Potager du Roi orchard by Sylvain Duffard
Blog Post

Travelogue: Cultivating Climate Resilience in France’s Royal Gardens

Potager du Roi orchard by Sylvain Duffard

King Louis XIV’s magnificent kitchen gardens in Versailles have been a space of horticultural experimentation since their earliest days, when his chief gardener Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie tested new methods of garden construction, planting, and pruning to supply the court’s tables with fresh and exotic produce year-round. On my most recent trip to the gardens, I was able to see for myself how gardeners at the Potager are continuing to carry this spirit of innovation forward—this time to adapt to climate change and tackle the biodiversity crisis.

After joining World Monuments Fund (WMF) as the Senior Director of Climate Adaptation in February, I’ve been working to implement the Climate Heritage Initiative, which furthers our commitment to climate action around the globe. A key facet of this work is Cultivating Resilience, our new pilot program to protect historic parks and gardens in the face of floods, droughts, invasive species, and other effects of climate change. WMF is welcoming nominations from historic green spaces big and small around the globe through the end of the month.

Cultivating Resilience’s work will stand alongside the cutting-edge garden innovation at the Potager, where WMF is supporting France’s École Nationale Supérieure de Paysage (ENSP) to create a center of excellence on climate-resilient gardening. Though the Potager du Roi is more than 300 years old, its gardeners’ agro-ecological practices are truly innovative, proving that historic sites can provide climate solutions for the future. And the world is already taking notice: Potager’s planned climate research hub landed the cover of Town and Country’s summer magazine.

As well as thinking about the global impact of the Potager in our Climate Heritage Initiative, I also had the opportunity to talk about the conservation of the gardens and their related buildings themselves. I discussed plans for restorations and additions at the Potager, including new plantations and innovations in interpretation, such as augmented reality, that would allow visitors to experience the majesty and grandeur of Louis XIV’s gardens year-round.

The Potager was not the only stop on my trip itinerary. During my time in Paris, I joined colleagues and partners on a visit to former WMF project site the Chancellerie d’Orléans. The decors of this famed eighteenth-century hôtel particulier, specifically its intricately painted wood paneling, was taken apart and left in storage for decades. WMF’s conservation work included reassembling the interiors piece by piece. I also got to view the ongoing work at Notre-Dame de Paris, where we’ve been supporting fire risk management and prevention since the devastating 2019 blaze that consumed the cathedral’s roof. Five years on, the reconstruction of Notre-Dame remains the largest restoration project of the twenty-first century.

Minute recreations of historic interiors, ambitious restorations of Gothic marvels, pioneering plans to tackle the most pressing environmental challenges of our time—the project sites I visited were diverse in type but united by their bold vision. As work continues, I'm excited to see where the next months will take us.

World Monuments Fund's Cultivating Resilience program has been made possible by support from The Gerard B. Lambert Foundation.

World Monuments Fund's work at Potager du Roi has been made possible, in part, by support from The Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, American Express, and Tianaderrah Foundation / Nellie and Robert Gipson.