The only similarity between this post and the Charles Dickens’ classic, “A Tale of Two Cities”, is that the cities of Paris and London are mentioned in both!!!
So many plans have been put on hold over the past couple of years and now that we are learning how to live with Covid 19, many of us are anxious to travel.
I love to visit Paris and wandering around the public gardens is a favourite pastime. I’ve tried to add snippets of inspiration from these gardens into my garden.
The photo (left) is of one of the parterres in my front garden. Although it is very French by design, it was (ironically) inspired by a small garden on the grounds of Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) just outside of London.
Below are photos of The Gardens of Versailles, possibly the grandest garden in Europe, designed by André Le Notre in the 17th century. This style was often copied throughout Europe in the 1600s. As you see from the overhead view, formal French gardens are intricate, symmetrical and designed to show that man could rule over nature.
The Tuileries Gardens (featured below) are in the heart of Paris with similar symmetrical lines and long allees of trees clipped to perfection.
I haven’t visited London as often, but when I have, I’ve admired the gardens and have especially loved the window boxes along the endless rows of townhouses. If you are staying in the centre of London, walking through Hyde Park (photos below) is inevitable. Originally hunting grounds for royalty (Henry V111), it was opened to the public in the mid-1600s. Today you’ll find children playing, picnickers and sunbathers, public forums for protests and free concerts. The Rolling Stones and Queen have performed in the park.
English gardens are more natural and designed with the principle that man coincides with nature. As a result, less formal, and less costly to maintain than French gardens.
Photos of Hyde Park and Green Park in London…
Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee will be celebrated this weekend, and London is decked out in all its finery. A week ago, The Chelsea Flower Show was presented, and many streets and storefronts are still decorated from that event adding another layer to the pomp and ceremony. London must be exceptionally beautiful for this special occasion.
I’ve watched several YouTube videos of this year’s Chelsea show and agreed with the “People’s Choice Award Winner”, The Perennial Garden, “With Love” being the most beautiful (see photo).
The garden was designed by Richard Miers and Perennial, a charity supporting all those involved in horticulture. Miers believes gardens are a gift of love…and who can disagree with that. What I loved about this garden was the marriage of symmetry (formal) along with the softness of everyday perennial flower borders (informal). The palette was primarily green and white with a sprinkle of plum. So elegant and at the same time obtainable. A bit of French and a dab of English…a look I’m hoping to achieve in my front garden.
The past couple of seasons have been dedicated to projects in my back garden, and sadly the front garden has been (almost) neglected. Although I’m determined to rectify that, I’ve had trouble visualizing how it would all come together. White blooming shrubs have dominated the landscape, but there are plenty of open spaces for something else…but what? I didn’t want a chaotic, colourful rambling garden but I think a little colour would be OK… The hundreds (not all came up) of white tulips I planted last fall are up and blooming.
My front garden faces north, but it does get quite a bit of sun throughout the day. Because I still want to keep some symbolence of formality (French), adding perennials (English) that will stay put in a confined area is tricky. That’s what makes the “With Love” garden at Chelsea so appealing to me. It managed to have both the symmetry and a cottagey feel…striking the perfect balance. Creating that in my garden may prove to be more challenging…
So far I’ve planted white and purple phlox, white and lavender creeping phlox, white oriental lilies, lavender bearded iris, white and purple foxglove, lavender salvia, and maidenhair and fiddlehead ferns. There are still gaps here and there, but I will wait to see what needs to be added after the shrubs have filled out. My initial plan was to plant a row of yew in front of the perennials; however, finding 60 plants (same variety and size) has been difficult. Instead, I planted boxwood as a border. It will take several seasons for this garden to mature and reveal itself…being an impatient gardener is not a virtue.
Time will tell if this was a good idea…