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Book Review: The Gardener of Versaille

By September 11, 2015 No Comments

This French best seller, written by Alain Baraton, gardener-in-chief at the palace of Versaille, is fantastic! It will appeal to all gardeners and green professionals. Baraton offers us an intimate look at his career path and the history of the famous grounds. His job is not easy. Working under him are eighty gardeners, and they manage 350,000 trees, flowers and plants, plus thirty miles of walkways on 2,100 acres of land. No more enthusiastic amateurs; all new gardeners are required to pass standard government exams.

The gardens have been frequented and loved by kings and queens. Baraton includes many paragraphs on young French kings and their many escapades. Versaille is frequented by lovers looking for secluded spots and this leads us to an interesting quote: “A garden capable of attracting lovers is a success”.
Totally unexpected were the hordes of grandmothers making secret cuttings to take back home.

I was personally fascinated with the details of a gardener’s life and the many great gardeners who worked on the grounds before Baraton. If you like French history or just good stories, you won’t be disappointed. The absolute best story, well worth the price of the book, is that of Louis XIV and his new Superintendent of Finances, Fouquet. Fouquet created an amazing garden at the chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte and threw the party of all parties. Some guests received horses as door prizes! In one account, the young king Louis XIV got very jealous and poor Fouquet was stripped of all of his possessions. Court judges wanted him exiled but that was too mellow for the young king. He threw Fouquet into prison and he died there! Another account says Fouquet was set up. It was his predecessor who abused the treasury.
I highly recommend this book. Five stars.

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