Landscape architect André Le Nôtre was born on March 12, 1613 but his influence on the layout of Paris and the most important gardens of France is still felt almost four hundred years later. The formal style of gardens you may associate with France is due to this man. He was the son and grandson of gardeners responsible for the Jardin de Tuileries outside the Louvre palace (now the art museum). While there, he redesigned the layout of the garden to open up the vista to include what is today the grand avenue of the Champs Élysées and the Axe historique that runs from just outside the Louvre down to the Arc de Triomphe.
Le Nôtre was hired by Nicolas Fouquet to lay out the gardens of Vaux-le-Vicomte in the outskirts of Paris. The completed gardens and house were so magnificent that they aroused the jealousy of King Louis XIV, who had Fouquet jailed, seized all of his possessions, and hired away his team, including Le Nôtre to build something even better for him. The result was the magnificent palace of Versailles.
If this wasn’t enough, Le Nôtre was responsible for the gardens at the palaces of Fontainebleau, Chantilly, Saint-Cloud, and Saint-Germain. He consulted on the German Charlottenburg Palace and England’s Windsor Castle. He lived to the fine age of 87.
Today’s expression, il faut cultiver notre jardin (eel fow coolteevay nohtruh jardihn) litterally means “we must cultivate our own garden.” Figuratively, it means that we should mind our own business. What I’d really prefer, however, is to have someone like Le Nôtre mind my garden.