The Emperor had a passionate interest in botany. Early on, while imprisoned at the fort in Ham after the disastrous Boulogne expedition, Louis-Napoleon passed the time by gardening: "I succeeded in tilling," he wrote to a friend, "a small plot of land where I am busily engaged in planting seeds and bushes... Our natural surroundings offer unending resources and consolation to those whose happiness wanes". He later expressed serious interest for landscape art. During his exile in England the future Emperor studied and admired London's parks. He even participated in laying out the Duke of Hamilton's gardens and designed the Brodnick Park for him, eliciting the Duke's ironic comment, "Should he ever lose his rank, I would gladly appoint him head landscape gardener."
In his grand urban planning projects for Paris Napoleon III thus set aside special room for creating green spaces. For the first time in the capital's history, a sovereign's interest in gardens was not intended for his own pleasure or as a display of his magnificence and power, but as a means of satisfying his subjects. He aimed to develop places of respite throughout the dense urban and social fabric - "green spaces" essential in enabling the city to breathe. Like the human body Paris had its circulatory system - a geometrical grid of boulevards and avenues - and its waste disposal system - the network of sewers built under the city. All that was missing was a respiratory system. This novel concept of urban planning with a social bent led to the development or the creation of 24 squares (17 in the old city and seven in recently annexed neighbourhoods), four gardens, four parks and two woods - all for Parisians' well-being.