"Well-manicured", "magnificently sculpted" and "steeped with beauty and originality" are phrases often used to describe the latest couture from French fashion designers, and those same words could also be used to describe the French horticulture style known as the French garden. Mention the words “French garden” and the elaborately groomed gardens of Versailles most likely come to mind. The magical array of carefully manicured trees and bushes, bursts of color from well-sculpted flowers, and winding stone paths leading up to the palace have come to represent a distinct French gardening style.
The Gardens at Versailles were designed for The French Garden style actually originated in Italy after King Charles VIII brought Italian artisans to France to copy the elaborate gardens he'd seen at the castles and gardens of Naples. If you’re interested in starting your own French garden at home, you don't need a property the size of the Tuilleries to get the effect that you're looking for. Following a few key design rules will allow you to create a space that has that genuine French garden feel in even the most limited of spaces.
When starting to design your own French garden, one of the key things to keep in mind is that the focus of the garden is supposed to be your property's main building, which in this case is your house. If you’re standing in the middle of the garden, your eye is supposed to be led by the lines and shapes of your plantings back towards the house. The house is the hero in this design setup. It may be easier to sketch out a diagram laying out exactly where each shrub, flower and other decorative element needs to go.
Another identifying mark of a French garden is its emphasis on straight lines and geometric shapes like triangles, circles and squares. This design element was meant to signify man's triumph over nature. Keeping plants within the lines requires a lot of maintenance and attention to detail, but the payoff is very rewarding. Plant your shrubs and bushes in neatly manicured lines and shapes. Keeping your plantings well-trimmed will make sure that the eye is always drawn towards the beauty and discipline of the symmetry.
The manicured shrubberies are the only plants in the French garden that remain the same. All other plants and flowers are changed seasonally. Experiment with bursts of color from seasonal flowers.
Small buildings, flowers and fountains add another form of visual interest in French gardens. You may not have the space to add a full-fledged gazebo, but you can add a small stone fountain, or an iron bench.
Another key element of French garden design is the pathways winding their way through the garden. The paths are supposed to enable you to walk from section to section of the garden, allowing you to enjoy each section’s own uniqueness. If you’re strapped for space, one stone path leading from your house to the seating area or gazebo can create the same feel.