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French gardens: Key design elements

by Ruth Kimball 05/11/2022

To add classic elegance to your home’s exterior, consider taking inspiration from French gardens. French garden design has a legacy of precise, formal and beautiful landscaping, making it the perfect style for homeowners wanting to dress up their outdoor space.

While a French garden can be more maintenance than other garden styles due to the emphasis on clean edges and pristine shapes, understanding the fundamentals will help you achieve the same aesthetic at home.

To help, here is a basic guide to the key elements of French garden design:

The home as a focal point

Traditional French gardens highlight the home or residence as the focal point of the landscape. Garden designs typically include pathways directing visitors to the front door, often oriented perpendicular to the facade.

While Stucco and stonework homes are classic French focal points, any style of home can use this same design scheme.

Symmetry

Symmetrical lines are essential to French garden design. When creating pathways, planting or arranging shrubs, it’s crucial to keep everything precise and even on both sides. Boxwood shrubs are a popular way to create symmetry by growing them into easily trimmed hedge rows. Geometric shapes like diamonds, triangles and semicircles are all worth exploring in your design, as long as the overall aesthetic maintains its symmetry.

Fountains & water features

Water features like stone garden fountains, reflecting pools and carefully manicured ponds are important elements in French gardens. Traditional French garden fountains come in several varieties, including free-standing fountains and fountains built into walls. Multi-tiered and highly ornamental designs are perfect options to incorporate water into your formal French garden.

Simple color palettes

Formal gardens tend to stick to simple color palettes. Cool colors are especially popular for French style gardens, so when choosing plants or flowers, err on the side of gray, white, blue and purple. Lavender is the traditional choice for French garden style, and easy to grow either in decorative containers or in carefully manicured planting beds.

While these are some key elements of French garden design, they are only guidelines to inspire you. Using this design scheme, you can add custom creativity and create a French style garden all your own.

About the Author
Author

Ruth Kimball

Ruth began her residential real estate career in 1980 and she continues to be a top producing listing and sales agent. Ruth obtained her Graduated Realtors Institute (GRI) in 1988, her Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) in 2004; her Certified Buyer Representative (CBR); Certified Negotiation Expert (CNE) and most recent, her certification with Military on the Move. Overall she is in the top 1% of listing and selling agents at Weichert REALTORS® nationwide. Most recently receiving the President's Club Platinum Award. If you want an experienced, full service real estate broker who gets the job done, please contact Ruth.