Spring 2020 forced me to lead a more local and home-centered life than I am used to. I don’t complain. It’s kind of nice actually.
It’s the type of simplicity I believe many of us like, although we do not always give into it. The fear of missing out stopping us, possibly.
There is a scene in Sofia Coppola’s movie Marie Antoinette, where the queen is done with the extravagant hairdos and dresses and orders new clothes with a short brief:
‘I want something more simple. Natural. To wear in the garden.’
That came to my mind when I was reading Clare Coulson’s article How to grow an edible garden earlier this summer. It featured superstar landscape architect Jinny Blom, who suggested that instead of driving yourself crazy by trying to tend a huge kitchen garden at once, you could start off with something small and manageable.
‘I am not the world’s most brilliant gardener and I think that’s true of many people,’ she says. ‘It can be terribly demoralising if it doesn’t go well, and veg are particularly bothersome.’
She advises creating a ‘Marie Antoinette garden’ of easy-grow crops sited close to the house, which could include a couple of raised beds full of herbs, lettuces, courgettes and sweet peas – all of which are low maintenance and high return.
It amuses me that the type of edible garden I have can be called a Marie Antoinette garden. But I also wonder, why.
Because the gardens of Versailles were grand! Ambitious.
Even the little village Marie Antoinette had built, the one where the chickens ran free, and where there were lovely flower fields and lush beds of strawberries and sweet peas and all the veg and fruit you can imagine – that was not a one family’s backyard hobby thing.
No. It was my dream world.
The place was called Le Hameau de la Reine, the Queen’s Hamlet, and alongside several cottages, it contained a pond, orchard, flower gardens, a mill, and a working farm with cows, sheep, and chickens that produced milk and eggs for the queen.
As much as Marie Antoinette enjoyed the informality of her country village life (situated in the court of France), and dressing in peasant clothes (custom-made in an atelier), I have a feeling there were plenty of hands helping with the farm work. Small and manageable, sure – if you have a team a gardeners to manage it.
Then again, let’s forget the scale, when the idea is so tempting.
I started my edible garden some years ago with a single raised bed – a wooden box. You have to admit the name Marie Antoinette puts a nice spin on a wooden box.
And I did have my dress from the day one, my something simple, natural, to wear in the garden. A nightgown-like white cotton dress by Samuji.
It’s ten years old and falling apart, but I keep mending the little rips and holes because it’s got just the right vibe for my Marie Antoinette garden.