Synopses & Reviews
For gardening aficionados and Francophiles, a love letter to the Versailles Palace and grounds, from the man who knows them best. In Alain Baraton's Versailles, every grove tells a story. As the gardener-in-chief, Baraton lives on its grounds, and since 1982 he has devoted his life to the gardens, orchards, and fields that were loved by France's kings and queens as much as the palace itself. His memoir captures the essence of the connection between gardeners and the earth they tend, no matter how humble or grand.
With the charm of a natural storyteller, Baraton weaves his own path as a gardener with the life of the Versailles grounds, and his role overseeing its team of eighty gardeners tending to 350,000 trees and thirty miles of walkways on 2,100 acres. He richly evokes this legendary place and the history it has witnessed but also its quieter side that he feels privileged to know. The same gardens that hosted the lavish lawn parties of Louis XIV and the momentous meeting between Marie Antoinette and the Cardinal de Rohan remain enchanted, private places where visitors try to get themselves locked in at night, lovers go looking for secluded hideaways, and elegant grandmothers secretly make cuttings to take back to their own gardens. A tremendous best seller in France, The Gardener of Versailles gives an unprecedentedly intimate view of one of the grandest places on earth.
"Overseeing a public garden remains a most underappreciated vocation. If the gardener-in-chief is doing his or her job, the space carries the sense that no one has been there and done anything and it is simply sacred space, destined for the magical transport of people who stroll there. Baraton's fascinating memoir corrects this misreading with an intimate and visceral look into his complicated relationship with one of Europe's most astonishing public gardens, Versailles, which dates to the 17th century. He writes of a particularly haunting snowy evening when he saw through a window the apparition of a sobbing woman. He left the warmth of his home to go search for her in the gardens. 'I thought of all the desperate depressed women who had gotten through the garden gates in the night and whose husbands called rescuers to help find them.' It is a telling glimpse of the challenge, consolation, and occasional horror of overseeing a place of magic." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Alain Baraton is the best-selling author of many books on gardening and the host of weekly gardening programs on French radio and television.
About the Author