My Garden Designer of 2013

This year saw the celebration of the birth of  André le Nôtre, 400 years ago, the father of the French formal garden, jardin a la française. There have been many retrospective exhibitions in France, which I have enjoyed attending, and appreciating again his unerring eye, sense of scale and perspective. So for 2013, I’m choosing a long-dead designer but one who has had a far-reaching influence.

Here are some examples of his work for his patron, Louis XIV. Many gardens were destroyed during the French Revolution but some are undergoing restoration. Fuller descriptions elsewhere as noted.

Tuileries Garden (read more here)

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Vaux-le-Vicomte (read more here)



Château de Chantilly (read more here)

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Château de Versailles

Chateau de Versailles

Chateau de Versailles


French gardens 2013 190

Le Nôtre’s Principles:

  • Timelessness – the use of structural evergreens so that a garden looks its best, whatever the season.
  • Water – canals, pools, fountains and cascades; water adds life to a garden as well as reflection.
  • Illusion – the visitor is rewarded for exploring.
  • Focal points – to draw the eye through the landscape and allow the eye to alight on something.
  • Perspective – the landscape is designed as a whole, creating harmony and balance.

Autumn 2013 663

“The eye creates perspective and walking makes it live” (Le Nôtre)

His gardens are unparalleled in terms of harmony and balance on a grand scale but I think we can take home his principles and apply them in our own domestic gardens –

What garden doesn’t benefit from water, whether a pond or a fountain?

What garden isn’t improved by a focal point?

What garden doesn’t need structure?

What garden doesn’t need an element of surprise?

What garden isn’t complete until it is balanced and harmonious?

Le Nôtre’s legacy was to teach us the principles of good design.

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2 thoughts on “My Garden Designer of 2013

  1. I have always been a great fan of André le Nôtre–ever since I visted IVaux-le-Vicomte for the first time many years ago, You have put your finger on his Principles so well and rightly ask that we apply them to our gardens today


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