Versailles head gardener and TV host Baraton reflects on his three decades tending some of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Simply but thoroughly, the author narrates the history of Versailles, from the days of Henry IV sneaking off to these woods to hunt to the days of the revolution. The most surprising element is the speed with which an estate of such size was built. The gardens, on the other hand, sprung from the guiding hand of Louis XIV’s gardener, André Le Nôtre, but then took their own sweet time to flourish. Baraton importantly points out how people rush about on the Rue de Rivoli and other parts of Paris but then slow to a snail’s pace when they walk through gardens at Versailles. Gardens reach into your soul, writes the author, whether you plant them, harvest them or simply enjoy them. The author philosophizes about the ability of gardens to provide space for deep reflection, and he writes poetically about the beautiful power of the grounds he tends. He also provides some practical advice—e.g., the best places for a lovers’ tryst. The building and maintenance of the world’s grandest garden took the efforts and perspectives of a wide variety of great royal gardeners, including Claude Mollet and Jacques Boyceau, as well as builders like Louis Le Vau and Charles Le Brun. In addition to paying tribute to the work of these innovators, Baraton also looks at the various films that have been filmed on the grounds, storms that have battered them, and the effects of each season on the flora and fauna.
The descriptions of the various sites on the grounds could only come from a man fortunate enough to have lived on and loved the site for almost 40 years.