Differences Between an English and a French Garden

Differences Between an English and a French Garden

Gardens have been some people’s escape from a stressful life and work hustle. In fact, in the 13th century, gardens started becoming a form of creative display due to the emergence of the upper class who enjoyed and appreciated aesthetically-pleasing gardens. But, how do you differentiate a French and an English garden and identify its elements?

The key features of a French garden are its symmetrical, geometrical, and orderly arrangement. Gardeners would plant trees in a straight line to incorporate a particular perspective and symmetry of the garden. Meanwhile, English gardens are more natural-looking with no strict geometric features. It relies heavily on rectilinear patterns and unnatural shaping that seeks to portray the diversity of life. 

In this article, we will tackle the differences between an English and a French garden. From the structural figures to common elements, we will define the differences in their layout and landscape ideas.


Main Differences Between an English and a French Garden

Gardens are every homeowner’s dream. That is where humbleness in nature becomes their peaceful and relaxing abode. No matter what inspires you to set up your garden, English and French gardens are the common inspiration for some, from their use of plants to the way they maximize the space, and their simplicity.

There are many differences between English and French gardens, as well as many similarities. Both garden inspirations were founded on the principles and history of each country. English gardens were introduced by the Romans in the 1st century AD, when they arrived in England. They depict a style of landscaping that is widely popular across the European continent.

Here are common things you can spot in English gardens:

  • An English garden is contextualized in an attempt to blend into a natural landscape. It combines a wild side with romantic elements.
  • Romantic elements in an English garden include ponds, small lakes, bridges, long docks, ruins imitations, and sculptures. They were introduced in the 18th century.
  • You will often see “Chinese” pavilions.
  • Romantic elements are incorporated into the foliage to enhance the wild look of the garden.
  • An English garden is based on the principle of a man agreeing with the flow of nature.
  • English gardens are informal, unlike French ones. They are also less labor-intensive and inexpensive to maintain and design.

French gardens were rooted in the 16th century, an era that was heavily influenced by Italian gardens. French gardens were directly associated with Andre Le Notre and are known to retain their beauty, even when beheld from afar.

The features of a French garden can be found in both strict and formal gardens. If you are incorporating a French garden, regular maintenance is required to upkeep the style. Also, French gardens need precise and controlled care to achieve a neat and pleasing result.

Here are common things you can spot in French gardens:

  • French gardens are called formal gardens for they follow strict geometric lines. doing so helps create a long axial view and highlights the architecture of a property.
  • In a French garden, plants are arranged to maintain geometric and symmetric layouts. They are regularly pruned, trimmed, or cut to keep them from having an overgrown look, which is a typical style of an English garden.
  • French gardens have lanes paved with gravel and larger gardens also include a lawn.
  • In a larger French garden, lanes and pathways guide off the center, which, according to tradition, allows visitors to follow the paths through each section.
  • Like English gardens, French ones also feature romantic elements. Some use reflecting pools or ponds, fountains accented with sculptures, or statuary following a geometric order.
  • Larger French gardens have parterres, constructions surrounding the plants, and stones or hedges that are carefully maintained to create a symmetrical and geometrical pattern.
  • Plants in French gardens are planted low when near architect buildings, while plants that are far from buildings have paths edged with trees or shrubs.


A garden is usually a planned outdoor space with plants and other forms of nature. Spending time in your garden allows your family a chance to work and bond together. However, not all of us have time to spare to manage a garden. If you are busy with everything else that is happening in your life, then you will surely love our tips to making your garden low maintenance


Elements You’ll Find in an English Garden

English gardens are known for having a bold appearance and recognizing the joy in gardening. If you want to achieve an English-looking garden, there are a few steps that you should follow. Many English gardens exploit an exuberance for abundance and flowers. You can also find a hallway and symmetrical designs in a classic English garden.

Here are the elements you will find in a classic English landscape.

Establish Symmetry and Paths

To know when a garden has an English landscape, you should look at its shape. These designs are made using features like retaining walls, hardscaping paths, flower beds, and hedges. In an English garden, to achieve a neat and well-structured structure, you should make a symmetrical design using curves, straight lines, or a combination of the two. If you have more imaginative and creative ideas in mind, consider using winding paths to establish an English garden.

Adding Perennial and Annual Plants

An English garden likes to focus on perennials and annuals. Some of the most popular perennials include lupine, veronica, hydrangea, hibiscus, and bee balm. As for annuals, marigold, cosmos, daisies, and zinnias are popular plants for an English garden.

You can consider planting wildflowers for a rustic and wild English garden. If you want to achieve an English garden, choose and combine different types of plants to make strong statements while bringing together contrasting hues. Shrubs are a great choice too to define different sections of the garden. For the final touch, add some roses.

