This window faces south, so the herbs benefit from direct sun in the middle of the day. The cherry tree, down below in the garden of our ground floor neighbours, catches the afternoon sun as well, thanks to a relatively low building to its west. The bamboo and camellia in the background are growing in two tiny gardens belonging to a building on the next street. They are shaded to their south and west but they sometimes get a glimpse of sunlight in the morning.
The older buildings in this neighborhood started out as grand private houses built, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, around paved front courtyards and rear garden courts. As these hotels particuliers were divided up into apartments in the nineteenth century, extra storeys and wings were added, encroaching on and overshadowing former gardens. (Our flat was originally the top floor of a seventeenth century building but three more floors were added above.) Piecemeal development led to a variety of roof levels, so sunshine still breaks through into some hidden corners. High walls facing on to narrow streets give no clue to the spaces concealed behind them, green or otherwise.
There are a surprising number of trees tucked away in the spaces between the buildings, glimpsed through open doorways or above courtyard walls. Flowering cherries are an understandable choice; leafless through the dark days of winter, their extravagant burst of spring flower transforms the dingiest of urban spaces. More unexpected are the number of evergreen magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) filling tiny courtyards and stretching up several storeys in their search for light. Their summer flowers are spectacular and the species thrives in the conditions offered by urban Paris but living with the year round shade cast by their large, leathery leaves seems a high price to pay for a brief moment of glory. Clearly many Parisians think otherwise.