The Orangery Court, where horticultural techniques of the XVIII th c. are still in use, is a walled area where citrus trees – most of which originate from South East Asia and annual plants most of which are Mediterranean are placed during the hot season. The Orangery is a building most composed of a vast ( + 2000 sq.ft ) hall where all plants are sheltered during the cold season. The collection of citrus trees in tubs or vase, comprising ca. 50 specimens of 17 différent species is already remarkable. Once enriched by plants now ordered from a specialized nursery, it will become unique in France.
The layout of the Versailles tubs and Anduze vases is governed by classical rules ( one citrus tree succeding a decorative or fragrant plant ) around four squares lined with box hedge. The beds are planted with annuals chosen for their fragrance. Citrus trees are clipped in the shape of a bowl, a cone or a Chinese hat flollowing the rule of the three thirds ( 1/3 of the height for the container, 1/3 for the trunk, 1/3 for the foliage ).
The Versailles tubs are painted in two shades of green, representing the two sides of an olive leaf. The woodwork ( benches, windows, doors … )is painted in yellow ochre, a traditionnal colour of the Orangery ( Versailles ). The Anduze wases are either green or ” flamed ” and have been specially engraved for Château de Saint-Loup. Anduze is a picturesque townin the Gard, with a reputation for line pottery that has endured for centuries. Plants and Citrus trees are housed during the second half of October in the Orangery in which is maintained a temperature of ca.ten degrees centigrade. The Orangery is fitted with artificial lighting to enhance natural light. The vegetals are watered once a month when necessary ( 70 cm tub, 3 litres, 50 cm tub, 2 litres, Anduze tubs, 3 litres ). During the hivernation period, tubs are re boxed. No treatment should be carried out in the Orangery except a little fertilization in March aimed at an outdoors placement last week in April.
Historically the Orangery Court is a representation of the Garden of Eden, place of all delights dedicated to the pleasures of the senses. In Antiquity it is named the Garden of the Hesperidins. Citrus trees and fragrant plants also allowed the private production of perfumes, liquors, essential oils, jams, crystallised fruit…
Placing plants outdoors is an important moment. Tubs and Vases are lined up with a cord, balanced and fitted with the automatic drip watering system. Watering takes place either in the morning or in the evening, with added fertilizers. Once they are installed outside plants are pruned lightly and with great care either with pruning-scissors or a pinching technique. The emphasis is on the ornamental ( foliage ). In May – June starts the flowering. The citrus tree is allowed to flower, but the fructification is controlled. On an inflorescence of 4 one flower is kept. This period ( June ) is called in French “nouaison”knotting season. The goal is to avoid an excess of fruit undermining the ornamental stature of the plant : foliage should have the edge over fruit. The restoration of the gardens of Saint-Loup has been made possible thanks to the help of the European Commisssion and the French State following the recommentations of M Joel Cottin head-Gardener of the Château de Versailles and with the assistance of Fourny nuseries ( Corsica ).