Houseboat Gardens of Paris

Gardeners garden. Green thumb or black, rich soil or poor, large plot or small, gardeners aren’t hindered by a garden’s limitations. Gardeners take life’s lemons and make lemon trees.

I’m always looking for good gardening examples. When stumbling upon a garden in a surprising spot, I stop, smile, and soak in the energy that the gardener is sharing. While walking through Paris, universally recognized as a beautiful city, I discovered fascinating emerald energy dotting the houseboats on the Seine.

Boats of Paris

Moored along the banks of Paris’ famous river are about 100 boats. Former barges that plied the waterway for years, they were rescued from scrapyards and converted into floating houses permanently tied to the quai. Some are available as vacation rentals while others represent the permanent address of their occupant.

For the residents, the floating home is no different than any small abode in the city or country. It has all of the trappings of a modern apartment. For typical apartment gardeners, a balcony or deck offers the chance to grow a few plants in pots. For the houseboat gardeners, growing plants on the deck takes on a new meaning.

Some people, those who haven’t discovered gardening, would never think of a boat as a garden plot; it doesn’t meet the traditional definition of a house and yard. For a gardener, it isn’t a question of whether there will be a garden, but rather one of how big.

A small garden on top

I think a boat would be a great space for gardening. On a big river like the Seine, there are few obstacles to prevent the sun from shining through. All of the plots will be raised beds or pots so the soil can be customized, avoiding many of the soil-borne problems that many of us encounter. In the middle of the city, devoid of large agricultural areas, the insect and pest problems would surely be reduced. The humid environment would help keep the soil from drying out quickly, a common problem when growing plants in pots. The natural barriers of the water eliminate animal pests; no gophers, deer, or rabbits there.

Most of the boats have a few plants in the windows and topside, but a few are lush with greenery. Those gems aren’t boats with plants, but are gardens that happened to have a boat beneath them. Flowers, shrubs, and trees cover the decks. That’s where gardeners live and they’re proud to show it.

A gardener's boat

We all have issues with our gardens. I live in a semi-arid, high-altitude region that limits what I can grow. The soil is poor and the weather is extreme. But I have space and time and knowledge to overcome the obstacles. Above all I have the desire to garden.

Many people would like to grow plants but feel the obstacles are too numerous to overcome so they don’t begin. I’ve talked with many such people about their doubts and I always suggest they start small, with just a pot or two. From there they can expand as they learn more and become comfortable with gardening. It can take years to achieve gardening success in a challenging area. I know. I’ve spent years making mistakes, trying new things, and discovering what works.

I think of the houseboat gardeners of Paris following that pattern. Starting with a pot or two, making mistakes, trying new ideas, and succeeding with a beautiful garden, on a boat, in the middle of the most famous city in the world. Their desire to garden under the scrutiny of every passerby is inspirational.

A garden to be proud of

Gardens can be grown everywhere. With desire and dedication gardeners can overcome whatever stands in their way. When it seems hard, keep persevering. If a gardener can enjoy a garden on a boat think about what you can accomplish on dry land.

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