A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the palace and gardens of Versailles. The palace itself is a baroque wonder but sadly jammed with people most of the time now. The gardens are another matter, built on a grand scale by André Le Notre to showcase the Sun King’s power and ambition. André, a gardener and landscape architect was first commissioned by Nicolas Fouquet, then Louis’ XIV finance minister, to built a grand garden at Vaux-Le_Vicomte. He held a party after it was finished to show off his wealth and of course invited the 22 year old king. Louis loved the garden but was furious that Fouquet dared to be more powerful than him. So he tossed Fouquet in jail for embezzling funds and appropriated Le Notre for himself to build an even grander garden at Versailles. The project began in 1661 and continues on to this day as one of the marvels of the garden world.
I visited on a cloudy, sometimes rainy, cool September day so most people shuffled through the palace and the garden was left with breathing room! Both the palace and the garden are well worth waiting the hour or sometimes many more to get in 🙂 The palace at the time was holding an exhibit of strange Korean Pokemon like metal sculptures…I wonder what the Sun King would have thought about them…
Now a stroll through the garden of Versailles..its amazing what you can create with a team of 18,000 and more!
The Grand Perspective as seen from Latona’s fountain
The south parterre
One of the flower parterres
Another parterre filled with flowers
The orangery at the south parterre
André actually invented the four sided wooden planters with removable panels in order to lessen the stress on the citrus trees when they were being transplanted. The containers are known today as Versailles style planters and are a must in a traditional or formal garden.
Andrés’ Versailles planters
Along the Royal Way or Great Lawn that leads down to Swan lake
One of the many statues from Greek mythology that adorn the garden
Marvelous marble urn and topiary
A Versailles resident
Swans on Swan Lake
Moving deeper into the garden to Le Grand Trianon, a pink marble and porphyry romantic retreat built in 1687 for King Louis XIV and his mistress Mme de Montespan.
Le Grand Trianon
Gardens at Le Grand Trianon
Billowing beds of salvia
Le Petit Trianon was completed in 1768 by Louis XV who continued to build at Versailles. Built in the neoclassical style it complemented the Sun King’s style.
Gaura lindheimeri in front of Le Petit Trianon
After King Louis XV died, Versailles passed on to its most famous couple, Louis the XVI and his bride Marie Antoinette. Louis gave Marie the estate of Le Petit Trianon as a wedding present and she of course went on to build her own folly, the rustic milkmaid village. Not the wisest choice seeing as the actual peasantry did not take kindly to her view of them. She also redid the gardens in an anglo/oriental style
Pleached hornbeam with the pergola in the background
The Love Momument in the gardens of Le Petit Trianon
And of course you need a grotto for all that frolicking!
A “rustic farmhouse”
Gotta have a veggie patch!
The mill pond
And the mill
Moving back towards Versailles…
Past Apollos fountain in full spray
Into the King’s garden grove
More dancing fountains
Along the four seasons fountain walkway you can access various groves.
Four seasons fountains walkway as seen from the upper flower parterre balconnade
The Spring fountain
The Autumn fountain
The Colonnade grotto
The Ballroom grotto
Lovely stonework at one of the entrances to the Ballroom grotto, featured in the movie “A Little Chaos”
A walk back along any of the side allées or the Royal Way takes you back to the palace
Most of the highlights of the gardens can be walked. It will take a few hours or most of the day 🙂 and wear good walking shoes. There are little trams that will ferry you about if you get tired. I hope you enjoyed my view of Versailles and that it will entice you to visit for yourself the next time you are in the romantic city of Paris
Au revoir and happy gardening 🙂