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Taking Care Of Your French-Style Garden

French-style gardens have a formal aesthetic to them, and therein lies the appeal for many people. There has a distinctive feel to it that differentiates the French style from the British and Italian whilst incorporating elements of both. This is because French style was inspired by the Italian, and British was subsequently adapted from the French. The adaptations gradually found their way back across the Channel to influence the future of the French look.

At its core, French landscape design relies on symmetry and order. The French garden is supposed to be viewed from a distance, highlighting a centrepiece which would usually be the chateau or house. The colour palette is cool, emphasising whites and greens alongside purples and blues. Boxwood hedges, intricately carved shrubs, tidy little garden beds and fields of lavender are essential components, along with careful use of stone for pavings, edgings, decorative elements and, perhaps, a terrace.

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Country and Courtyard

French country gardens have less of the formal element, mixing in softer planting and more bold colours without straying too far from the basic design principles. Planting beds are still contained by some sort of border, and the same gravel beds that would adorn a formal space fit in perfectly in the entryway of a small home. Keep the focus on order, even in a natural setting.

The principles that make French landscaping so synonymous with large spaces translate well into small courtyards. But a formal, ordered design requires far more maintenance than a natural garden. Something out of place will look immediately obvious, so this style of garden is not for the laid-back gardener.

If you add one piece of shabby chic garden furniture, you'd better be prepared to incorporate plenty of shabby chic garden accessories as well.

Starting with the Basics

For French-style gardens, the basics entail stucco walls, stonework and lavender. Window boxes can add a touch of brighter colour to contrast with the softer greens, whites and purples that will largely make up your landscape. Build straight-lined geometric shapes adorned with neatly-trimmed hedges and shrubs. Gravel makes for good paving and a monochromatic colour scheme maintains the formal look. And a little unique element that breaks the mould might save the design from looking too repetitive - hark back to that shabby chic garden furniture, like a bench.

Gravel paths are a French garden hallmark, and an easy starting point for your design. Think about adding inset stepping stones to give visitors a more stable surface to walk on. But be prepared for some maintenance with this - weed-barrier cloths will help suppress weed growth, but nothing is foolproof. Keep on-top of unwanted plant material.

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Designing the Flower Beds

French-style gardens are a geometrical study. Decide on shapes for your flower beds, and ensure they are clearly defined. Don't be afraid to mix and match with shapes - diamonds on one side can be offset with semicircles on the other. Using the same plant material can tie the shapes together. Observe the space from different perspectives - it should be pleasant when you're standing amongst the beds, but also interesting to view from the outside.

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