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La Malmaison: Joséphine's garden.

Born in Martinique, Josephine cultivated a nostalgia for the luxurious island of her childhood. Upon her arrival at the Rueil Malmaison chateau, she wanted to replicate the landscape of her native land with its rich flowers and birds. She called upon Europe’s best gardeners and soon bundles of flowers arrived from all over the continent. Daffodils, hyacinths, camelias and tulips flourished in her garden. She had a greenhouse erected to house the most delicate, fragile flowers, especially those from the French West Indies that couldn’t survive in the French climate and also some of the roses, her favorite flower. Her blooms were planted in beds and pots or scattered in the park among the wild perennials. In her lush paradise, Josephine wanted nature to express itself as freely as in the landscapes evoked by the period’s romantic writers such as Rousseau.

Painted by Jean-Louis Victor Viger du Vigneau

La Rose de Malmaison - Pierre-Louis Victor Viger du Vigneau

 

A passion for plants wasn’t enough for this young woman who also wanted birds to fly around her idyllic garden. Her feathered friends kept her company, distracting her from the official tasks she disliked. She constantly wrote to French diplomats, requesting that they bring back the most beautiful specimens from their travels. Her aviaries multiplied and her gardens began to look like a bird sanctuary. Barbary and Carolina ducks, hoccos, agamis and birds from Cayenne splashed on the pond and English-style river that flowed through the park. A sublime pair of black swans, brought from Australia in 1803 and the first of their species to be introduced in Europe, became a park treasure, Josephine even managed to have them reproduce. A scientific exploit ! Other birds besides palmipeds also fascinated visitors. There were splendid gold and silver Chinese pheasants, even a gray parrot from Gabon who annoyed the Emperor by casually calling him “Bonaparte”.

Perruche - Pierre-Joseph Redouté

As at Marie-Antoinette’s Petit Trianon in Versailles, the multicolored birds and flowers made Malmaison a showcase for fauna and flora. Find out about the history of this incredible exploit in Joséphine, la passion des fleurs et des oiseaux (Josephine, a passion for flowers and birds) published by Artlys. And discover the Joséphine candle whose fragrance was inspired by the park’s most beautiful white flowers.

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