Souvenir de la Malmaison – it’s actually the name of a beautiful rose. I had one of these rose bushes in my garden in Auckland, and I had bought it because I loved the story behind the name. Malmaison is the name of the Chateau where Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte lived in Paris. Josephine was a beauty and Napoleon adored her – although he did divorce her because she couldn’t give him an heir and he married another. Josephine was given the Chateau as part of the divorce settlement and she stayed on living there until her death in 1814. She loved plants; she had botanists acquire exotic plants for her garden at Malmaison from far flung parts of the world. In particular she was interested in roses and imported varieties to grow in her garden. The rose Souvenir de la Malmaison is named after the place where Jospehine grew her precious roses.
With warmer days creeping into Paris the roses are beginning to bloom and they are so lovely. There is nothing that gladdens the heart more than strolling through a beautiful rose garden, feeling the warm sun and smelling drifts of perfume from the scented beauties. I discovered a beautiful rose garden in the heart of Paris at Le Jardin des Plants and found Souvenir de la Malmaison and other gorgeous varieties unfurling their pretty summer robes. Le Jardin des Plantes is a perfect place to soak up the essence of Paris in spring.
Enthused by the roses we visited Chateau de Malmaison to see the very place behind the name. A metro trip to La Defense then a number 258 bus to “Le Chateau” plants you 300m from the front gate. As chateaux go, it’s a relatively small residence but very tastefully decorated as it was during the time Napoleon and his sweetheart lived there. Josephine, much to the ire of her husband, did spend rather a lot on buying and redecorating the place apparently. I like her taste! She also commissioned beautiful Sevres porcelain plates and dishes that reflect her love of things botanical. There is a whole room full of beautiful decorative porcelain on display.
The gardens are not as extensive as in Josephine’s time; a new rose garden is still being established, but there is a lovely walk through the woods that contains trees planted in Josephine’s time. I found Souvenir de la Malmaison in the garden, climbing vigorously over a frame – she is a beauty. Like the place and the person who inspired the name.