Le Potager du Roi, Versailles

The Potager du Roi was built for King Louis XIV, the magnificent ‘Sun King’, to provide fruit and vegetables for his table and to feed the court at Versailles.  The nine hectare Potager is open to the public and is owned by the Ecole Nationale Supérieure du Paysage, a university specialising in Landscape Architecture.   I visited at Halloween when the many espaliered fruit trees had already been harvested but there were ornamental gourds, late flowers, rich purple cabbages and plenty of autumn colour.  Views from the garden are dominated by the imposing Cathédrale de St. Louis – God is looking on!

Church and kitchen garden
The gardens are laid out around ‘Le Grand Carré’ a sunken walled garden divided into sections by paths lined with espaliered fruit trees.

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Cordon and cabbages
Between the espalied fruit trees lie beds of vegetables.
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Church and cordon apples
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Pear Bonne Louise d'Avranches
Epaliered pear – Louise Bonne d’Avranches
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Cordons
Upright cordoned apple and pear trees line the walls.
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Gourds 1
Gorgeous gourds…
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Asparagas berries
Female asparagus plants laden with vibrant red berries.
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Felice Varini2
The artist Felice Varini was showing his work Des cercles, des toits, des façades.  The work only lines up in perfect circles  when one is standing at exactly the right viewing point (as I was here).  From elsewhere they appear as disjointed arcs.

Felice Varini
The Grand Carré with Varini’s circles behind.
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Cordon Almond
Cordoned almond tree (above) and a fanned plum tree (below) taking advantage of the micro-climate of the walled gardens.

Fan
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Tunnel
Low tunnels link the Grand Carré with the walled gardens to allow easy access with a wheelbarrow.
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Student gardens church
Beyond the walled gardens the student gardens are wilder,….

 Cornus
…..more experimental with colour (a yellow stemmed cornus and an amaranthus)….

Student gardens
and show evidence of a sense of humour!
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Cockerel
An escapee from the chicken run.
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magnolias
In the small arboretum, an evergreen Magnolia grandifolia and a decidous Magnolia acuminata look beautiful growing side by side.
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Crataegus
Crataegus americana
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Shop
The shop sells a beautiful array of seasonal produce from the garden. I couldn’t resist buying some tiny Royal Gala apples and this potimarron pumpkin.

Update – September 2014 :

I’ve just been back to the Potager du Roi and it is in a terribly neglected state.  The fruit trees are still looking good, but the potager squares are unplanted or full of weeds; it’s such a shame!  There are even 2 metre high tree weeds.  On the guided tour we were told there were 9 full-time gardeners here – but what are they doing?!  Maybe we need the Americans to step in to restore it like they have the Orangerie next door.
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Practical Information

Le Potager du Roi, 10 Rue du Maréchal Joffre, 78000 Versailles.
Versailles can be reached on the RER E from central Paris.  The nearest station is Versailles Rive-Gauche-Chateau de Versailles and then there is a 5-10 minute walk to the Potager du Roi.  Turn left out of the station following Ave. Gén du Gaulle, then turn right into rue du Général Leclerc, and then left into rue du Maréchal Joffre (It’s all very military!).  Entry to the gardens was 4.50€ when I visited.  Check the website before you go as opening days and times depend on the time of year.  There are cafés and restaurants on the nearby pedestrianised Rue Satory.   For picnics, there is an organic market in front of the Cathédral St. Louis on Saturday mornings.

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