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An Agroecological Revolution at the Potager du Roi (Versailles)

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Part of the Cities and Nature book series (CITIES)


Le Potager du Roi is the work of the gardener and agronomist Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie (1624–1688). For more than 300 years, this productive, innovative and aesthetic fruit and vegetable garden has never ceased to produce food. This article analyses changes in the relationship to nature and the contemporary emergence of an agroecological farming model. Cultivating the Potager du Roi according to ecological norms is not an end in itself but an attempt to find an answer to a crisis which is of an environmental, economic and social nature. Cultivating fruit and vegetables that are beautiful, tasty and good for people’s health is a way of restoring meaning to the work of the gardeners. In a context which has become urban, their actions are governed by an agroecological paradigm: the objective is no longer to respond to an aesthetic notion of a tidy and controlled nature, but truly one of caring for the land to regenerate the soil.


  • Agroecology
  • Living-soil
  • Gardener
  • La Quintinie
  • Potager du Roi
  • École Nationale d’Horticulture

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-72733-2_6
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Photos 6.1 and 6.2
Photo 6.3
Photo 6.4
Photo 6.5
Photo 6.6


  1. 1.

    The management of this site was entrusted to the ENH in 1873. The garden was therefore no longer under the management of the Administration du domaine du Château.

  2. 2.

    Founded in 1976, the ENSP succeeded from the department of landscape design and garden arts of the ENH which was opened in 1945.

  3. 3.

    Antoine Jacobsohn has managed the team at the Potager since 2007. There are nine gardeners and four people in charge of the public (shop and visitors’ service).

  4. 4.

    Nashi n° 24, May 2009. Scab is a disease caused by the Ascomycetes fungi (Venturia inaequalis in apple trees and V. Pirina in pear trees). It comes under the form of brown stains on the leaves and fruit and a significant drop in fruit production.

  5. 5.

    2016 for the current edition. From here on, we will refer to this book as LQ.

  6. 6.

    See in the annex, the table of sociological profiles.

  7. 7.

    The project initially inspired by Martine Méritan and Antoine Jacobsohn was carried out by Liliana Motta in 2014. The idea was to compile within a single document everything that had been written on the plants cultivated in the Potager. Plans present where the perennial plants are situated and when they were planted.

  8. 8.

    This council setup in the end of the 1990s and comprising representatives from the Potager and the faculty convened every month. The first issues of Nashi published excerpts from the minutes of the council meetings. Stéphanie de Courtois, Marc Rumelhart and Manuel Pluvinage, joined soon after by Antoine Jacobsohn, were its founders.

  9. 9.

    Nashi n° 13, November 2006.

  10. 10.

    He wrote Pérennes et vivaces. Nuisibles en agriculture, 1983, published by the Jean Manuel Department at the SECN.

  11. 11.

    Philippe Jauzein, interviewed by Stéphanie de Margerie in 1995 within the context of the “Potager 2000” project. Fourteen people were interviewed about how they perceived the Potager du Roi following the departure of the ENH: the head gardener, teacher-researchers, a lecturer in landscape architecture and several people from administration.

  12. 12.

    They are two rows of 20 Verrier palmettes with five and six branches which can still be seen in the Cinquième des Onze. According to the Petite flore du Potager, op. cit.

  13. 13.

    Jacques Beccaletto, 2006. “Où nous en sommes dans la gestion phytosanitaire du Potager du Roi”, Nashi, n° 13.

  14. 14.

    op. cit., 2006.

  15. 15.

    The form described back then comprised seven or eight main branches. The one described by Jacques Beccaletto in the Potager du Roi has five.

  16. 16.

    Comment by Antoine Jacobsohn. The head architect of historical monuments defers to the head gardener of the Potager du Roi on matters concerning live plants. We are not aware of the existence, for this garden, of any written documents describing the nature of the living heritage preserved as a historical monument.

  17. 17.

    There remain approximately 800 m2 of cultivations sheltered in old horticultural hothouses reconverted for vegetables. There is an area for seedlings (40 m2), a few plantations in open ground (solanaceous plants), a small hothouse planted on the initiative of a gardener who is an enthusiast of tropical plants and a space reserved for the plantations of students.

  18. 18.

    Jacques Beccaletto, Nashi n° 13, November 2006.

  19. 19.

    According to the “Petite Flore du Potager du roi”, op. cit.

  20. 20.

    Manuel Pluvinage is an historian by training. He was in charge of the Potager du Roi from 1999 to 2007.

  21. 21.

    “Le Potager du Roi fait peau neuve”, Le Parisien, 21 March 2002.

  22. 22.

    Nashi n°13, November 2006.

  23. 23.

    See: “Légumes de génie” (2002), “L’épopée des courges” (2005), “Du fayot au mangetout” (2010).

  24. 24.

    It should be mentioned that a farmyard with fowl was included in the plan of the gardens in 1690.

  25. 25.

    Nashi n° 7, September 2005.

  26. 26.

    Comment by Marc Rumelhart, then head of the Ecology Department, reported in an article on “Student Gardening”, Nashi, n° 6, June 2005.

  27. 27.

    Abbé Pluche, p. 157, quoted by Antoine Jacobsohn in “De l’utilité de la volaille domestique au Potager, en 1732 et aujourd’hui?”, Nashi n° 30 (January 2012).

  28. 28.

    An initiative of the Picorama student association which was supported by the Department of Ecology of the ENSP.

