Lying on a hospital bed, sick with cancer and hopelessly without modern treatment, Jules Senis thought he might not survive. Feeling completely desperate, Senis made a deal with himself: if he ever recovered, he would build a spectacular garden in the heart of Lyon. Amazingly, he survived and dedicated the next 25 years of his life to building his monument to survival.
Filling a courtyard to capacity, Senis not only planted flowers and other foliage, he built new structures to frame his botanical work. Although the garden was created as a sort of personal deal to get through a difficult time, Senis dedicated his finished work to his mother, Rosa Mir Mercader, who he left when he fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War.
Covering an area of 360 square meters, Senis’ work draws on his Spanish heritage, including influence from Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona. Sea creatures are affixed in design to many of the structures, and the center of the garden boasts a multi-colored fountain that was also built by Senis. Splattered with mosaics, pillars and tiers of gardens, Jardin Rosa Mir is an almost overwhelming maze of gardens, featuring lemon trees, roses and even a fair amount of weeds. Yet despite the chaos, it has inspired and awed since its creation in the early 1950s.
Created by Senis alone over a huge chunk of his life, the garden continued to grow until his death. In 1983, 30 years after surviving cancer, Senis tragically passed away, leaving his memory in the massive botanical complex. To ensure the preservation of his life’s work, an association was created to maintain and protect these beautiful gardens of survival.