The modern French garden has its roots in the Italian Renaissance. In fact, the design incorporates much of the formality of Renaissance style but with elements inspired by the French countryside. The historical goal of French estate gardens was to make a grandiose impression on visitors – think the gardens at Versailles Palace. Fortunately, it's possible to implement the style on a smaller scale. Create a beautiful, French-inspired garden by utilizing characteristic elements in your landscape design.

Create Outdoor Rooms

A hallmark of the French garden is the definition of space. Different areas of the garden are designated for certain activities. Architects utilize geometric principles to not only form these rooms, but to also create a natural flow between them. One way to create such rooms is to use box hedges to designate actual spaces. Another method is to use low retaining walls and concrete balustrades.

For a less formal look, consider using your plants and garden decor to create outdoor rooms. For example, create a mini-garden around a bench to encourage visitors to linger. Likewise, leave an expanse of lawn open to encourage playing different games. Plan a gate with an arbor to lead from the play area to the dining area. Such landscape architecture requires paper planning to achieve the full effect.

Decorate with Antiques

Another hallmark of the French garden is the folly, or a building constructed strictly for decoration. You can achieve a similar look by decorating your garden with antique pieces. The Landscaping Network suggests using stone planters, statues or fountains. For example, if you find an old stone trough, consider planting it with French lavender or allium for a charming mix of old and new. Likewise, consider tucking a stone statue between shrubs as a pleasant surprise for guests.

Fountains offer you so many design options. For instance, you could place a small stone fountain at a natural bend in a pathway and surround it with pretty annuals. Conversely, use a beautiful fountain installation as a showpiece in your garden. In this case, have it installed in the center of one of your outdoor rooms.

Use the French Plant Palette

While it's true best practices in landscape architecture recommend using plants native to your area, a French garden should incorporate at least a few traditionally French plants. Of course, French lavender is the most obvious, though other forms of lavender will work if better for your climate. Allium, clematis and climbing rose are also typical of French gardens. A pear tree is historical, but a crab apple tree makes an attractive substitution. When planning for your plants, try to keep within a consistent color palette to channel the formality of the French garden.

The classic French garden should mix formality with touches of beauty and romance for full effect.

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