If I were a vegetable I would hate to live in a potager garden. No chance of aging naturally there. I might look pretty but my life would be regimented—and short. Let me grow old in a vege garden like Richard’s. I don’t mind if you put me in a soup: that’s the purpose of my life.
A potager is a vegetable garden designed to look pretty. Formality and uniformity dominate: form over function. I expect the Chateau de Villandry’s garden does produce food, but surely much is wasted. The moment a crop stops looking pretty, it must be ripped out. A potager garden in perfect condition is like a regimented school for young plants. Penalties for bad deportment and no place for seniors.
What a home vege garden looks like
By contrast, here’s a picture of Richard’s vege garden in late spring, below. Pears, apples, corn, potatoes, broccoli, parsnips, silver beet, runner beans and black currants are all at different stages of development. This is multi-generational family of plants aging naturally, complete with an eco-graveyard. You can’t see the compost heap, but it’s a beauty! On the right is a bag of coffee bean husks and a heap of green refuse destined for the compost. (The photo shows less than half the complete garden, by the way.)
Here’s how my life would begin in Richard’s vege garden. Comforted and fed by an eiderdown of pea straw and protected by four sticks from cats, dogs and blackbirds, I can’t be frozen or smothered or scratched or pecked: I’m safe.
A home vege garden has its own messy beauty
The beauty of a domestic vege garden is intermittent and evanescent. Like cherry blossoms. Like humans, pretty much.
Now in autumn the runner bean plants look scruffy; they produced buckets of beans during the summer. This year’s tomato plants are brown and crumbling; they produced wheelbarrow loads of tomatoes over the summer.
Silver beet ages in a different manner. Old plants get a thick solid stalk (like me) and some of the leaves get a dusting of silver (like me). Those leaves get thrown to the chooks (not like me, yet). Nevertheless, well into old age, these old plants can provide a tasty meal.
Unpretty and productive: that’s us oldies
Perfectly groomed potager gardens are elegant, like a team of cloned young influencers demonstrating how to apply eye makeup. But I’ve got a hunch that the majority of potager gardens eventually relapse into old fashioned vege gardens. They start aging naturally.
Is this true of humans too? Do we spend our teens and twenties obsessing over how we look? Do we gradually lose interest in looking gorgeous and indistinguishable from our peers? Do we slowly lapse into aging naturally as we grow older?
Let’s say that’s true, just to sustain the metaphor. By now you completely understand why, if I were a vegetable, I would rather grow in Richard’s garden than in a glamorous potager in the grounds of a stately castle.