Monday, September 2, 2013
A horticultural tour of Marie-Antoinette’s domain, the lavishly constructed gardens at Versailles, accompanied by eighteenth-century archival illustrations. Plants, flowers, and trees were Marie-Antoinette’s passion; she transformed the Petit Trianon’s gardens into an enchanted escape from the oppressive shackles of Versailles. Based on archival documents, this book meanders through Marie-Antoinette’s estate as the queen herself would have walked it: traversing hyacinths, buttercups, and anemones in the French Gardens, via winding paths in the Anglo-Chinese Gardens, through the conifers of the Belvedere Gardens—where fabulous nocturnal parties were hosted—past the entrancing aromas of the shrubs surrounding the Temple of Love, to the wildflowers of the Garden of Solitude. This fascinating reconstruction includes descriptions of the cosmetic and medicinal uses of the garden’s plants, anecdotes from the royal court, and watercolors of the herbarium. (From the Publisher)
From Marie-Anotinette's Garden is a book that I will read again and again. Just reading through the book has me wanting to return to Versailles so that I may view the gardens from a different perspective. The book is divided into the introduction, The French Garden, The Belvedere, The English garden, The Wood of Solitude, The Queen's Hamlet and The Temple of Love. There is also a descriptive inventory of exotic seed-bearing trees in the gardens of the Petit Trianon and a selected bibliography. This book has given me a whole new perspective on the gardens in Versailles.
I found the introduction to be very informative explaining the queen's love for gardens and her life within them. The author then takes her readers on a walk through the gardens. The book is both a history lesson and an explanation of the plants that took root in the gardens. Each plant's explanation is accompanied by a beautiful illustration.
From Marie-Antoinette's Garden is utterly delightful. As I read the book I imagined myself strolling through the gardens dressed like a lady with a wide billowing skirt. The descriptions and explanations of why or how the plants came to be had me envisioning them as I took my imaginary stroll.
"Styrax" Rare plants with remarkable, abundant flowers were a particular feature of the Queen's English Garden. Stryax Flowers-white, pendant, cloche-shaped, and arrangd in small clusters-release a delicate fragrance in the early summer. Writing in 1755, Duhamel du Monceau summarized the current state of research into this species...This tree is even more admirable for the very agreeably scented balm that oozes from incisions made in its trunk and branches. (at page 123)
This book is truly fascinating. If I could I would take this book with me to Versailles and stroll the gardens discovering all the plants that are described within the pages. From Marie-Antoinette's Garden is simply beautiful in both its illustrations and descriptions.
Until I return to France, I will take a walk with my book from my favourite chair.
Thank you to Rizzoli Publishing for providing me a with a copy of From Marie-Anotinette's Garden.
This is my contribution to Dreaming of France.