Jardin de Lavande sampler: blocks three and four
Over the next few weeks I'll be introducing you to my new Jardin de Lavande blocks - prior to their release in July - and taking you on a leisurely virtual tour of France's most beautiful gardens, including its most famous...
Parterres Nord & Ouest
Our journey this week takes us to the outskirts of Paris and to the best known garden in France: Versailles. It was created for Louis the XIV - the Sun King - who remains the world's longest reigning monarch, ruling France from 1643 until 1715.
The royal gardener, Andre Le Notre, began work in 1661 and it took four decades to create two thousand acres of elegant gardens, designed to be in total harmony with the palace. From the Hall of Mirrors a formal axis stretches as far as the eye can see, including the mile-long canal - which took a decade to excavate - adorned with Gondolas brought from Venice along with a team of Gondoliers. Pools of water reflected light into the palace, arrow-straight pathways and dainty parterres provided the perfect setting for courtiers to promenade (and shady groves for them to get up to no good).
The royal obsession with oranges continued and courtiers were expected to relinquish their own prized trees to adorn the vast Orangery. Louis was so pleased with the gardens that he wrote his own guide, How to Show the Gardens of Versailles, lest visitors miss any of the 400 statues or 50 fountains. And those visitors could include French citizens, who were allowed to walk in the gardens under one condition: they had to be suitably dressed. Those without the required finery could rent an outfit at the entrance.
photograph by Authentic Provence
One little known fact about Louis XIV was his penchant for hot chocolate, although at the time it was rumoured to be an aphrodisiac which may have had something to do with it (Louis is better known, like many of his predecessors, for having many mistresses). His great-grandson, Louis XV was equally smitten - with both chocolate and mistresses - as was Marie Antoinette.
Next week we'll be travelling to Provence - where a glass of chilled rose might be more appropriate than hot chocolate - to explore a garden that couldn't be more different from Versailles...