Explain Potager

shirl36(Zone 5b West Central Illinois)February 1, 2006

I have been seeing Potager for some time now and I am going to be the one to ask the dumb question, "what is the meaning of Potager?

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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Shirl, at the top of this forum is a pretty good explanation.
Basically, it's a home garden with EVERYTHING crammed in. Veggies, flowers, herbs, fruits.
The style of growing is French, which is often intensively planted, rotating crops.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 1:56PM
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So is the main difference the emphasis on veggies? You have a veggie garden with flowers thrown in, rather than a flower garden with veggies thrown in? Or is structure the key difference?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 2:04PM
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angelcub(Sunset 3b)

Shirl, here is what I wrote in another post. I've done a lot of reading regarding this type of garden, plus my grandmother was half French and always had a potager.

Traditionally, a potager was a French-style of vegetable gardening in a decorative manner. Flowers and herbs mingled with the fruits and vegies in a way that delighted the sense of sight as well as that of taste. It was a separate, enclosed space from the rest of the home's landscape. This helped to keep out unwanted critters, but mainly served as a transition from the home's surroundings into a space meant to surprise with its bounty of culinary and floral delights.

Today we take liberties with that definition, but it is still to most an enclosed space, separate from the rest of the landscape. Some use a hedge of evergreens to define the space, while others use the beds themselves, usually raised for better definition. Rarely do you see the high stone walls used by the French, but a picket fence is quite common. That was my choice and I'm really pleased with it. It has that element of surprise needed to be a potager and always makes visitors ask, "What's out there?" when they look out back.

I believe the enclosure, which leads to a sense of surprise, and a separation from the rest of the landscape are still key elements. Otherwise, it's just another vegie plot, so why call it a potager, imho.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 2:15PM
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Diana, That really helps. I do not have a potager : ) Just cottage. Although in small urban California lots with privacy fences one might say the whole back yard could be a potager, given the definition and the right kind of plantings.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 2:31PM
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GREAT definition, Diana. I wish I could have the tall stone walls to enclose mine with, but here in Texas the heat would kill it and me without a breeze blowing through. I'm thinking of a Belgian fence of espalliered fruit trees and asparagus to enclose mine with. The final "wall" on the outside is still a long ways off, but I'm hoping to come up with something nice to help the asparagus and fruit trees delineate it ~ maybe the back side of the outmost bed could be another foot taller than the rest, and maybe it could be topped with some wrought iron scrollwork. Or maybe... ;) Planning is SUCH fun! LOLOL!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 10:52PM
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memo(Zone 4B Nebraska)

CampCreek, What does a "Belgian" fence look like? That's a new term for me.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 11:03AM
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A Belgian Fence is a type of espalier, and espalier is an ancient type of pruning that not only allows for beauty in the garden, but keeps the fruit closer to the ground so it's easier to pick AND conserves space. Handy! :) Here's a couple diagrams, Memo...

...and a picture.

This page and this page give lots more information on espalier in general.

Nifty, huh? :)

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 7:17PM
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shirl36(Zone 5b West Central Illinois)

Angelcub...I read your post Wed answering mine, "What does potager mean" Thanks, just been busy with carpenters this week, to get something remodeled, the mess you go thru is something else...Always nice when it is done, late this afternoon they finished and nice it does look.

Campcreek you post was interesting on Belgain Fences. You can always learn something here...Thanks for everyones input. Shirl36

    Bookmark   February 4, 2006 at 2:08AM
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memo(Zone 4B Nebraska)

CampCreek, Thank you for providing those very informative links. I've always been aware of espalier but I wasn't aware that there were names for the various designs. Could have used that at my former home but went with columner apple trees along my garden shed there. I don't have any fences or walls out here to try it on...darn! Hmmm...unless I could convince DH to let me plant them on the barn??!!! No...I'd have to rope off the barn with electric tape to keep the goats out and that's where they live...lol!


    Bookmark   February 4, 2006 at 9:05AM
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Campcreek...where in Texas are you? What type of tree will you use for the Belgian Fence? I noticed one photo had an apple tree. We are from Indiana and I miss our apple trees terribly.

As for Potager...I hate to sound dumb...but, how are you pronouncing this word? I had never heard of it until I saw this forum, and in the last week I have seen it two or three additional times.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2006 at 12:53PM
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Y'all are all so very welcome! :)

Merrellmom, I don't know quite yet what trees I'll use. I'm just west of Austin, so it'll have to be a low chill-hour apple. I know there are apples that grow here. I've seen them in full fruit as far south as Johnson City (about twenty five miles south of me). I'm thinking of not just using apples, though ~ I'd like some peaches, apricots and pears as well, probably plums and whatever else I can find that will grow here. My potager will be rather large ~ the five-year-plan calls for atleast 100'x100' ~ so I'll have plenty of room for all sorts of trees around that long of a perimeter fence! LOL!

And I don't know how you're supposed to pronouce potager, but maybe "pot-ah-jer" or "pot-ah-jay"? Where's Diane when you need her? Wasn't her grandma French?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2006 at 7:50AM
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dayleann(z4 VT)

In French it would be "pot-ah-jay" (long o), but in English it is often pronounced "paht-ah-jer". So either would be correct.

I would love to do espalier-- but they do require a lot of attention during the growing season to keep the shape. That's when I lose it-- I forget to pay attention. I've tried twice and both times the trees ended up getting away from me. I think with my current garden, I'll try a variation that is often used in orchards, which is a kind of narrow hedgerow using dwarf trees, less formal looking, but also accessible and space saving.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2006 at 10:50AM
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"...but they do require a lot of attention during the growing season to keep the shape." That's something I'm a bit worried about. I LOVELOVELOVE pruning. Don't know why, but there's something zen about it to me. Still, I'm a bit concerned about THAT much pruning. I figured I'd try just one section first and see how I like it.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2006 at 11:27PM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

Campcreek, I maintained a garden in Victoria, Texas that had a fruit bearing apple tree in the back yard. Actually, there were 3 of them, and I do not know the variety. I do know the landscaper who put them in tho, I know he will share the name with me.

I just heard about this forum, and I am rushing to get an enclosure around my garden. It is potager in all aspects save the enclosure.

I LOVELOVELOVE pruning too, but I draw the line at the espalier. Too many other things to prune! My DH is breathing a sigh of relief over this. When we are in the garden togeather, you can always hear him telling somebody to 'get those clippers away from her'! Usually, I am supposed to be weeding.LOL


    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 12:54PM
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angelcub(Sunset 3b)

Campcreek, those pics are wonderful! Thanks for taking the time to post them.

Welcome Janie! I hope you'll share pics of your potager. Now, don't be rushing around with those clippers in your hands. lol!


    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 1:34PM
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Sure, Diane! :) A picture's worth a thousand words, and Google image search is my friend. ;)

Welcome from me, too, Janie! I'd LOVE it if you could find out what kind of apple that was in Victoria, but don't go too far out of your way. :) I also would enjoy seeing pictures of your potager!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 6:37PM
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