Discovering the Garden: Old Varieties, Current Issues
In the kitchen garden visitor centre you can learn more about the garden all year round, whatever the weather. The permanent “Discovering the Garden” exhibition is divided up into four topics, each linked to a season and an emblematic plant from the garden.
The Sept-en-Gueule pear, for example, goes with spring and illustrates issues of biodiversity; the Vitelotte potato, which grows in summer, opens an investigation of agronomy and economics; autumnal saffron deals with plant sexuality; and for winter the cardoon recalls the importance of migration – to both humans and plants.
Admission to the visitor centre is free.
In 1723 Louis Guiguer, a Parisian banker originally from Switzerland, acquires the Prangins estate and orders construction of the present-day château. At his request, the old ditches on the western side are filled in and the ground is levelled. Half of the flat-topped embankment is given over to the building site; the other is used to grow vegetables to feed the workers. Surrounded by walls adorned with espaliered fruit trees, it has its own microclimate, acting as a heat chamber in summer and a refrigerator in winter. The cruciform shape confers order and symmetry and is emphasised by the box borders and decoration of flowering plants.
Since the Swiss National Museum – Château de Prangins opened in 1998, the kitchen garden has become a centre of conservation, devoted to preserving traditional regional plants and showcasing domestic biodiversity. Almost 200 varieties are cultivated over an area of 5,500m2, including:
- Hmedicinal plants
- seasoning plants
- utilitarian plants (for fibres, dyes, insecticides, etc.)
Like the museum, the garden focuses on the 18th century: the Age of Enlightenment when travel and science bring new plant varieties to its precincts. Today it is also a place for learning, with guided tours, workshops and events providing enriching and educational experiences. In the visitor centre, which was installed in 2011 in the garden’s former outbuilding, visitors of all ages can explore issues of agronomy and botany via an entertaining and interactive presentation covering both the 18th century and contemporary issues.
The garden of Château de Prangins, the kitchen garden visitor centre and its “Discovering the Garden” exhibition are accessible free of charge all year round. Pick up a copy of the free plan containing a list of plants and an audioguide (available in three languages) and see if you can locate the dogwood, beetroot and burnet. Most of the fruits and vegetables grown in the garden are used in workshops or served up on the menu at the Café du Château.
Relevant subjects: science, history, geography
Ages: 11 to 14
With its visitor centre and exhibition, Switzerland’s largest kitchen garden is open all year round! The resources for teachers include an introduction for use in the classroom, plus ideas and activities that school groups can work on independently during their visit.