onsdag den 20. november 2013

The King's Kitchen Garden

Louis XIV wanted to have his own supply of vegetables and fruits and to this he ordered his gardener Monsieur de La Quintinie to create a garden separate from those at Versailles. Thus work began to establish this garden covering 9 hectares at the edge of what is now known as the Saint Louis District in 1678. Monsieur de La Quintinie had his work cut out for him because the earth of the chosen area was poor and not optimal for gardening. Actually the only reason for why Monsieur de La Quintinie had to make due with this piece of land instead of one he himself had suggested was that Louis XIV wanted to have his garden within reach. The royal gardener even said of the land that it was: "of a sort you would never want to find anywhere". Nevertheless the garden was already sprouting fruit in 1683.

Thanks to M. de La Quintinie Louis XIV was now supplied with fresh fruits such as strawberries (in March), lettuce (in January) and melons (in June). At the time it was a huge symbol of the King's power that he was able to produce his very own vegetables even during the winter. Just around this time peas was quite new and as most new things they became a particular popular treats - and of course Louis XIV could get them from his kitchen garden too. It even became possible to grow coffee beans here during Louis XV.
Louis XIV's favourite thing about his garden was the fruit trees - there are 5000 of them of different varieties and all shaped in delicate geometrical shapes! He was so excited about these trees that he would even show them off to his more prominent guests; whenever the King took his guests to the garden through a magnificent gate called the Grille du Roi and was created by Alexis Fordin. The herb garden was vast as well with 40 different specimens ready to be taken to the royal salads. To create a royal atmosphere the architect Mansart was brought in and it is thanks to him that the garden is now rich on elevated terraces. Also the large water reservoirs, the buildings and the stairs are work of Mansart.

Monsieur de La Quintinie had created a special system in order to keep the garden alive. At the very centre of the garden is a large water reservoir and it is from here that the garden is watered through a series of drainage pipes. The entire garden consists of 28 smaller gardens - rather enclosed small gardens - at the periphery and 16 square gardens laid around the centre fountain. It took 30 gardeners to keep the garden in shape and the royal stables made sure that there was a constant supply of manure.

Today the garden is almost exactly as it was when Louis XIV walked through it and the only few changes have been made on the order of his successors.

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