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How to create a French Garden in Florida

Updated on March 24, 2013
Gardens of Versailles, Paris
Gardens of Versailles, Paris | Source

During my last visit to France, I marveled at the sight of their magnificent palaces, cathedrals, and monuments. But, most of all I was captivated by the scene of their beautiful gardens. There is something magical and mystical that overcomes you when you gazed from a distance to a formal French Garden. They inspire a sense of natural beauty, order, and tranquility.

French Gardens are very structured and highly organized but in a very pleasing and attractive way. Their shapes can be geometric or consist of patterns and curves. These shapes create simple compositions with the use of well -manicured hedges next to gravel or grass.

The use of formal flower beds is predominant in the French Garden style.

These flower beds are outlined by a low manicured hedge, and contain different varieties of vibrant colored flowers.

Gardens of Versailles, Paris
Gardens of Versailles, Paris | Source

Flowers featured in their flower beds that are available in Florida are: Roses (see my article on what type of rose to use), Lavender, Agapanthus, Cannas, Tulips, and many other spring bulb flowers. You may also include a nice array of annuals which can be changed every season. These flowers should be mostly in cool colors like blues and purples, but can be accented by punches of white and yellow flowers.

You can recreate the French Garden style in your own landscape by using local plants that do well in your area.

To create a flower bed hedge you may use Japanese boxwood (my favorite boxwood for its light green color), Podocarpus, Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina), and dwarf Hawthorne (If features little white flowers in the spring), among others. The selected shrub has to be a compacted evergreen, and it must be trimmed very low in order to showcase the flowers planted behind it.

Parc de Bagatelle, France
Parc de Bagatelle, France | Source

Other important elements found in French Gardens are the use of focal points. Fountains, urns, statutes, and water features are placed in strategic locations to add interest and purpose to specific areas in the garden. You may place a statute or Urn (use a pedestal to give it more height and presence) in an area in your garden, and create a flower bed around it, outlined by a low hedge. This will be a great example of French style design, and will provide a focal point in your landscape.

Gardens of Versailles, Paris
Gardens of Versailles, Paris | Source

The use of Topiaries in French Garden design is prevalent.

Topiaries are perfectly manicured in different geometric shapes (such as round, pyramids, spirals, pom-poms, etc.), and are planted or displayed in pots throughout French gardens. These topiaries are readily available in Florida Nurseries. The best shrubs for topiaries are Boxwood, Cypress, Rosemary, Chinese Holly, and Prague Viburnum.

Bois de Bologne Garden at Parc de Bagatelle, France
Bois de Bologne Garden at Parc de Bagatelle, France | Source

Finally, draw inspiration from the various photos I am including in this article. A French garden is not only a collection of different elements and plantings, but it is a point of view, a way to appreciate nature, a simple design with a touch of elegance and formality. French gardens are quite magnificent and with the application of some of these guidelines, you will be capable of re-creating that special feeling a French garden evokes in your own Florida scenery.

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