WHAT IS A “POTAGER”/KITCHEN GARDEN?
A “potager” or kitchen garden is not the same thing as a regular vegetable garden. A “potager” is a French term depicting beautiful and abundant vegetable gardens, planted with herbs, flowers (both edible and non-edible) and also fruit trees. Furthermore, kitchen gardens are for private and non-commercial use.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VEGETABLE GARDEN AND A “POTAGER”/KITCHEN GARDEN?
Typically a vegetable garden is planted in Spring and harvested in Fall. The excess food is preserved to use at a later time. Its concern is merely to provide vegetables efficiently. The notion behind a “potager”/kitchen garden, on the other hand, is concerned with the production of healthy and fresh culinary herbs, plants and flowers, as well as with designing a visually striking and appealing aesthetic. A kitchen garden or “potager” gives culinary produce throughout the year, unlike conventional vegetable gardens.
A LOOK AT FIVE DIFFERENT TYPES OF KITCHEN GARDENS: IN PARTICULAR, EUROPEAN GARDENS FROM THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY THROUGH TO THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY.
1.) The Productive/”Basic” Garden:
This type of kitchen garden has no supporting structures such as sheds, storage rooms and glasshouses. It is situated close to the homestead and has protection from weather, birds, animals, and even people. It has fertile soil and a supply of water from nearby streams, rivers, pools, and springs. Security is provided by, for example, hedges, low stone walls, wooden or reed palings.
2.) The Cottage Kitchen Garden:
This type of kitchen garden lies somewhere between the “basic” kitchen garden and the much larger, more luxurious walled kitchen garden. The country dwellers planted their kitchen gardens on the grounds right around the cottage. It produces enough produce for a family and surplus that can be stored or preserved for the winter months. This garden might be decorative with a mixture of topiary hedges, trained fruit trees, flowers, vegetables, and narrow paths. It might include a poultry house, beehives and such. Low walls or hedges surrounded the garden. The plants were watered using a well or pump, unlike today where water on tap is readily available.
3.) The “Potager”/Decorative Kitchen Garden:
The purpose of these gardens is both beauty and functionality. “Potager” simply means “kitchen garden” in French. The “potager” is well suited to a cottage garden, but it can also be much larger, like the magnificent walled kitchen gardens. The “potager” was inspired by Renaissance gardens, with their wide range of trained fruit trees, flowers, vegetables, and shaded walks lined with herbs. These gardens had an abundance of gazebos, fountains, urns, statues, and vines. Since the nineteenth century, produce were imported. The easy access to fruit and vegetables at affordable prices was the beginning of the end of the magnificent walled gardens. The modern “Jardin potager” is concerned more with the layout, colours, and aesthetic of the plants than with the garden’s production of food.
4.) The Allotment Garden:
The Allotment system developed in the early nineteenth century on the outskirts of towns. The concept behind allotments was to provide a healthy pastime to city-dwellers. Municipalities, wealthy philanthropists and speculators provided the allotments. The allotments had sheds, huts and summer houses that are still in use today.
5.) The Walled Kitchen Garden:
The luxurious walled kitchen gardens were a must for any substantial country house. These gardens were huge, unlike domestic kitchen gardens of the working class. Often these country houses had more servants than family members and an excess of produce was grown to use for feasts, balls and the owners’ guests. The gardens had the best and rarest fruit trees and vegetables and ornamental flowers for the house. The wealthy owners had expert gardeners to tend to their extravagant kitchen gardens.
The access to fruit and vegetable year-round did not stay exclusive to the wealthy. Duo to fruit and vegetables being imported and becoming readily and cheaply available, the working classes now had access to these previously expensive luxuries. The popularity of beautiful walled kitchen gardens faded. The demise of these fantastic kitchen gardens began after WW1 and was virtually complete at the end of WW2.
By ‘Simply A Small Potager’
1.) Kitchen Garden, Wikipedia.org, 2018.
2.) Amy Azzarito, Past & Present: Kitchen Garden History + Terracotta DIY, DesignSponge.com
3.) Susan Campbell, Gardening and Kitchen Gardens, Encyclopedia.com, 2016.
“Thou canst not stir a flower / Without troubling of a star.” — Francis Thompson