Blog Description

A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

French Design in Backyards

Friday, September 29, 2017

Five Ways to Add 

French Design in Backyards 

France routinely casts a spell over unsuspecting travelers and lures them to seek a French lifestyle and to imitate French design once they return home. If you are one who fell under the spell, loves all things French, and is now a self-proclaimed francophile, try these five ways to add a little French style to your terrace, patio, deck, or garden. 

Step through a magical door and back into France in your own backyard. 

1.  S Y M M E T R Y  

Even in a deck and yard in progress symmetry helps add order and structure. The two boxwood plants in matching blue flower pots are placed evenly on either side of the concrete bench. Three dwarf yaupon holly bushes line up symmetrically behind the bench and boxwoods. Shaping all five of the evergreen shrubs into balls replicates the look in French gardens.  

2.  P L A N T S 


Boxwood shrubs are favorites in formal public gardens, city greenbelts, and private gardens. One of the most significant features of French gardens is their formal, structured style. Intricate mazes and exquisite design patterns have been part of planned gardens for centuries. Mazes and design patterns maintain their shapes and beauty all year by using evergreen boxwoods. If the boxwoods in your area have succumbed to boxwood decline or boxwood blight, dwarf yaupon holly shrubs may be good replacement plants to get the same look as boxwoods. 

French gardens often include topiaries. Potted ivies grow rather quickly, are easily trained, and thrive in semi-shady to shady areas. Balls and cones are the most common topiary shapes, but spirals are another popular topiary shape. 

Spiral boxwoods line the terrace section of the l'Orangerie Restaurant at Ch√Ęteau de Chenonceau. 

France is known for its commercial lavender fields and products... potpourri, perfume, soap, dried flower arrangements... and for lavender plants in personal gardens. If lavender does not grow well in your area, consider blue sage. Blue sage has a similar shape and color to lavender and has a much longer blooming period. Lavender blooms only for a short time each summer, but blue sage blooms from early spring until frost. 

3.  P L A N T  C O N T A I N E R S    

Pedestal urns are the most common plant container design most people associate with France. Other designs, such as a pot with a ruffled rim, take on a French look, especially when used with other French style designs. A gray ceramic heart with a raised design and a weathered gray slatted wooden chair help give the flower pot a French feel. 

Simple concrete trough containers are another style seen throughout France. 

4.  S T O N E  S T E P S  &  W A L L S  


Stone walls date back throughout history. Walled cities like St. Malo on the northern coast and Carcassonne in the southern region of Languedoc were built in the 12th - 14th centuries with ramparts for defense. Throughout all of France indigenous stones are used for retaining walls. 

Natural stone like limestone, instead of manufactured stone like paver stones, gives an old-world look to landscaping. 

Builders used whatever building materials were available locally, and stone steps appear in all areas of France; indeed, all of Europe. 

5.  P E A  G R A V E L  T E R R A C E   


Pea gravel terraces, driveways, and walkways are used extensively in France instead of solid surfaces.

Pea gravel is easy to install and can be leveled quickly with a rake. Water soaks into the soil underneath instead of running off. Heat build up and reflection are less than concrete, asphalt, or other solid stone surfaces which translates into less electricity use for air conditioning. Cost is less than for concrete, asphalt, and other stone surfaces due to both material and installation costs.

No mowing or fertilizing makes pea gravel easier to maintain overall than sod. Less use of fertilizer and pesticides also means fewer chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides are running off into our underground water reserves. Water consumption is non-existent which results in lower water bills and higher water conservation.

If your local city codes restrict pea gravel use, send a letter to your city planning office, and outline the benefits of pea gravel use versus solid surfaces and grass. Water conservation and clean water are major concerns for all areas of the country. Everything we can do today means more clean water in the future.

Did I mention how beautiful a pea gravel terrace looks?

Please PIN and SHARE with others to advocate the benefits of pea gravel and clean water conservation. 


Five Ways to Add 

French Design in Backyards

  1. Symmetry 
  2. Plants 
  3. Plant Containers 
  4. Stone Walls & Steps 
  5. Pea Gravel Terrace  

What is your favorite way to add French design to your yard? 


If you love open houses, you will love visiting 16 Texas bloggers next week for a Fall tour. Botanic Bleu is on the first day, Monday, October 2, 2017.