Although the fountains were not on the day we visited the gardens, the gardens were nonetheless beautiful and vast. It is a little hard to depict the sheer size of the gardens in photographs, but I will try. The gardens extend as far as you can see. In the center of the picture above, far in the distance, is the Grand canal, with even more gardens beyond. This is the Latone fountain. The large central strip of grass is called the Tapis Vert. The gardens were laid out by André Le Nôtre but he had the assistance of hundreds of artists and thousands of men and horses. A few statistics to begin with:
Number of trees: 200,000
Flowers planted annually: 210,00
Number of fountains: 50
Number of jets of water: 620
Surface area of the Grand Canal: 56 acres or 36,339 sq ft
Perimeter of the Grand Canal: 5.57 km
Amount of piping to feed the fountains: 35 km
It was completed over a period of 20 years
It covers an area larger than the island of Manhattan
The garden beds on the level of the palace are beautiful and formal. I can only imagine the work and money required to keep them this way.
This is the central frieze of the Palace from the gardens. Behind the doors on the ground floor is the Marble Courtyard, described in my post Entrance to Versailles. On the first floor (we would say second floor) is the Hall of Mirrors.
Here we see the central portion of the Palace, the Hall of Mirrors extends all the way across this central section. Behind, are wings extending even farther. Two large reflecting pools or water parterre flank the central walk of the upper garden.
The reflecting pools are surrounded by statues such as the one above. The blue tower is part of the exhibition of Joana Vasconcelos.
Here is another of these lovely reclining statues. These statues line both water parterre.
With this view from the Queen’s bedroom you can see an overview of the formal side gardens. The teapot is part of the Joana Vasconelos exhibit (see my post). The reservoir is called the Pièce d’Eau des Suisses (Swiss lake), named for the Swiss guard who constructed it (no bulldozers or trucks). Way to the left is the orangerie, full of orange trees, down 100 steps (and conversely up the same steps).
Here are some closeups of the same area.
These are the cute little cherubs riding on a bronze saddle on a sphinx at the entrance to the side gardens.
As you go down the hill, these sculptured hedges and topiary cones are everywhere, with lovely white statues in among the gardens.
Farther down the hill, more sculptured hedges, statues, flowers and fountains.
Here is a look back up the stairs, toward the Latone fountain and the Palace. There are plenty of stairs, Versailles is built on a hill.
A few shots from the sides show the extravagant gardens and enormous manicured lawns.
The gardeners decided to get creative, I like the third one with Pompoms.
Looking toward the Grand canal half way down the hill, we begin to see it more clearly. The gardens continue for quite a distance beyond the end of the canal. If you look carefully, you will see the Grand canal is actually shaped like a cross with lagoons at each of the four ends. Those are not hedges on the sides of the canal, they are trees trimmed square.
Looking back toward the palace you begin to get a sense of the sheer scale of the gardens. The fountain shown here is the Apollo fountain. The large central strip of grass is called the Tapis Vert as I said before. The pictures I have been presenting form only the central view from the palace, there are additional gardens hidden behind the hedges on both sides.
Here is a closeup of the Apollo fountain.
This is one of many entrances to secluded gardens along the length of the central garden. Notice the large grassy area inside.
There are at least two parallel paths to the main garden on each side, with perpendicular paths every so often.
There are fountains on these side paths. The gardens are miles and miles of labyrinthine complexity, punctuated by statues and fountains. There are four of these particular fountains, one for each season of the year. This one is the Winter Fountain (La fontaine de hiver) or Saturn fountain (Le Bassin de Saturne) by François Girardon from the design of LeBrun done between 1672-1677. The sculpture in the center depicts an aging, winged, melancholic Saturn surrounded by four angels, lyng on a rock covered with icicles, seaweed and shells.
This is the top end of the Grand canal. They have boat races on this as you can see from the stands. Even standing on the edge, it looks like it goes on forever. The Grand canal was the final destination for the water for all the fountains, after which it was pumped back up to the reservoirs at the top of the hill.
Absolutely adorable newborn goslings following their mother.
And structured forests all around us. This is by no means a complete inventory of all there is to see. It would take weeks to see everything. You might have noticed some of the pictures look like they were taken on different days, they were. The first time we tried to walk and pooped out. The next time we rented one of these little golf carts. It really is too far to walk, rent the cart or a bicycle.
I will be posting more pictures in the future, we plan to go when the fountains are on and also at night. I still have posts coming on the Grand and Petite Trianon so come back for more.