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A little history of gardens

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Today – once is not custom – we want to tackle a theme that crosses gardening and society . It is that of the relationship between the garden and the social representation.

If you were expecting people to say, “The rich there are gardens like that, the poor are brave and you have them like that …” or conversely, you’ll be a little disappointed – it’s a bit more complicated than that!

From nature to the wild, to the garden ”  à la française “, policed, the cord, there is a world! What you want to tell us today is how much our use of the garden reflects our way of life, and our place in a community, a society and an ideology. This explains the difficulty of certain neighborhood relations – and how this relation to the garden – to the domesticated nature – has evolved over time.

At the beginning: the ancient gardens

The first gardens arose from the need to keep the plants that were considered useful close to the “place of life”. So it was first food and medicinal plants that populated the plots cleared. It is known from the documents inherited from antiquity that the gardens responded at this time to the desire to create a place “heaven”, a haven that combines what is ”  best  ” for its owner. And in this best fit for paradise – for the gardeners around the Mediterranean and the Middle East – there was the water point as a central element, accompanied by fruit trees – offering sweet fruit and shade – and nourishing plants.

The very first of these gardens is it not the Garden of Eden?

Go, a holy text, for a faith (s) – Genesis 2, 8-9.

Then the Lord God planted a garden in the land of Eden, there eastward, to put the human being that he had fashioned. He grew all kinds of trees with pleasant appearance and delicious fruits.

Just to say that this mythical garden associates very clearly the ornamental and nurturing part : one is not conceivable without the other in the ancient vision. And today either – in any case it’s our way of seeing the garden .

Etymologically, by the way, the term  garden  comes from the Gallo-Roman  hortus gardinus  which literally means “garden surrounded by a fence”, composed of the Latin  hortus  “garden” and Old-francique  * gart or  * gardo  “fence” – etymology which Suggests pretty well that the garden must be enclosed to be protected from the outside and well maintained inside. By the way, in English kindergarten , kindergarten , does it mean kindergarten, as we sometimes think, or enclosure meant to keep our young, temporarily protecting them from the noise of the world? It is certainly, in any case, where iswhat is most precious …

The vegetable garden of the King – a nourishing garden and ceremonial

I propose a jump in time – the intermediate periods are just as exciting, do not doubt – to tell you about the kitchen garden of the King . 
King Louis XIV created his gardens for political purposes, in order to prove his predominant social role as Sun King. The gardens of Versailles are designed to prove the technical mastery of nature, that one is able to constrain to serve the system of the regular garden .

The kitchen garden of the King – and the orangery – were used as well to provide the table of the king as for the pageantry . The monarch had also his door – monumental and golden – dedicated, to allow him to visit or to visit the vegetable garden. The magnificence of the vegetable garden and the exceptional products it provided for the receptions were part of the prestige of the estate. The goal of all this being to put the eyes on courtiers and ambassadors. 
It must be understood that at that time the wealth and ability to support military campaigns rested on the ability to produce food . So the control of the food production of the vegetable garden served as a metaphor to prove the good health of the Kingdom .

The Puritan nineteenth century – the vegetable garden goes into service spaces

The nineteenth century was the period of a major change in the influences that governed parks and gardens. Before this period, wealth was “earthly”, and all the “Powers” were based on the agricultural production of a territory, be it the nobility or the clergy. Moreover, the nobility symbolically bore the name of their land – that is, the source of their income . 
With the advent of the bourgeoisie, whose wealth has grown on trade and industry – and not the production of “the land” – values ​​have evolved. The parks and gardens of that time were part of the hygienist and progressive thinking. What was to be put forward was no longer, as at Versailles, the capacity to control territory and to constrain nature , but an ”  idea of ​​nature ” which would bring health and show the advantages of organized progress .

In this logic, the “nature” must be mastered and cleverly arranged, even if we give to the parks – For example the  Barbieux Park  in Roubaix (which we know well for having shot the video of our app, it is here ) , or the Buttes Chaumont in Paris – the sometimes exuberant appearance of nature.

At about the same time, workers ‘gardens are born in the workers’ towns. At the beginning of the 20th century, there are only 48 industrial gardens in the Paris region for 3.5 million inhabitants. At the end of World War II, there are  250 000 gardens  workers throughout France: leased or sold by the boss or the Municipality, the field worker attached to his factory and kept away from the cabaret .

