FROM MARIE ANTOINETTE’S GARDEN
An Eighteenth-Century Horticultural Notebook
Élisabeth de Feydeau
Edited by Alain Baraton
Foreword by Catherine Pégard
240 pages • 100 colour illustrations
Hardcover • ISBN 978-2-08-020142-3
Flammarion, September 2013
This is a delightful new book that combines plants, gardens and flowers with Marie Antoinette’s lifestyle – a heady mix indeed. It leads us into the world of the Petit Trianon which provided an escape for the Queen from the rigours of court etiquette and ceremonial.
The chapters take us through various parts of the garden much in the way that Marie Antoinette may have traversed it. Her interest in plants, trees and flowers motivated her to improve the existing gardens and we are fortunate that the watercolours of the herbarium, including some by the great Pierre-Joseph Redouté, still exist. They are used here to show us some of the specimens the gardens contained. The planting of the garden reflected the interest in new species of plant life as well as more practical purposes such as medicinal remedies and perfumery.
The tour of the garden starts in the formal French Garden which contained irises, hyacinths, Madonna lilies and carnations among other flowers. The Belvedere was where the Queen held spectacular evening parties amid the Kermes oaks, myrtle and vines. Like the Temple of Love, situated on an island, surrounded by roses and fragrant trees, it was actually part of the English Garden which with its winding paths and informal plantings of exotic shrubs and trees was the antithesis of formal French gardens of the time.
Another informal place in the garden was the Wood of Solitude which had meandering paths among trees, including the American Black Walnut and woodland flora. The last major creation in the garden was the Queen’s Hamlet – a recreation of a Normandy village. The thatched cottages had their own kitchen gardens where vegetables and fruit trees were grown. It was a place where the Queen would entertain guests in a rustic, informal way. A sylvan escape from the approaching political storm perhaps?
The book is peppered with contemporary descriptions and anecdotes that make it far more than a garden handbook. It is a book that even non-gardeners, like myself, will enjoy so I do hope you will be tempted to get a copy.