Friday, February 12, 2016

Book Review: The Gardener of Versailles

During the winter months I frequent the library more often in search of beautiful picture books, inspiring garden designs, and occasionally some horticultural information. After returning 3 books last week I decided to try Alain Baraton's book The Gardener of Versailles: My Life in the World's Grandest Garden. If you have ever visited my other blog Women and the Garden you would know that I enjoy reading about the history of gardens, gardens and gardeners. This book, Baraton's only book to be translated in English (so far) is definitely satisfying my interest in the historical aspects of gardens and gardeners.




Alain Baraton has been working at Versailles since 1976. He started as most young men did at that time as an apprentice where he learned the basics of gardening. Now, Gardener-in-Chief, he shares with us his memories of living at Versailles. We learn of his love of trees and the two devastating storms he has witnessed, the most recent of which felled 18,000 trees, many of which would have been saplings during the reign of Louis VI. He shares short stories about the kings and queens who have lived in Versailles, such as the fact that Louis IV was a lover of gardens, Marie Antoinette's need to find solitude outside of the palace, the secret passages underground in the gardens and the secret passages and rooms within the Palace of Versailles. Baraton is not shy to express his opinions about the famous landscape designer Andre Le Notre or the founder of the King's Potager Jean- Baptiste de  La Quintinie. Baraton reflects sadly on the old ways of gardening hoe or rake in hand while listening to music or birdsong, now replaced with large agricultural machinery and earplugs. At times nostalgic and times romantic Baraton drops tidbits of information anyone interested in gardens or gardening will be thrilled to find and pocket for themselves. The Gardener of Versailles is a pleasure to read. Sit down with a cup of something hot by the window and enjoy.

8 comments:

  1. I read this charming book last year and it has stayed with me, especially the part about the trees. And the best news I get to go to Versailles this spring! Thanks for the review.

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    1. Ooh lucky you. Take lots of photos to share later.

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  2. Thank you for telling us about it. I will have a look for it at the public library.

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    1. Baraton has written other books related to Versailles but these are in French. You may want to do a wider search.

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  3. Sounds interesting! But 18,000 trees all at once? How heartbreaking. :(

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    1. It was just that. A storm that took place in 1999 from which they can not recover. Ancient trees tipped over, views altered.

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  5. Sit down with a cup of something hot by the window and enjoy.

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