Potager Du Roi
The Potager du Roi, the Kitchen Garden of the King, was commissioned in 1678 by Louis XIV to include buildings, terraces, stairs, and a reservoir, all near the Palace of Versailles. The finely detailed Grille du Roi, created by the acclaimed metalworker Alexis Fordin, served as the king’s private entrance. The Potager is just over 23 acres with 28 small gardens on the periphery and 16 square gardens surrounding a central fountain. Jean Baptiste de La Quintinye designed an underground drainage system, introduced natural fertilizers, and cultivated plentiful fruit, vegetables, and exotic plants for the king with the help of 30 gardeners. New varieties of fruits and vegetables became a daily part of life for the royal family and guests. Under Louis XV, the Le Normand family became the Potager’s director, successfully growing coffee plants that provided café to the king and his guests in the garden. The potager housed the École Supérieure d’Horticulture from 1874 until 1946 when it became the École Nationale du Paysage, which still exists today.
WMF also conserved the central Grand Carré
In 1993, World Monuments Fund launched a conservation project which included repair and regilding of the considerably deteriorated Grille du Roi. Celebration of the restoration and reinstallation was dedicated to the late Ambassador Emmanuel de Margerie, past president of World Monuments Fund France and an avid enthusiast of WMF’s work in Europe. Other components of the project included the conservation of the central fountain and the resetting of the paving stones. WMF also conserved the central Grand Carré, while the Conséil Regional of France conserved the potager’s walls, terraces, and subterranean passages. By 1996, at the project’s completion, the terrace view of the gardens was returned to its much admired seventeenth century splendor.
Jean Pierre Babelon, the Directeur du Musée et du Domaine de Versailles, wrote, “The property of Versailles would be incomplete without the Potager du Roi.” The Potager du Roi, as with many gardens of this era served also as a great place of experimentation and thus reveals much about the history of horticulture in France. La Quintinye’s layout of separate garden units allowed typical plants, herbs, vegetables and flowers to be grown, as well as exotic and fashionable items. Today, the potager serves as a laboratory for horticultural experimentation and sells produce to the public.