  29. 29.

    Antoine Jacobsohn introduced the section “Notre faune” (Our Fauna) in the new layout of the Nashi inaugurated in 2010.

  30. 30.

    Jean-Pierre Thauvin, Nashi n° 30, January 2012.

  31. 31.

    During this training session, the person in charge of fruit growing, helped by a gardener, caught and listed the insects living in the “composite hedges” (comment by Olivier Gonin, former gardener at the Potager du Roi).

  32. 32.

    Nashi n° 15, May 2007.

  33. 33.

    The Anerie Bacotte has developed a “natural garden” in Bois-le-Roi which is cultivated using animal traction.

  34. 34.

    Tschabold Jean-Luc, “Le système sandwich”, AlterAgri n° 67, September–October 2004.

  35. 35.

    François Moulin, former head gardener in charge of fruit cultivation. Nashi n° 12, September 2006.

  36. 36.

    An international workshop session conducted by Karin Helms and Stefan Tischer, landscape architects.

  37. 37.

    A crusher was purchased in 2008 to recycle waste from the pruning of the fruit trees that used to be burnt. A complement of crushed mulch is provided by the Urban Community of Versailles Grand Parc for the price of its transport.

  38. 38.

    Projet d’établissement de l’ENSP Versailles, 2005–2015.

  39. 39.

    Nashi n° 12, September 2006.

  40. 40.

    The law concerning the “time limit for re-admission” (see introduction, page 3).

  41. 41.

    Agricultural technician’s certificate (in French, Brevet de technicien agricole).

  42. 42.

    ENSP meeting, January 2017.

  43. 43.

    Excerpt from an interview of the General Secretary (Stéphane de Margerie, 1995).

  44. 44.

    Nashi n°10, June 2006.

  45. 45.

    Nashi n° 26, January 2010.

  46. 46.

    In June 2015, one of the founders of the association Maraîchage sur sol vivant came to the Potager du Roi for a meeting organised on site with the association Atelier Paysan. Surprised to see vegetable patches in the Figuerie, he invited the gardeners to talk more about its cultivation.

  47. 47.

    Emmanuel Blot and François-Xavier Delbouis, “Continuer d’avancer avec le réseau Maraîchage sur sol vivant”, Nashi n° 41, March 2016.

  48. 48.

    Conference of 30 July 2015 during the “Paysages in Marciac” festival organised by the association Arbres et paysage 32. See excerpt on YouTube.

  49. 49.

    See the documentary directed by Olivier Asselin, Le verger permacuturel. Au-delà du bio, 2014.

  50. 50.

    François Le Normand and his two sons François and Louis, followed by his grandson Jacques-Louis all managed the Potager du Roi from 1691 to 1782.

  51. 51.

    Le Comte Lelieur managed the Potager du Roi from 1804 to 1819.

  52. 52.

    Auguste Hardy was the director of the Potager du Roi from 1849 to 1891.

  53. 53.

    In reference to the book by Jean-Martin Fortier, 2015, Le jardinier-maraîcher. Manuel d’agriculture biologique sur petite surface, Écosociété.

  54. 54.

    Jacques Beccaletto, “Une histoire de graviers”, Nashi n° 31, May 2012.


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Correspondence to Pauline Frileux .

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Profile of the Gardeners Interviewed in 2016

Profile of the Gardeners Interviewed in 2016

First namea Arrival at the Potager du Roi Section Age group Training, career path Main subjects of interest in the garden
Annie 1994 (seasonal employment since 1991) Vegetables.
Head gardener since 2011
[45–55] Certificate in crop protection and floriculture. Teacher in a secondary horticultural school Showing the diversity of vegetables. Teaching the general public
Pierre 1998 Vegetables [35–45] Certificate in garden and green space management The hothouse, Japanese vegetables, historical varieties, guided tours
Mathieu 1998 Vegetables [35–45] Certificate in science and laboratory techniques Simplification of farming techniques to save time, driving farm vehicles
Yvonne 2006 (intern in 2005) Vegetables [55–65] Art and fashion design. Farming certificate (reconversion). Chairwoman of family garden association Cultivating with natural methods, lasagne gardening, recycling, sale of produce in the Potager du Roi shop
Laurent 2006 (seasonal worker since 2005) Arboriculture [25–35] Certificate in landscape planning Optimising production, the permacultural orchard, gardening with chickens
Simon 2006 Vegetables [25–35] School of architecture, courses in botany Wild plants, mixed lettuce, no-till cultivation, plant cover
Arnaud 2010 (intern in 2003 then seasonal worker since 2007) Ornamental [25–35] Certificate in vegetable and flower growing in hothouses Permaculture, electroculture, edible flowers, combined cultivation of flowers and vegetables, gardening with students
Bertrand 2010 (seasonal worker since 2007) Ornamental garden and mechanical workshop. Arborist since the end of 2015 [25–35] Certificate in farming mechanics Adapting farming tools and machines, living-soil market gardening, sowing under plant cover, apiculture
Justine 2009 Arboriculture [25–35] Certificate in flower and vegetable production, certificate in landscape planning The relationship to animals
  1. aThe first names have been changed to preserve anonymity

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Frileux, P. (2018). An Agroecological Revolution at the Potager du Roi (Versailles). In: Glatron, S., Granchamp, L. (eds) The Urban Garden City . Cities and Nature. Springer, Cham.

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