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Landscape Design

French Landscape Design

Ideas for landscaping your garden in the French-style

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French Style Guide

French Style Guide

Use this design sheet to help you create the perfect France-inspired landscape. You'll get ideas for color, décor, materials, plants and fabric. It is a great starting point for any landscaping project.

French Style Guide (PDF)

View all Landscape Design Style Guides

The French garden design developed after the impact of the Italian Renaissance. The French garden style adopted many principles from the renaissance gardens but incorporated a style of their own. The impact of the renaissance did not hit the gardens of France until the 1600’s, soon after the chateaus’ gardens were designed using principles that were completely new to the region. The main goal for this style was to make an extravagant impression to all of the guests who visited the country homes of the wealthy royals.

Elements within French gardens:

  • Concrete balustrade
  • Cast iron seating
  • Fountains
  • Pea gravel
  • Cast iron/wood planters
  • Simple elegant furniture
  • Natural stone
  • Glazed pots
  • Antiques
  • Columns
  • Trellises
  • Birdbaths

Common characteristics of a French garden:

  1. The residence - Should be the number one focal point in the French landscape style. The home is often the center point of the design with large paths that provide axial views.
  2. Geometric plan - Virtually everything in the design is geometric and planned with symmetry.
  3. Water - Is incorporated as a number one element within the landscape. Referred to as “reflecting pools” in circular, oval and rectangular shapes.
  4. Parterres -The intricate patterns created from hedged shrubs or planting beds are usually designed in near proximity to the residence. These designs are less detailed the further away they are from the house.
  5. Statuary -Is a key feature as your making your way through the French garden. During the rise of the French garden design era, Follies were introduced as a type of statuary in the garden. A folly is a building constructed for decoration, the point was to create these garden ornaments that were beyond the typical garden sculpture.
  6. Terraces - Are located in the landscape where the entire garden and all of its detail can be viewed.

The Gardens of Versailles is the largest and most extravagant example of this garden style. So you don’t have close to 2,000 acres to work with you say? Well, the French landscape style can still make a powerful statement in an average sized yard. Introduce the elements listed above into your landscape, even after being scaled down these garden elements truly represent the famous French design.

At a residential scale, the French garden style is still very impressive. Plant your trees in straight lines to emphasize those axial views, use hedging to border walkways and create small sized parterres and design your vegetable areas in a pattern or as a parterre as well. Incorporate ‘alles’ where room allows, these straight paths always lead to something significant such as a fountain or sculpture. The French also used to have orangeries where they would grow citrus throughout the whole year; these rooms can be represented in your garden by adding a small greenhouse or even a sunroom to provide a nice relaxing getaway.

Combine all of the elements even in a minor way, and your yard will be transformed to resemble the extravagant designs of the famous French chateaus.

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