A Garden Fit For a King

Ah, Versailles… The famous château outside of Paris. Marie Antoinette playing milkmaid in her village. The grand splendor of the Royal Apartments.  Sculptured gardens with lakes, hedges, and miles of paths to walk…

Been there, done that.

This is more my speed – a visit to the Potager du Roi, the vegetable garden of kings.

Louis XIV had a problem. He had this grand palace, and a court to fill it, but how was he to keep his table full? He charged gardener Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie with the task of building a garden large enough to keep the King and all his courtiers fed. La Quintinie began laying out the 25 acre garden in the year 1678, and it produced its first harvests in 1683.

Though there have been changes in the years between then and now, the basic layout remains the same: a large, mostly open center, for the annual vegetables, surrounded by walled ‘rooms’ of fruit trees – 29 rooms, in all. This apple-tree ‘fence’ is only the beginning…

Anyone who’s been around here for a while knows that I love fruit trees. We have a few here at our place, including a little espallier apple tree in the kitchen garden. But this…

Oh, my.

The garden is run today by the French National Landscape Architecture School. The skills to make these beautiful – and highly productive – living sculptures are being taught and refined in new and exciting ways.

This spot where the limbs have been pruned to form an ‘x’ will eventually grow together where they touch, forming a fencelike wall. Think about a feature like this in a home garden today – a fence that blooms with sweet-smelling white flowers in spring, and gives luscious pears in early fall…

I’ll bet you’ve got room. Somewhere…

France, like the US, is suffering from a loss of pollinating insects. They have experienced collapses in wild and domestic bee populations just like we have. This display in the garden demonstrates ways to provide housing for insect colonies, and surrounds it with nectar-rich plants. This is a theme for all the teaching gardens this year – a similar display sits in the ‘Urban Agriculture’ plot at the Jardin de Plantes in Paris.

I could spend all day here…

Oh, wait! I did

We’ll get to the vegetables in a day or two…

To learn more about Le Potager, click here.


4 thoughts on “A Garden Fit For a King

  1. Marie,
    I have enjoyed your trip to France this year along with you and John.The photos are incredible. the history
    stirs my old yearning for learning!!
    I hope Jamea survived, and your visit with Linda and Olivia will bealll that you expect!!–Lots of Love, Aunt Sue

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