Create a Hallway and Have Some Edibles

Aside from the plants and garden’s landscape, a few additions could give your backyard an English appearance. One of these is a welcoming entryway made using structures like picket gates and fences, arbors covered with vines, and arches overgrown with roses.

Another possible addition is an outdoor kitchen filled with herbs and edibles like rosemary, mint, lettuce, and beans. You might want to consider incorporating a quiet place for relaxation to have a good English garden ambiance.


Elements You’ll Find in a French Garden

French gardens have a classic look that brings images of bright lavender, sequence gravel paths, tranquil reflecting pools, symmetrical plant beds, and shrubs. Designing your backyard the French way can be a bit different from designing other types of gardens.

French gardens also include a water feature and use classic wood planter boxes or Anduze vases. Here are the most common elements you can find in a French garden.

Order over Nature

Symmetry and geometry are the main distinctive features of a French garden, imposing order over nature. The Palace of Versailles is the embodiment of the mathematical approach and symmetrical gravel path of French gardens.

The concept of a French garden depicts the history of France itself, where control is a significant factor. Most landscapers and designers of French gardens worked like architects, widening the ideals of optics, geometry, and perspective to the garden.

Usually, a French garden comprises sections with tall hedges and topiaries. Topiary acts as an extension that is often trimmed into ornamental shapes like balls, triangles, etc. These are often placed in rows along the main axes of the garden or pathways and border sections. The pathways are laid out like hallways that connect from one area to another.

Trees are planted the same way and neatly in a bosquet, which is a formal plantation of trees. The purpose of planting trees is to line pathways. When trees are growing high, they are trimmed into neat shapes.

The design of a French garden is about perspective for it is meant to be viewed from all sides and angles, even if you are on a terrace or window.

Clean and Explicate Spaces

Compared to English gardens, which boast an abundance of flowers and vibrance, French gardens keep it simple, neat, and defined. The goal of a French garden is to make an overall sense of order and control. This explains why French gardens have a leveled ground where elaborate parterres or planting beds are created.

Parterres are the most recognizable ideals of French gardens and come in an oval, square, round, or scroll shape. These patterned planting beds not only complement the design but can be viewed from the main house or building. Planting beds are often edged with low boxwood or other shrubberies that help define space and keep the edges neat.

If you have a small or large pristine lawn you wish to contextualize in a French garden, continue the theme of ordered nature and create a balance against elegant and intricate details.

Most lawns have a rectangular or square shape, create lines of interest across the axis, and define different areas of the garden. Pathways or hallways are often made of gravel, divide garden elements, like lawns, and create a way to travel throughout the design.

Projects a Cool Color Scheme

French gardens often incorporate a cool color palette that highlights greens and whites. In a French garden, rows of lavender bring in purple and reflecting pools of cool blues. The reason why French gardens don’t feature many ornamental flowers is that those were rare in the 17th century, thus limiting the color palette.

Trees, topiaries, and bushes must stand out, and so, are trimmed neatly in geometric forms. In decorations, the greys and blues of an iron bench, pergola, or trellis reinforce the cool color scheme.

Water features like reflecting ponds, pools, and fountains play with the geometric patterns of French gardens as they are often shaped in circles or rectangles.

Introduces Stone Elements

In a French garden design, stones in the form of gravel paths, statuaries, or terraces are easy elements to incorporate. They depict balance against plants and underpinnings to the entire design.

In a French garden, pathways are enforced to control the route of a visitor to the garden and conserve the idea of geometry with straight lines across and perpendicular to the main point.

Even stone gardens with elements like statues, columns, or follies provide a strong point of interest through the landscape. They are sometimes the focal point of enclosed groves or mark intersections on pathways. Stone elements can also line pathways, intersecting trees and plants in an ordered and repetitive design.

French gardens often feature classic statuaries and sculptures of mythological figures, like nymphs, goddesses, warriors, and cherubs to incorporate a French style. Stone elements aren’t just for decorations; they are often used to make the design stand out and border boxwood and planters.


Backyards are not just spaces filled with grass and plants. They are places where we can relax and unwind, a place for children to play and grow, a spot to enjoy outdoor activities with family and friends, as well as a source of food and nutrition. Read our article and discover the 4 reasons why backyards are important



With this article, you now know which garden inspiration you would like to incorporate into your property. Each of the garden design offers a different approach and ideals that you might want to achieve. Whether you want an organized and symmetrical French garden or an abundance of flowers and a joyful English garden, always remember the basic pointers.

As previously said, French gardens are very geometrical, and the focal point or center must have some facades and emanate outward. Compared to English gardens, French ones are high-maintenance but worth the effort. If you prefer an English garden, however, let your plants flourish and cultivate a wild look. You can also add some romantic elements and foliage to amplify the beauty and colors of your landscape.

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