This ancient, sprawling fig tree dominates a small, white walled garden. The tree grew unchecked and unpruned for many years, developing an eccentric, wide-spreading form. Its surroundings have been renovated recently but the tree has not been tidied up and expected to conform to new rules. Instead the fig has been given pride of place in all its wild eccentricity, with a low key ground cover of hellebores, ivy and native wildflowers naturalised around it.
The fig tree’s garden is part of another hidden green space created, like the Jardins des Archives Nationales, by linking the former private gardens of historic hôtels particuliers. The first part to be opened was the garden of the Hôtel de Coulanges, built in 1707, saved from demolition in 1961 and acquired by the city of Paris ten years later. After renovation, the building at 35 rue des Franc Bourgeois became the city’s Maison de l’Europe, opening in 1978. In 2007 the garden was opened to the public; a peaceful space with a rectangular lawn, a small grove of white-stemmed Swedish birch trees and surrounding borders planted with white flowered shrubs.
In 2014 two further linked gardens were created, opening up a green route to rue des Rosiers. The garden of the Hôtel d’Albret has been developed as an ornamental potager, with espalier fruit trees trained on the walls and topiary yew cones among the vegetable beds. It is managed as a jardin partagé or community garden, under the Main Verte charter of the city. The fig spreads over much of the garden of the Hôtel Barbes, a smaller space, now opened up to link the other two gardens. Thanks to a long-lived tree and some thoughtful redevelopment, this garden has a distinct character that is still developing.
In 2014 the three linked gardens were renamed Jardin des Rosiers – Joseph-Migneret, honoring a local teacher and résistant. In 1942 Joseph Migneret was head of an elementary school in nearby rue des Hospitalières Saint Gervais. In the autumn of that year only four children returned to school after the summer break; 260 of the school’s pupils had been among the local Jewish families rounded up in the July Rafle du Vel d’Hiv and deported to Auschwitz. Appalled by these events, Joseph Migneret dedicated himself to saving Jewish families still in hiding in the neighbourhood, sheltering them in his own home until he could arrange false papers and safe passage to the south of France. A plaque on the wall of the school reads:
“À Joseph Migneret instituteur et directeur de cette école de 1920 à 1944 qui par son courage et au péril de sa vie sauva des dizaines d’enfants juifs de la déportation. Ses anciens élèves reconnaissants.“