The Kitchen Garden
After the Second World War, country houses in England found there was no longer a surplus of gardeners seeking private service.The large kitchen gardens reverted back to their owners. Some of these gardens disappeared all together, the rest reduced in size. A small kitchen garden is now referred to as a potager, a French word for a vegetable garden or an ornamental kitchen garden. This is the kind of information I gathered while writing my novel, Greening of a Heart.
In the book, Hannah Winchester tells a group of ladies she is showing through her kitchen garden, “Even if you are growing a utilitarian potager, keep it orderly, use every inch, keep it unpretentious and you will be rewarded not only with your production, but with the beauty you’ve created.”
How differently things are grown since those vast Victorian gardens exsisted. Vegetables are grown organically now. How differently an Agatha Christie’s mystery would have turned out without a number of poisonous chemicals, arsenic in particular, that were used in the old kitchen gardens.
After the war economics drove the changes in the large kitchen gardens, but the evolution of this type of gardening suits us today. A rekindled interest in community gardens is certainly prevalent in North Carolina, successful restaurants are featuring a ‘garden to table’ menu. Children are learning how to grow vegetables in their school gardens. Retirement communities offer small plots where residents can grow fresh produce. I throughly enjoyed the research I pursued about kitchen gardens/potagers while preparing to write Greening of a Heart, where a potager is an important part of the story.