extraordinaire is already effective at connecting different parts and neighbourhoods of Nantes. This connectivity is meant to be reinforced as the “Green star” project will progressively expand, linking together all parks, gardens and green areas of Nantes.
Much too often, green places are designed after the urban project. For the first time, a new major urban project starts with creating a new gardenWith this new garden, we want to offer nature to live and experience, right in the heart of our city.
The whole site was also an exceptional technical challenge, dealing with an outstanding geographical area, granit soil, sophisticated water system and unusual plants.
Former abandoned industrial zone, preserved from real estate speculation thanks to the city of Nantes. Since 2005, the Chantenay quarry is a unique and unusual place in the Nantes landscape, and a marker of the Brittany furrow, which begins in Nantes and ends 250 kilometres further on at the Pointe du Raz. On the Nantes scale, it is a stone line that stretches 1,200 meters from the bottom of the rue de l’Hermitage to the “pebble” at the end of the rue Joseph Cholet. The outcrop of the furrow constitutes a real difference in level, between the quai Marquis d’Aiguillon and the boulevard de Cardiff on the one hand, the rue des Garennes and the rue de l’Hermitage on the other.
List of plants, from Abutilon megapotanicum, to Zingiber mioga: https://jardins.nantes.fr/N/Jardin/Parcs-Jardins/Plus/2114/Jardin-Extraordinaire-Plantes.asp
On-site interviews: visitors, Johanna Rolland (Mayor of Nantes), Loïc Mareschal, Phytolab (landscape architect, designer of the garden), Romaric PERROCHEAU (Nantes green spaces manager) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytXFiKqrK9g
Time laps of the construction:
Le jardin Extraordinaire, presentation in English:
Le jardin Extraordinaire, other presentation in English:
Le jardin Extraordinaire, presentation in French:
Nantes gardens, a few figures
- 300,000 trees listed in Nantes, including 70 identified remarkable trees
- 7,000 new trees have been planted in Nantes since 2014
- 1,085 hectares of public green spaces, i.e. 39 m² of green space per inhabitant
- 101 parks, gardens and squares representing 232 hectares 40 collective garden sites including 25 allotment garden sites and 15 shared garden sites
- 213 hectares of natural spaces (Natura 2000 zones, natural zones of ecological, faunistic and floristic interest, greenways etc.)
- 3 hectares of flowered areas and nearly 650,000 annual plants produced to flower 226 beds
- 1,850 camellias and over 400 magnolias have been planted since 2014
Grand Prix of the Victoires du Paysage 2020
The Extraordinary Garden was rewarded in France with the Grand Prix of the Victoires du Paysage 2020.
It is a real success thanks to the close collaboration between landscape professionals and nurserymen, and the willingness to innovate in terms of the range of plants by taking advantage of the originality of the site’s microclimate; a real professional and passionate team was formed to select the plants.
See: Interviews in situ with the mayor of Nantes, the landscape architect and green spaces manager of Nantes