From marshland to kitchen garden
Louis XIV commissioned Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie to develop a kitchen garden on the site of a swamp known as 'stinking pond'. Construction lasted from 1678 to 1683 and it had to demonstrate ingenuity to overcome the swampy terrain. This explains the use of an underground aqueduct, rubble drains and raised beds. Over time, the kitchen garden has pretty much retained La Quintinie's original design – so you will still find a succession of gardens surrounded by walls and dominated by terraces.
A testing ground
La Quintinie also developed cultivation techniques that enabled him to offer Louis XIV and his court rare fruits and vegetables, including out-of-season produce such as asparagus in January, strawberries in March, figs and even melons. La Quintinie's successors continued his research and developed innovations, enabling exotic plants brought back by travellers to be cultivated here.
Today, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure du Paysage continues to cultivate some 130 apple varieties and as many pears, a wide range of small red fruits, traditional and heritage vegetables. Some of this produce is on sale in the shop. Most is sold fresh and the rest is turned into preserves and juices. So why not stock up!