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Monday, September 19, 2011

Flophouse Favorite #8: the Other Garden at Versailles

This year for the Heritage Days we decided to stay a little closer to home.  Yesterday was bright and sunny with just a nip of autumn in the air so we took a leisurely walk up to the castle.  Instead of going through those bright gaudy golden gates, we walked under the shadow of the St. Louis Cathedral until we reached a small, easy to miss, stone gate and entered the Potager du Roi (the King's Kitchen Garden).  

This garden of about 9 hectares (22 acres) was the master work of a young lawyer, Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie, who was a traveler with a passion for plants.  In 1670 he was named the director of the Royal Orchard and Kitchen Garden by Louis XIV and he oversaw the construction of this remarkable place between 1678 and 1683.

The difference between the Kitchen Gardens and the more formal gardens at the Versailles Castle is enormous.  The latter is what I like to call "shock and awe" gardening.  It is surely one of the most impressive examples of man beating nature into submission in the name of Civilization.  According to my father he was quite startled one visit to see huge pruning machines using laser beams to trim the hedges to be perfectly and unnaturally straight.  Ah, the wonders of technology.

The Kitchen Garden is something else.  For one thing, it was designed for a practical purpose - putting fresh food on the King's table.  But just because it had a mundane purpose, did not mean that it couldn't be beautiful. And it is in its own quiet way and it has quite a different effect. You can walk on the grass, for one thing, or plop yourself down under a tree to read a book or chat with friends.

The formal gardens are gardens to be admired;  the kitchen garden is a garden to love.  Here are a few more photos from our Sunday morning visit:

Getting to the King's Kitchen Garden is quite simple.  Just take the RER C line from Paris, stay on the train until the end of the line, exit the Versailles-Rive Gauche station and take a left (right will take you the castle).  Check their website here for their hours and special events and here for a presentation of the people (past and present gardeners) who make all this possible.

Le Potager du roi
10, rue du Maréchal Joffre 78000 Versailles, France
Tel  +33 1 39 24 62 62

1 comment:

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