Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

7 Basics To Designing A French Style Garden

By Marianne Lipanovich, Houzz Contributor and Garden Writer

For most people, a French landscape is also a formal landscape, and therein lies its appeal.

Think Versailles, probably the most well-known French garden space. It has a distinct look and feel that set it apart from its Italian neighbors to the south and its British neighbors to the north. Still, there are elements of both. What we think of as traditional French style does have its roots in Italian landscape design. The resulting French adaptation was in turn adopted by British gardeners, and their adaptations made their way back across the Channel and in turn influenced later developments.

Symmetry and order are the heart of French landscape design. The gardens are also meant to be viewed from a distance, so form and design play a major role. They’re meant to highlight the centerpiece of the entire space, which would be the house (or, in most cases, the chateau). They’re known for their cool color palette, with an emphasis on whites, greens, blues and purples. Think boxwood hedges, intricately clipped shrubs, neatly planted garden beds and planters, and fields of lavender. You’ll also find a great use of stone, whether for pavings, edgings, a terrace or decorative elements, and places where you can enjoy the view.

Versions for Country and Courtyard

French country gardens are more informal, with a mix of softer plantings and bolder colors, but generally follow the same basic design principles. Planting beds may be more loosely planted and less structured, but they’ll still be contained by an edging or a border of some sort. The same gravel beds that work in a formal space fit in just as well in a small home’s front entryway. Rather than an overwhelming riot of color and plantings, there’s always a sense of order, even in the most natural of settings.

Although we often think of French landscaping in terms of large spaces, the overall style translates remarkably well into smaller courtyards (imagine an interior garden in a Paris building) and even the practical vegetable garden, where a mix of small raised beds is not only popular but practical. So while you might not want an entire landscape done in this style, you might find it ideal for a smaller area of your garden.

Warning: A formal design requires far more maintenance than, say, a natural garden. When something is out of place, it’s immediately obvious. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time keeping your garden in shape, a formal French-style estate may not be for you.

This small courtyard epitomizes the essence of French design, especially when viewed from above. All of the basics are here: striaght-lined geometric shapes, neatly trimmed hedges and shrubs, gravel for paving and a monochromatic color scheme.Design tip: In even the most formal of gardens, it’s great to include one thing that doesn’t quite fit the mold. In this landscape, the bench provides a one-of-a-kind element in the otherwise repetitive (in the best gardening sense) space, keeping it from seeming too sterile.

2. Stone surfaces provide the underpinnings. Gravel paths and stone terraces are hallmarks of French garden design. A gravel path is one of the easiest ways to start your landscape. In this case, the gravel defines the path area, while the inset stepping-stones make for a more stable walking surface.Design tip: With any loose stone, be prepared for some maintenance. While landscape and weed-barrier cloths will keep weed growth down, nothing is foolproof. You will need to periodically remove unwanted plant material. The secret is to do it before things get out of control.

For a more durable surface, consider flagstone or cobblestone. Edge the space with planting beds and add pots and climbers to soften the hardscape.Design tip: Using low stone walls to form planting beds not only elevates the plants and provides more growing space, but it’s also a great way to add extra seating. Choose a stone that complements the pavers on the patio so the entire space is cohesive.

Feel free to mix and match when it comes to shapes. The diamonds on the right are offset by the semicircle on the left. Using the same plant material to form the shapes ties the two sides together.Design tip: Be sure to look at the space from all levels. It should be pleasant when you’re in the midst of the garden, but it should also be visually interesting to look into the garden from outside or to view it from above.

Speak Your Mind

*