The Gardens of Versailles are some of the most quintessential formal gardens in the world. Straight lines of ancient trees, well-trimmed hedges, and manicured lawns make up the bulk of these traditional gardens. You wouldn't expect them to be a hot bed of innovation, but chief gardener Alain Baraton is making a bold move and beginning to manage the gardens using an environmentally friendly approach.
With the changing global climate, problems are arising on the 2100-acre estate, such as poor fall leaf color on the chestnuts and increased insect activity due to warmer-than-usual winters. Baraton's solution is to work with, as opposed to against, nature. Since he began spraying less insecticide, he has noticed that more birds are coming back to the garden to feed on the plump aphids chewing on the chestnut tree leaves. To combat diseases, he is planting a diversity of tree species instead of all the same type. He is frowning on the old royal practice of importing exotic species of plants into the garden and is using mostly native plants.
Through his radio and television shows and in sharing information with the thousands of visitors to the garden each year, Baraton is starting his own French revolution touting the benefits of "green" gardening in this very traditional location.
For more information on the transformation of the Gardens of Versailles, go to: Washington Post.
Article published on July 30, 2008.