The History of Versailles Citrus Planter Boxes
When you think of Louis XIV, you automatically picture the Palace of Versailles with its perfectly manicured gardens, fountains and the iconic Versailles citrus planter boxes designed by Andre Le Notre.
A French landscape architect and the head gardener of King Louis XIV of France, Le Notre’s work in the gardens of Versailles was his masterpiece.
His father, Jean Le Notre, was the master gardener of King Louis XIII at the Tuileries. As a student of painter François Vouet, he studied the laws of perspective and optics and from François Mansart, the principal architect of Versailles, he learned the principles of architecture. After succeeding his father, Le Notre redesigned the Tuileries gardens, revealing his eye for extensive vistas. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
The Palace itself is well known for its opulence, both interior and exterior. Chandeliers and topiaries along with fountains and fireplaces, fenestration and propagation on a scale that blows the ordinary mind even today.
The Orangerie was an extension of the Palace built not only to protect the citrus in the winter, but also to impress visitors. It contains many of the citrus boxes that are a hallmark of French garden design. Throughout Europe and the world, these simple but elegant boxes with their ball finials epitomize classic design.
The Original Orange Planter Box
The first original orange planter boxes were invented during the 17th century by La Quintinie and André Le Nôtre.
At that time exotic fruits were brought from abroad to Versailles, and as the plants were sensitive to the harsh winter weather in Versailles, a giant orangerie was built capable of containing thousands of the most exotic trees, like citrus and palm trees. They would be moved to the orangerie to spend the winter season, from November to April.
Instead of stressing the plants and trees by transplanting several times a year from the gardens to the orangerie, Le Notre invented a portable planter box where the trees could remain permanently all year long.
Bring French Style to Your Garden
Due to the cold winters and the heavy weight of the trees, the orange tree planter boxes were manufactured with an exceptional solidity. Today, Jardins du Roi Soleil under an exclusive license, manufactures the “Chateau de Versailles” orange tree-boxes. Eye of the Day has been appointed as their exclusive West Coast distributors.
Our orange tree planter boxes are made entirely in France in the strict respect of traditional artisanal techniques. The design of the Versailles citrus planter owes its reputation to a rigorous selection of noble materials like French oak and cast-iron as well as the quality of assembly.
The main purpose of Le Notre’s design of the Versailles citrus planter was to enable ease of handling while relocating the citrus trees during the cold weather. The boxes stand on four cast iron legs of and are easily lifted and moved, especially with today’s equipment. The planter can easily be opened to change or replace the plant without causing it stress, also, allowing access to trim the root ball of plants intended to remain in the container for longer periods of time.
Whether you use a forklift or pallet jack to move these timeless planters, they will roll along into whatever greenhouse or warm winter spot you have for them. And, if you don’t want to move the entire planter, you can open it and remove one or more sides to remove the plant, leaving the planter box where it rests and replanting it in Spring.
The Chateau de Versailles wooden orange tree box has been copied for centuries and its basic design has been riffed upon in dozens of ways, including all wood to Corten steel cubes. The basic geometry of a square planter box is not unique or particularly clever, but the design of Le Notre’s Versailles planter is not only iconic, it is as French as Champagne, unique and authentic to the Palace of Versailles.
The quality of the Roi du Soleil planters has improved over the years with modern forging and the quality of French oak, which is unsurpassed for strength, beauty and longevity. One company copying this planter down to the metal frame uses aluminum for the frame and an alternative wood for the box. At Eye of the Day we look forward to helping you better understand the quality and unique design of the original Versailles planter box. With every sale, we send a percentage to the Palace of Versailles, not only as tribute but to ensure that, like the last 500 years, production remains focused on authenticity and quality.
Photos courtesy of Jardins du Roi Soleil