I think we are all a little impatient these days; at least I am. Tired of listening to the political discourse of the day; I wish to surround myself with the compatriots of Madame de Sevigne just for a day or two.
“The craze for peas continues; the impatience waiting to eat them, to have eaten them, and the pleasure of eating them are the three subjects our princes have been discussing for the past four days now.”
Madame de Sevigne
Jean de la Quintinie, head gardener to Louis XIV was
“so convinced of the innocent pleasure given by the sight of a handsome potager that in all large gardens I recommend building a pavilion, not merely to provide shelter in storms..but also for the pleasure derived from admiring in comfort land that is well used.”
Jennifer Bartley has written another book, The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook. Handbook is correct word. The Chicago Tribune says, “It’s a book you can’t help but tuck with scraps of paper and turned down page corners as you harvest a bumper crop of fine ideas.” Vegetable gardening is a craze. It’s de rigueur for city, suburban or rural dwellers to grow their own.
We (and I include myself) are beginning to understand; what the french have long been proponents of: a vegetable garden as an aesthetic endeavor. When you investigate the origins of the potager;
it is the monks of the Middle Ages
that show us the way. Providing nourishment for the inhabitants of the abbey and flowers for their altars were part of their daily routine. It is the combination of ornamental and edibles that inspire people like Jennifer Bartley. Her books and website (http://www.americanpotager.com)
are primers in what we have forgotten. A vegetable garden is a GARDEN.
It was Jean de la Quintinie who created a figuerie for Louis XIV, which produced figs even in Winter. He created his own microclimate by hollowing out a garden protected from the chilling winds.
Sitting on an uncomfortable chaise lounge, decked out in pointy shoes, I contemplate a design for my vegetable garden…parterre, labyrinth or serpentine and wish that the only care in the world I had was the latest infatuation with peas.