A French Garden
French Garden or jardin à la française -"garden in the French manner"
A powerful phrase in the context of garden and garden design acumen, it brings with it a sense of elegance and class. It exhibits force, lends confidence, demonstrates willpower, but has a whimsical side as well.
French Gardens - Gardens of Power & Passion, Gourmet Gardens, Artistic Gardens. A youtube video
The legacy of the French Garden is born in the style known as French Formal Garden, or what has come to be known as a style based in symmetry, meant to press its will on nature. The Gardens of Versailles designed by architect André Le Nôtre for Louis XIV is likely the most widely known example of a Formal French Garden.
The garden design in the French style more often mimicked today is the French Country Garden. A style that certainly borrows elements of the formal garden, consider clipped boxwood hedges and topiary, yet is softened with the playfulness of lavender, hydrangea, or even East Friesland Salvia.
While traveling in Paris I was most excited to see the importance of gardens in public space and the appreciation people had for the gardens around their homes. Big or small the gardens resonated a romantic appeal of leisure and tranquility.
The French Garden is a plant driven style. Hardscape often, of course not always, simple, gravel paths and seating areas composed of rotten granite or also known as decomposed granite. The plants are meant to be the star, lush and green popping colors that span the spectrum from the pastels to the boldest red.
The top of mind plants of a French Garden are lavender, shrub roses, rosemary, espalier fruit trees, boxwood as previously mentioned and hosta. This is a small sample of course. It’s also acceptable to stray from the mainstream and incorporate plants like catmint, yarrow or Russian Sage.
When placing plants you don’t want to be all willy-nilly with your placement. Patterns, repetition and block plantings are elements of the style. Grouping of plants makes a bold statement. Remember this style has its roots in symmetry and imposing its will on nature with structure and order.
A component of this style I find interesting is using the outdoors as an extension of the indoors and the creation of outdoor rooms. This can be done with plant material to wall off or separate one space from another. A pergola, lath trellis, small cobblestone or brick wall are all options. A combination of plant material and carpentry or hardscape can create some stunning intimate areas within your landscape.
One thing always to consider with whichever garden design style you after is the amount of maintenance that will be required to keep your gardens looking there best. There are numerous variables, but a French style garden can a bit more maintenance. For example, if you are going to have a number of hedges, they are going to need pruning at least once if not multiple times a year.
Things to ponder as you plan your French style gardens. Remember though, the thing about gardens – the beauty is worth the burden. And a French style garden is certainly worth the trouble, as the French demonstrated throughout the ages.
If you are interested in a French Style Landscape Design, contact us at Wheel & Barrow Landscape Design.