In Montreuil, a village on the outskirts of Paris, a peculiar type of architecture was created in the Seventeenth century: a system of walls 2,70 m high enclosing long plots. The so called “Murs à pêches” (walls for peach trees) were conceived to protect peach trees cultivations in the area. Developed until the nineteenth century, they helped get the production of peaches up to several million units in an area, that of the Parisian region, with a much colder climate then the one adapted for this kind of culture, which generally prefers the warmer areas of France’s Mediterranean coast. The thickness, (up to 55 cm), and their plaster coating gave the walls a high thermal inertia, the ability to store heat. Oriented north-south, the walls could store solar energy during the day and transmit it during the night, decreasing the risk of freezing for the plants and accelerating their ripening process. Within the insulated plots, temperatures were generally between 8 to 12 °C higher than outside.
A similar technique, used to create a microclimate for plants, was common in Pantelleria, an island in Sicily, and went by the name of “Giardini Panteschi”. There, circular walls, up to 3m high, were erected to protect citrus plants, sometimes only one of them at a time, from the strong winds in the area. The gardens were enclosed by dry-stone walls which were able to store the nighttime humidity and create a fresh microclimate suitable for the plants. The top of the wall was inclined toward the interior of the garden to collect rainwater.
The two systems are somehow opposite in their functions and appearance: one structured to react to cold weather, the other to a dry climate, one conceived as a continuous system with the walls structuring a grid, the other making individual enclaves, yet both quite tangibly embody the symbolic meaning of the garden as an intermediate domain between raw nature and man-made environment.
“Giardini Panteschi” on Wikipedia (in Italian)
“Murs à pêches” on Wikipedia (in French)
Postcards via: srhm
Images of the Giardini Panteschi: Bellezza Italia
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