Allot to learn: The Garden of Versailles

Hello again, I hope you have had a good last week. We are on our travels again this week, this time to France.

With an area covering 800 hectares and being found on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it would be fair to say that the Gardens of Versailles are a massive attraction in France and Europe. With a history dating back to the 1630s, the first major transformation of the area took place in 1660, with Louis XIV entrusting Andre Le Notre to create and renovate the stunning gardens.

Work on the garden took place at the same time as work was undertaken on the palace, spanning forty years. It would be fair to say that for many people in the modern era, the gardens are considered as important, if not more so, than the palace itself.

An interesting aspect about the Gardens of Versailles is that there are 210,000 flowers planted in the grounds on an annual basis. While this is an area of huge historical significance and grandeur, it is also a modern and contemporary garden area that has a lot to offer even after repeated visits.

The fact that so much work is undertaken in maintaining the look and appearance of the gardens means that those with an interest in gardening techniques and even vegetables should have an interest in what is on offer in this garden.

The Potager du Roi

An area of interest should be the fruit and vegetable garden of King Louis XIV. This is located a very short distance from the palace and the “Potager du Roi” is open to guests and visitors. Anyone looking for insight into the way vegetables and fruit were produced in the 17th century will enjoy a visit to this part of the garden, as will anyone with an interest in heritage and heirloom fruit plants.

At the time the gardens were created, the area and the contemporary cultivation techniques ensured that the garden produced rare and out-of-season fruit and vegetables. With asparagus in January and strawberries in March, the gardens were as daring and as charming as one would associate with this era. Other popular produce grown here include melons and figs. With travellers bringing back exotic plants to form part of the garden, this was an innovative area bringing new taste sensations to France, at least to the nobility.

This is a chance to step back in time and the garden area includes many fruit and vegetable varieties long forgotten, preserved through using traditional methods and meticulous preparation.

There are more than 60 types of fruit trees on display in the orchard, with these trees preserved by pruning and tree training disciplines and techniques that have been honed throughout the ages.

Food production

On an annual basis, the Potager du Roi manages to produce 20 tonnes of vegetables and 30 tonnes of fruit. While the garden area is rightly one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, welcoming between 8 and 10 million people each year, it is pleasing to see that the garden is still a productive and fruitful one.

The historical value of the fruit and vegetable produced in the garden is maintained and is a key factor in deciding what is produced each year. A lot of the produce is sold in the onsite shop and there are also preserves and jams made for public consumption. The gardens at Versailles have the feel of garden to plate cooking on a huge scale.

If you have a passion for rare or unusual fruit and vegetables, the Gardens of Versailles is likely to be a destination that is on your must-visit list. If you own an allotment, or grow fruit and vegetables in your garden, then this is somewhere to go and imagine.

One day, maybe I will own a garden which can produce 50 tonnes of fruit and vegetables…. One day….