I hesitated a little before entering l’Aligresse. It was the first garden I was visiting in Paris, and did not really know how to get in touch with the gardeners. There was someone obviously working in the garden. At first, I acted like I was just passing by, but then, feeling stupid, I summoned up all my courage and asked the gardener if she could open the gate. She greeted me cheerfully, and invited me to walk around the garden.
L’aligresse has no planters, but the ground is covered with many different kind of plants. The gardener who let me in - I did not catch her name - told me that any registered user is allowed to seed anywhere, whatever kind of crop he wants. The same applies for harvesting, which means that you will not necessarily eat or collect what you seeded. To prevent the destruction of someone’s young seedling by planting your own, you are expected to label them clearly.
An American gardener planted specific kinds of American cabbage she cannot find in France, so that she can prepare them to her American friends when they come to visit. A lot of gardeners here seemed more interested in flowers than vegetables.
The gardener showing me the garden had no idea how many people were involved in the garden at the moment. “It is been a long time since our last social event” she said “but our seasonal meeting in December will allow us to see who came and who left”. “If you want to sign up” she added “you have to go to the community café, there is often someone from the garden, especially in the afternoon.”
This garden is managed by a wider community called La Commune Libre d’Aligre, who also manages a community café. They seem to be very active at seeding any kind of social life in the neighborhood, a little bit like the Association du Quartier Saint Bernard near Le Jardin Nomade.
As I was going around in the garden with my cheerful host, she offered me to collect some seeds for my balcony. “You have planters ?” she asked “Then, just take some seeds and try !” She also offered me a couple of fresh branches of lilac she had just cut down. “Put them in a pot filled with loam, and water them regularly, soon you will have a small tree !”
I left the garden with four different kinds of seeds - and without knowing what are going to produce two of them - as well as my branches of lilac, convinced that I should visit many more of these gardens. And come back here with some seeds they don’t have yet.
L’Aligresse is managed by la Commune Libre d’Aligre.