The democratization of flower gardens in the 20th century

Martine Bergues, in her research book ”  In her garden – an ethnology of flowering “, notes over the generations – since the inter-war period – the transformation of the nourishing garden and vegetable garden, with some flowers cultivated on the rare time ” stolen to agricultural work “in a” flower garden “on the outskirts of which one tolerates a kitchen garden.

The “peasant” gardens, which had not yet undergone progressive influences, aimed to improve daily life through self-production. They mainly consisted of vegetables, and moreover in the countryside, the phrase ”  I go to the garden  ” still often means ”  I go to the kitchen garden “! The few flowers that grew in these gardens responded to a utilitarian logic of recovery: flowers for the church and the cemetery, those that had a medicinal use, and those that did not interfere and did not require too much maintenance.

Gradually, through the work of the horticultural sector and the influence of urban flowering, “flower gardens” have gained a dominant place : with access to “modern” comfort, people have adopted the progressive values ​​to which they are attached the “flowers” – to hear: the annuals. 
The queen plants of this movement are perennials cultivated as annuals put forward by the horticultural industry for their technical qualities : long flowering and keeping in time. These criteria have since 1850 Pelargonium peltatumthe “King of Gardens”. It is still a shame to make a flower that can survive alone the “King of the garden” – but it is precisely what glorifies the “technicality” and “love of flowers” of the gardener or of the gardener who owns it.

The elitism of “natural” gardens

These gardens are sometimes called ”  English ” because they are the heirs of the works of Gertrude Gekyllin the nineteenth century, and related to a more oriented thinking about the living and respect for nature. This style of garden and the networks of gardeners who own them are elitist, and their sign of recognition and belonging is the research and possession of the rare plant, which must be known in Latin to specify the cultivar . 
This network developed in France from the 80s with the emergence of nurseries “specialists”, the popularization of the festivals of plants – Courson and Saint Jean de Beauregardat the top, the influence of the magazine ”  My garden My house “, and of course the admiration for the Norman garden of Princess Stürza . 
“Natural” gardeners use more nature- friendly cultivation methods , and favor perennials and decorative foliage plants, to the detriment of annuals that are “too much”. On the other hand, there is no place for the natural and local plant, which is too ordinary – it is a network of horticultural enthusiasts and its creations, not naturalists .

The presence of a vegetable garden in this type of garden is totally incidental, and does not participate in the “model”.

A revenge of the naturalistic vision?

This subtitle title does not indicate that gardening is now practiced  undressed – the gardener is even rarely naturist, because the plants it can sting sensitive areas !

In recent years, the return to a more natural gardening – and the current massive adherence to permaculture  and some principles of agroecology – is a generational fact as well as societal. The excitement of this movement – which goes beyond the strict framework of gardening – is linked to an awareness of the global ecological emergency , and to the idea that quality food is scarce and expensive. In this it is a return to the nourishing logic of the peasant garden and its ” tinkered  ” appearance  – which resulted from the peasant reflex of reusing plants and materials.

In these gardens cultivated according to the principles of permaculture, we reuse a lot, we associate the elements and plants according to several logics. Consider practical questions – ease of work of the gardener – techniques – associations of friendly and enemy plants, or mystics – influences of different energies and cardinal points. 
The garden is envisioned as a juxtaposition of elements useful to the gardener and the ecosystem , – compost, insect house, planks or mounds, pond, etc. – each of which plays an inseparable role in the environment. ‘together. These different elements are considered as living, they are interactinganimals and micro-organisms move from one to the other, so their organization is not conceived for ornamental purposes as in the natural garden.

Everyone develops his garden according to the influences of his time, his way of life, his community … and according to his relationship to the world.

Let’s go back to this dimension ”  class struggle” of the garden. Yes, the social classes and the ideological movements each have their gardens: Louis XIV made his own to impress the world, as well as the planters who lived the ”  glorious thirties  ” have adorned their entries of “modern” plants, which “in throw in, “to fit into the society of modernity and progress. In response to this industrial and technical vision of plants, the “natural garden”, scholarly and “distinguished”, has gained popularity, becoming a mainstream in France. 
The relation to food – or putting it at a distance– is a key point. The farmer and the worker were growing their vegetables yesterday near the house by obligation to feed the household, when the organic gardeners of today do it for the sake of quality of life .

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