- General principles of composition
- Axis of symmetry
- Parterre device
- Arrangement of paths and borders
- The device of the green maze
- Sculptures and garden furniture
- Site fencing
- Family Zone
If you are a person who prefers strict order and control, and there is no place for spontaneity and negligence in your life, then this article is for you. It will consider the basic principles of site design in the most orderly, ideally thought-out style of landscape design – French.
The main idea of the French regular or, as it is sometimes called, formal style of landscape design can be conveyed in the words of the great Goethe about art in general – “An artist with a free spirit stands above nature and can interpret it in accordance with his goals.” The ideas of classicism, which formed the basis of the first and best example of garden design of this style – the garden of the Palace of Versailles, and became its basic principles that have survived to this day.
Three whales of the French style in landscape design:
- a clear plan, verified to the smallest detail;
- the strictest geometry and absolute symmetry in everything;
- rationality and order, combined with some pomp and even a certain theatricality.
Most often, this style is preferred by successful, confident people whose day is planned down to the smallest detail. People whose main principle is complete control over their lives, order even in the smallest things.
It is generally accepted that the French style requires a fairly large investment in its design and constant laborious, professional care. In addition, it is worth thinking about the correspondence of the main building to the style concept.
Flat terrain areas are best suited for a regular garden. But it can also be arranged on a slope using spacious, evenly spaced terraces. The axis of symmetry should be from the entrance to the garden, which is usually placed at the bottom of the site, to the house, which is being built on top of the hill. The main staircase runs along this axis. Terraces of the same area are arranged in steps one above the other. To achieve such a clear layout of the site, you will need the device of well-designed retaining walls. It’s quite difficult to do such work on your own..
But the organization of a French park on a flat area is a difficult task, but quite feasible. All work on the device of such a design must be carried out thoroughly, as they say, “for centuries.” Indeed, with proper implementation and regular maintenance, landscape design made in this style will delight not only the owners, but also their grandchildren and great-grandchildren..
So, before you start planning your site, you should flip through the pages that show photographs of parks of government complexes, palaces of Europe and St. Petersburg.
After the general visual representation of the style is formed, it is necessary to place landscape design elements on a scale on the plan of your own site..
Of course, it is difficult to imagine that on a small plot of 6 or even 15 acres you can create something like a royal residence. So what should those who really like this particular style do? Stylization techniques will come to the rescue, which are successfully used by the owners of their estates. The main thing is that the style is recognizable.
General principles of composition
Strictly speaking, there are clear, verified techniques for decorating a garden in this style. Their observance will make the site consistent in the chosen style. The scope for independent ideas and creativity, at first glance, is very limited. But in fact, the most important thing is only to correctly grasp the concept, and then beat it taking into account your capabilities and site characteristics.
Techniques for decorating a French park:
- The axis of symmetry is located from the central gate to the entrance to the house and divides the entire space into two halves.
- Arrangement of parterre – a square or rectangular lawn, in the center of which there is a flower bed with a fountain or sculpture.
- Construction of reservoirs – canals, a pool and a pond of strict geometric shape.
- Long and wide paths and alleys extending from the center of the parterre, or from the main building in strict symmetry.
- Arrangement of edging from evergreen plants that lend themselves well to shearing.
- Mandatory presence of a green labyrinth.
- Symmetrically installed sculptures, flowerpots, fountains, water cascades.
- Arrangement of symmetrical bosquets, a kind of “green rooms” – closed, strictly geometric areas, bounded by a wall of trimmed plantings.
- As a fence, hedges, canals with water are used, in extreme cases, openwork forged gratings.
- The family recreation area is located only on the site behind the house.
Let’s consider each of the techniques in more detail.
Axis of symmetry
On the plan, you need to draw a clear line from the house to the main entrance. It is she who will become the basis on which all the decorations of this luxurious, slightly theatrical design will be “strung”. Along this line, it is worth placing the main alley, which will, as it were, cut the site in half. The entrance should be decorated with a wrought-iron gate. The driveway, like all garden paths, should ideally be made of broken brick or gravel. They will need to be constantly leveled and added. On the plan, you need to immediately think over and arrange the side paths. It is worth remembering that they should depart strictly perpendicular to the alley, or diverge from the parterre as rays. The latter option is more suitable for large areas. It is best to plant the alley with hedges and trees of only one species. For a hedge in our natural conditions, thuja or hawthorn are most suitable, and trees can be both coniferous and deciduous. Plantings of maples, lindens, firs will look great. In small areas, fruit trees can also be planted in order to save space, but they should not be mixed. Let it be only apple or plum trees. In this case, it is worth paying special attention to the formation of the crown..
