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In the Sun King's vegetable garden

A royal soil


King Louis XIV loved figs, melons and beans..
Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinie gave him a vegetable garden fit enough for a royal palate. This horticultural model is located a stone's throw away from the Versailles palace, and you can still visit it today.


The other palace of Versailles

In 1678, Louis XIV is about to move the court in the most prestigious palace ever built. This is the opportunity to design a vegetable garden matching his excesses, able to satisfy his voracious appetite and feed the 5,000 people from the court.

He's not called the Sun King for no purpose. He challenges Jean Baptiste de la Quintinie, a famous French agronomist to create the vegetable garden on a swamp. The place is far from being attractive: it is called "the stinking swamp"! The smart agronomist tries everything to dry the area and make the land fertile, building underground aqueducts, using stones to drain and raising the crops.

Construction works for the planning of the 9-hectares French-style gardens would take five years. The Sun King also likes gardening: he enjoys walking in the alleys and learning how to prune trees. He likes to sit in the high terrace and contemplate his vegetable garden.


Fruits and vegetables in their majesty

The brilliant La Quintinie not only pleases the monarch: he would even anticipate his needs. Already ahead of his time, in the late 17th century, he is considering an out-of-season harvest. The King's vegetable garden becomes a live and pioneer laboratory in early crop culture. At the king's table, guests savour strawberries in January and asparagus the following month. Even more exotic, heated greenhouses allow to produce coffee, bananas and pineapples right in the middle of Versailles.

La Quintinie cuts, grafts and invents new varieties of fruits and vegetables. He would become the absolute king of all gardens. At the time of his death, the agronomist has put all his observations in a treaty entitled "Instructions for fruit and vegetable gardens" for posterity.


A live conservatory

The "Potager du Roi" (King's vegetable garden) is now under the management of the École nationale supérieure du paysage, a world famous training centre for horticultural engineers. It is a place of knowledge, transmission and preservation of biodiversity bequeathed by La Quintinie and his heirs.

The site aims at making rare or unknown varieties accessible to the public. Over 800 species of fruits and vegetables are grown and sold, including an impressive collection of pear trees. Every year, 40,000 visitors walk the alleys of the famous "Potager de France" to try these uncommon products. For the 3 million tourists who visit the Palace of Versailles, the King's vegetable garden almost feels like a secret garden...