In 1533 thirteen-year-old Catherine de Medici traveled to France to marry the future king, Henry II. She brought with her the arts and refinements of Italian culture including many horticultural projects such as Jardins des Tuileries in Paris. Under her reign the Italian Renaissance style was taken to new heights.
Fountains and terraces became extravagant and enormous displays with miles - long alees of lime trees, pruned into rectangles and hidden niches containing statues and fountains. The premiere name in French garden hisstory was Andre Le Norte, a descentant of two generations of Tuileries' horticulturists. He desinged many splendid gardens, most notably, the gardens at Versailles, the grand palace of Louis XIV. Le Norte spent over twenty years on this project wich boasted as many as 36,000 men working at one time. Hills were added to provide vistas; marches were drained and water brought in by aqueducts to fill the canals, pools, lakes, and 1,400 fountains. At this time, 150,000 plants were grown annually to fill the parterres and planters at Versailles. Fountains played music, balanced balls on their jets, and were shaped like trees. No wonder Horace Walpole called Versailles "the gardens of a great child." Over the years, Versailles had changed. Louis XV established a menagerie and a botanical garden. On the eve of the Revolution, Marie Antoinette put in a model peasant village with thatched cottages and a dairy, where the Queen and her court could play milkmaids and shepherds.
The French style spread across Europe. Gardens became pretentious, their purpose was to outdo the neighbor. The other great French style is the potager, or kitchen garden, where flowers and vegetables and espaliered fruit trees grow in closely planted rows. The Potager du Roi, laid out by La Quintinie in 1680, covered twenty-nine acres and contained twenty-nine walled enclosures, where all kinds of produce was grown to satisfy the royal appetite.
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