The driveway should rest against the parterre – the main element of landscape design in this style, go around it on both sides. Also, the parterre can be, as it were, dissected by symmetrical paths. To plan a round parterre, you must use a compass. All bends both on the plan and on the ground must be absolutely rounded. It is easiest to make a round or rectangular flower bed with your own hands. After the size and location of the flower bed has been determined, it is necessary to design it. Flowerbeds, like all plantings in a French park, cannot be withered, withered, unevenly growing. That is why it is necessary to carefully approach the selection of plants. The main condition is constant flowering or the presence of bright, unfading greenery. This is especially true if you intend to take care of the garden yourself, without the services of a gardener..
It is recommended to make a separate drawing of the flower bed, on which to plan the plantings in detail by zones. In fact, making a parterre with your own hands is not as difficult as it might seem at first glance.. Perennial flower beds can be enclosed in low hedges of stone or wood, so it will be much easier to care for them. A flowerpot or a stylized garden sculpture can become the center of a small garden parterre. A fountain would be ideal. When arranging a parterre, you should take care of the lighting. A safe bet is the illumination of flowerpots and a fountain. But the use of garlands along its contours is strongly discouraged..
Tips for choosing plants for parterre are usually rather vague. With regular care, timely planting, removal of wilted, shearing overgrown, almost any plants are suitable. In the conditions of a garden plot, it is possible to make a parterre quite appropriate to the style even from berry or vegetable crops. The main thing is to observe the drop-off levels and compatibility.
Depending on the area of the site, you can arrange a pompous water cascade and a very small pond. The main thing is that it has a clear outline and an ideal coastline. Ponds are usually decorated with sculptures or fountains. It is also worth trying to use the classic French technique of “mirroring” by arranging a reservoir in such a place where its surface will reflect and, as it were, increase the height of the trees and the grandeur of the building..
Arrangement of paths and borders
Like the main alley, all side paths are covered with broken bricks, small river pebbles or gravel. The process of their arrangement is simple, but rather laborious. Over time, the paths need to be poured and not allowed to overgrow. In the conditions of a small garden plot, it is better to give preference to curbs of shrubs that can be easily cut..
The device of the green maze
The labyrinth on the site is not only a design technique, but also a very interesting place for children’s leisure. After all, strictly speaking, there are no playgrounds in the French park at all. The size of the maze should be proportional to the size of the area. Perfectly trimmed evergreen shrubs taller than human are ideal for the French Labyrinth. It will take several years to build such a maze, which is necessary for the growth of shrubs. But the arrangement of the flower labyrinth on the pre-arranged supports for climbing plants will not require so much time, but it will perfectly fit into the design. The main thing is to observe strict geometry and arrange paths. In addition, you can limit yourself to a very simple herbal labyrinth with contours from your favorite plants or even stones.
A few tips can help when building a maze:
- The marking of the labyrinth must be done first on the plan, and then on the ground using pegs and ropes.
- According to the marking, it is necessary to prepare the soil – remove the sod, dig up, fertilize.
- When setting up a “grass maze” it is worth remembering that the size of the track should be wider than the lawn mower.
- For the French style, rectangular labyrinth shapes are more characteristic, but semicircles and spirals are allowed. The main thing is that the contours are clearly verified.
Sculptures and garden furniture
Sculptures that are installed in French parks should show guests the high artistic taste of the hosts. That is why good copies of antique sculptures or columns will be a win-win option. As for garden furniture, it is better if it is with forged openwork elements or at least stylized as garden furniture of the era of the French kings. The same rule applies to garden rocking chairs, which are usually installed in bosquets, or in cozy niches along the perimeter of garden paths..
For the arrangement of the bosquet, it is better to choose the farthest corner of the garden. But the French bosquet is by no means a secluded romantic place. This is a kind of green reception room, a kind of office for receiving guests and visitors. Therefore, both splendor and theatricality are the most appropriate for its arrangement..
Basic techniques for arranging a French-style bosquet:
- Geometric shape
- A clearly defined center point – most often a flowerpot with flowering plants, a fountain, a sculpture, an hourglass, etc..
- Geometrically trimmed tall trees or shrubs in the corners.
- Arches – from trimmed trees or forged twined with greenery or flowers (climbing roses, clematis).
- Perimeter hedge, at least 2 meters high.
- Rose bushes, planted strictly symmetrically around the perimeter of the hedge.
- Furniture is arranged in a strict order, symmetrically under the corner trees.
- Symmetrically arranged sculptures and flowerpots.
- Arrangement of clear paths that “cut” the lawn carpet.
As already mentioned, the first French parks usually had no fencing. This role was played by ditches with water. However, subsequently, forged gratings began to play the role of a fence. They can be combined, for example, with the brick part of the fence, but the front side of the park with the gate must be kept strictly in the style of classicism.
If the garden is not a rarely visited suburban residence, then it is quite difficult to do without a family zone. But a playground, a barbecue, and outbuildings should be located behind the house. In no case should they be visible from the side of the gate and driveway.
In the next article, we will look at the techniques of landscape design in the English style. It was this style that was especially often used to decorate noble estates in Russia in the 19th – early 20th centuries..