The French gardens were inspired by the
“Italian renaissance garden.
symmetry and geometry are the keywords
when designing such gardens.
the whole of garden is composed like a painting
reaching for pure aesthetical qualities.
Like a painting, it is also created to be seen as a
The form of the French garden was strongly
influenced by the Italian gardens of the
Renaissance, and was largely fixed by the middle
of the 17th century.
The French royal Garden architectes André
Mollet and Jacques Boyceau de la Baraudière laid
the groundwork for the supremacy of the French
garden style under Louis XIV.
Components of the French Garden
PARTERRE. A planting bed, usually square or
rectangular, containing an ornamental design made
with low closely clipped hedges, colored gravel, and
sometimes flowers. Parterres were usually laid out in
geometric patterns, divided by gravel paths. They were
intended seen from above from a house or terrace. A
parterre de gazon was made of turf with a pattern cut
out and filled with gravel.
EMBROIDERY. A very curling decorative pattern
within a parterre, created with trimmed yew or box or
made by cutting the pattern out of a lawn and filling it
with colored gravel.
BOSQUET. A small group of trees, usually some
distance from the house, designed as an ornamental
ALLÉE. A straight PATH, often lined with trees.
TOPIARY. Trees or bushes trimmed into ornamental
shapes. In French gardens, they were usually trimmed
into geometric shapes.
GOOSE FOOT “PATTE D'OIE”. Three or five paths or
which spread outward from a single point.
Goose Foot “Patte D‘Oie
The Principles of the French Garden
A geometric plan using the most recent discoveries of perspective and optics.
A terrace overlooking the garden, allowing the visitor to see all at once the entire garden.
Trees are planted in straight lines, and carefully trimmed at a set height.
The house/ palace/ chateaux serves as the central point of the garden, and its central
ornament. No trees are planted close to the house; rather, the house is set apart by low
parterres and trimmed bushes.
The principle axis is crossed by one or more perpendicular perspectives and alleys.
The most elaborate parterres, or planting beds, in the shape of squares, ovals, circles or
scrolls, are placed in a regular and geometric order close to the house, to complement the
The parterres near the residence are filled with broderies, designs created with low
boxwood to resemble the patterns of a carpet, and given a polychrome effect by plantings
of flowers, or by colored brick, gravel or sand.
Bodies of water (canals, basins) serve as mirrors, doubling the size of the house or the
Water body as mirror
Trees at same height
Palace as central point Planting beds
Plants and Trees to use in French Formal Design
Trees are planted in straight lines and clipped to keep a perfect shape and size. They may be formed into
shapes to form topiary.
Trees used in the Gardens of Versaille were:- Hornbeam, Beech, Chestnut, Elm and Linden for the most part.
Hornbeam and Beech are easy to prune and shape making them particularly good trees for formal gardens.
The clipped hedges are usually box, lavender, rosemary and occasionally santoline. Regular trimming to stop
them going 'leggy' and 'woody' is important.
Many French Chateax have wonderful vegetable gardens with the vegetables laid out in patterns and
parterres in the style of the ornamental formal gardens.
Bedding plants and bulbs are popular choices for parterres with for example, parterres filled with bulbs in
formal patterns for spring flowering and then taken out and replaced with bedding plants for the late-spring
Gardens of Versailles
The Gardens of Versailles, created by André Le Nôtre between 1662 and 1700, were the
greatest achievement of the Garden à la francaise.
They were the largest gardens in Europe – with an area of 15,000 hectares, and were laid out
on an east–west axis followed the course of the sun.
The sun rose over the Court of Honor, lit the Marble Court, crossed the Chateau and lit the
bedroom of the King, and set at the end of the Grand Canal, reflected in the mirrors of the
Hall of Mirrors.
In contrast with the grand perspectives, reaching to the horizon, the garden was full of
surprises – fountains, small gardens fill with statuary, which provided a more human scale
and intimate spaces.
The central symbol of the Garden was the sun; the emblem of Louis XIV, illustrated by the
statue of Apollo in the central fountain of the garden.
The views and perspectives, to and from the palace, continued to infinity.
The king ruled over nature, recreating in the garden not only his domination of his
territories, but over the court and his subjects
The first important garden à la française was the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte, created
by Nicolas Fouquet.
Fouquet commissioned Louis Le Vau to design the chateau, Charles Le Brun to design statues
for the garden, and André Le Nôtre to create the gardens.
A grand perspective of 1500 meters extended from the foot of the chateau to the statue of the
Hercules of Farnese.
The space was filled with parterres of evergreen shrubs in ornamental patterns, bordered by
colored sand, and the alleys were decorated at regular intervals by statues, basins, fountains,
and carefully sculpted topiaries.
The symmetry attained at Vaux achieved a degee of perfection and unity rarely equalled in the
art of classic gardens.
The chateau is at the center of this strict spatial organization which symbolizes power and
The designers of the French garden saw their work as a branch of architecture, which simply
extended the space of the building to the space outside the walls, and ordered nature according
to the rules of geometry, optics and perspective.
Gardens were designed like buildings, with a succession of rooms which a visitor could pass
through following an established route, hallways, and vestibules with adjoining chambers.
They used the language of architecture in their plans; the spaces were referred to
as salles, chambres and théâtresof greenery. The "walls" were composed of hedges, and
"stairways" of water.
On the ground were tapis, or carpets, of grass, brodés, or embroidered, with plants, and the
trees were formed into rideaux, or curtains, along the alleys. Just as architects installed systems
of water into the chateux, they laid out elaborate hydraulic systems to supply the fountains and
basins of the garden.
Long basins full of water replaced mirrors, and the water from fountains replaced chandeliers.
The dominant role of architecture in the garden did not change until the 18th century, when
the English garden arrived in Europe, and the inspiration for gardens began to come not from
architecture but from romantic painting.