WKGN International Forum 2009 at Hampton Court

Posted on March 9th, 2011 by Charles Boot

October 16, 2009; a report by Fiona Grant:

2009’s Forum had the aim of exploring historical and horticultural links between walled kitchen gardens in the UK and the rest of Europe.
Susan Campbell traced the influences introduced from the continent to our shores. The vast majority of these appeared to be technologies connected with the training of fruit trees, the forcing of fruit and vegetables, and inventions such as hot beds as well as those connected with orangeries, pineries, and glasshouses.

Herman van den Bossche, Heritage Researcher for Historic Parks and Gardens for the Flemish Institute, focused on the Museum Garden at Gaasbeek Castle, where traditional crops and methods of horticulture are preserved. Here a method of pruning, known as La Taille Raisone?e or ‘Rational Pruning’ is practised to produce a number of weird and wonderful shapes. His examples of this sophisticated method left us in no doubt that such techniques reached the height of perfection on the continent.

Dr Kristin Pu?ttmann, a freelance art historian from Germany, demonstrated how the walled kitchen garden in Germany owes much to British models. Dr Pu?ttmann used the examples of the Castles of Eutin and Oldenburg, where the English landscape garden was adopted in both cases; this led to the productive garden being moved to a new location, surrounded by walls and taking on many of the characteristics of the British walled kitchen garden.

Antoine Jacobsohn has been the curator of the Potager du Roi, the King’s kitchen garden at Versailles for the past five years, and he traced the development of the garden from its construction by Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie in the late 17th century to the present. Covering nearly nine hectares (22 acres) it is now under the administration of the National School of Horticulture, where traditional horticultural methods are taught alongside modern techniques. However Antoine emphasised that a spirit of experimentation was key to the development of the garden and that they were not in any way, stuck in the past.

Todd Longstaffe Gowan, Gardens Advisor to the Historic Royal Palaces, traced the history of the King’s Kitchen Garden within the context of the larger estate at Hampton Court.The kitchen garden was laid out in the late 17th century in the Tilt Yard, an area that had previously been used for jousting. The intention is to recreate part of the garden in two of the original six divisions in the Tilt Yard. Since it is from the same period as the Potager du Roi, and London and Wise would have been familiar with La Quintinie’s treatises, the central portion of the Potager is being used as a basis for the design, thus linking us once again with continental developments in gardening.

Todd Longstaffe Gowan leads a group of delegates round the gardens. Photo by Fiona Grant

Todd Longstaffe Gowan leads a group of delegates round the gardens. Photo by Fiona Grant

We were then guided around the gardens by Todd and Jill Strudwick, Keeper of the Vine at Hampton Court.The high standard of the restoration work in the gardens is most impressive and we look forward to seeing similar progress in the re-creation of the King’s Kitchen Garden.

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