Plant the Look - France
Have you always dreamt of a French style garden?
Do you wish you could be pouring yourself a Pernod in Provence right now, serenaded by Edith Piaf?

With overseas travel being a distant memory for now, we're bringing you ways to feel like you're somewhere else, even when you're at home.
We show you how to create the look of a French garden in your own back yard.

French Style Gardens - Chateau chic

There are two notable - and very different - styles of gardening which come to mind when thinking about France.

Chateau de Villandry The first French style is that of the classic stately homes, or chateaux - think of the famous gardens of Versailles, Villandry, even the centre of Paris along the Champs Elysees.

Every aspect is controlled and formal, showing man's mastery over nature.

Trees are planted in straight lines, and their silhouettes neatly clipped into square-edged boxes.

Pleaching trees is popular - that's when lower branches are pruned cleanly away to create a hedge raised up on its own trunks.

Strolling pedestrians can walk in the cool shade between the rows of hedging, without snagging on a stray branch.


formal topiary knot gardenSmall-leaved evergreen bushes are topiarised into neat balls and cones with regular clipping.

Intricate interwoven patterns are created with low dense hedging, and filled with blocks of colourful groundcover planting; there's not a leaf or petal out of place.

If you like this look, prepare for lots of work, as it can be very high maintenance - those chateaux had teams of gardeners toiling seven days a week!

Choose naturally dwarf hedging, and perennial shrubs rather than annuals, to make things easier.


French Style Gardens - rustic charm

Loire garden The second French garden style is the antithesis of the formal chateaux designs, and it is the peasant gardens of the countryside and the farmers that live there.

It's rustic, untamed, with the emphasis on fruits and vegetables to eat, fibres to weave from, and flowers to create perfumes with, rather than plants for visual enjoyment alone.

Alongside loose cottage-garden jumbles of flowers and fruits, are fields for commercial farming and harvesting, filled with lavender for fragrant oil and sunflowers for oil-rich seeds.

If you've ever watched the Tour de France on television you'll have seen the cyclists zipping past fields of towering gold-and-brown blooms.


field in ProvenceAlongside those bright bold gold sunflowers are big blousy pastel-shaded hydrangeas, scented garden roses, fragrant jasmine and of course lavender - all epitomise this rustic French garden look.

The fields around Grasse, known for its perfume, and Marseilles, renowned for fine soap, abound with these flowers. There's even an annual Fete du Jasmin.

If you're interested in scented flowers to create botanical perfumes, Patrick Suskind's novel Perfume is a fascinating historical read.


French Style Gardens - get the look

plants for the French look Essential plants to get that formal French chateau look in your own garden are small-leaved evergreen hedging plants especially box hedging.formal topiary knot garden

Clip them to neat dome and ball shapes, practise your topiary skills, pleach them into raised hedges, plant them in straight avenues.

Showcase individual feature plants in those iconic Versailles planters - square white wood boxes topped with finials at the corners, like tiny picket fences.

Fill in between with decorative vegetables like at Villandry, or flouncy flowers in pastel shades.

Or go the other way, Provencal style, with a sweet-smelling jumble of hydrangea, lavender, tea roses, sunflower, softened with ornamental grasses and herbs, to create your personal jardin rustique.