Designing a French Style Garden: The Basics

Clean and green gardenFrench style gardens are a delightful collaboration of art and nature. Nowadays, elements of this sophisticated landscaping technique are prevalent in many modern spaces, from the smallest private courtyards to villas, hotels, and public parks.

In all their nuances, this landscaping and gardening style evolved from the Formal Garden which animated the châteaux and palaces of France. From the kitchen to the aromatic and botanical gardens, and the poet’s corner, harmony, and symmetry are the dominant characteristics.

Symmetry and Order

Inspired by the ideals of the Renaissance and the virtues of Ancient Rome, French style gardens reflect man’s control over nature. Authentic Provence, a leading source of the finest French garden antiques, writes that the style dictates order and symmetry on the landscape more for the sake of beauty rather than function.

Unlike English gardens which reflect an idealized or romanticized view of nature, a French-style garden emphasizes the central edifice, which may either be a country house, chateau, building, or other ornamental structures.

While French gardens have their distinct charm, they have English and Italian influences, too. Likewise, gardens throughout Europe, particularly English gardens, have their roots in France. But what really sets a French garden space apart is the harmonious balance of natural elements and man-made structures.

Form and Design

Geometric patterns determine where all the ornamental and botanical elements will go. The planting beds usually come in square or rectangular patterns, where different species of plants and trees parade in harmonious layers of colors and shapes.

Perfectly trimmed and arranged plants fill the geometrically-shaped parterres and alleyways to allow the visitor to see the entire garden and the building. Perspective and optics are important considerations when planning the garden to achieve the primary reason of providing aesthetic pleasure to the spectator.

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You could say that formal gardens are a bit of a painstaking task to maintain, but they do wonders for any space, be it a small country home’s entryway or the entirety of an expansive courtyard. Not only do well-manicured gardens provide a relaxing retreat, but they also make small spaces appear larger and more cohesive.