How to Create a French Country Garden

Can you create a French country garden where you live??  In most parts of the United States, the answer is: yes.  I live in the Pacific Northwest, & while a full-on French garden isn’t possible for me, I’ve definitely drawn inspiration from French country style & symmetry.  If you’ve ever been to the castle-filled Loire Valley, then you’ve seen some of the country’s most spectacular, formal gardens.  And while they’re certainly beautiful: it’s in fact the more informal French gardens I feel have the most charm…which is good news for us avid & aspiring gardeners!  Here, we’ll learn how to create a beautiful French country garden, no matter your budget or where you live!

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

This is a perfect example of a more relaxed, French country outdoor dining area: the pea gravel & central water feature are two crucial elements of French style ~ & neither need to cost a fortune. I’ll give you many ideas below…

 

 

Hallmarks of French Country Garden-Style

  • The use of pea gravel, stones, stepping stones, cobble-stones, a rustic stone wall ~ basically, any kind of stones you can think of. The more weathered & worn-in, the better
  • Informal, or formal, dining areas set amidst the garden, surrounded by profusions of flowers.
  • French gardens intersect with English cottage gardens in that they both make ample use of arbors: for both drama, & to add height & interest to the garden landscape. I purchased this beautiful, French-inspired black arbor from Amazon ~ & I love the height it adds to my landscape. Use climbing roses or vines to climb up over & soften it… 
  • French gardens love symmetry, geometry, & shapes: often times, they’ll use boxwood hedges or rows of trees to create these shapes. I’ve done this in my own garden, using rows of Emerald Green Arborvitae to create a privacy hedge that has a more formal look. 
  • Water features! You’ll be hard-pressed to find a French garden that doesn’t make use of at least one water feature, whether it’s a simple bird bath, a multi-tiered fountain, or small pond.
  • Words that capture French country style: refined, elegant, rustic, symmetrical, geometric, lightly distressed, charming, weathered, worn-in, muted & soft colors, effortless. 
  • Two of the most popular & “signature” French country flowers are hydrangeas & of course, French Lavender.

Photos of French Country Gardens…

The main idea of this article is to gather inspiration ~ & the best way to do that is to view photos of beautiful French country gardens.  Just remember: yours does NOT need to be super formal…like a mini-Versailles!  You can simply use elements of French country style in small ways, like adding a fountain as a focal point, or a simple bird bath.  Adding pea gravel & natural stone is also a great way to add a French country touches to your garden….

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

There are many elements of French style in this home: old stone walls, French doors, a quaint outdoor seating area, containers used close to the home for a cozy feel, with larger trees further away for privacy & beauty.

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Versailles

The most famous French garden is at Versailles, which is definitely on the formal end. BUT: there are elements you can copy here: play with geometry & shapes. Use trees to form hedges & draw the eye towards one, central feature ~ like a pond. Photo courtesy of Paris Insiders Guide.

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

When I think of French country gardens, I picture something more like this: a beautiful stone building covered with trailing vines, an informal seating area surrounded by flowers, & an irregular, cobblestone walkway. Rustic perfection like this can be found all around Provence. Photo courtesy of Cottage Garden.

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

If I could create this exact scene in my garden ~ OH MY would I ever! If you have a beautiful shaded area that’s protected from the wind: it’s possible to create a delicious scene like this… (Note the mismatched chairs & distressed table: French country does NOT = perfect!)

There’s no quicker way to add French country feel to your yard than by adding a chandelier ~ hang it from your covered patio, or if you have a She Shed, hang it in there! It doesn’t have to work: simply hanging it will give you that rustic feel.

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

A charming entrance like this is signature of a more cottage garden feel. Photo courtesy of The Cottage Journal.

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

Don’t simply place a fountain in your yard randomly! French style tells us to bring DRAMA to that fountain: create a path that leads up to it, surround the fountain with either stones or flowers ~ or BOTH, to really create a statement.

Buy a beautiful, multi-tiered fountain ~ then surround it with pea gravel & larger rocks in the shape of a circle to truly make a statement. Lead a pathway up to it, or line trees & shrubs along a path towards it…

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

Hidden “rooms” are not only a French thing ~ but many English gardens use the same idea. The idea is to create different areas within the garden: these could be sitting areas, a hidden area with a fire pit, etc. Photo courtesy of Holly Lepere Studios.

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

This garden has a slightly more formal feel with fewer flowers, but both the wrought-iron furniture & series of large urns are quintessential French style.

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

The “Shabby Chic” style, created by Rachel Ashwell, is a cousin of French style ~ with its subtle color palette, distressed & weathered-looking furniture, & an overall tranquil feel.

 

 

Other Beautiful French Gardens…

If you type “famous French gardens” into Google, two castles in the Loire Valley will likely pop up: Chateaux Villandry & Chenonceau.  Though both are formal (& massive), you can certainly take inspiration from each, incorporating small elements into your own garden.

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Chateau Villandry

Chateau Villandry is one of France’s most famous gardens. Here, you can see several elements of French style: pea gravel pathways, symmetrical garden planning using distinct shapes (both square & rectangular), & grand, wide paths that lead up to the Chateau.

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World, Chateau Chenonceau

The gardens at Chenonceau were my absolute favorite, & I found, more charming than Villandry’s ~ with the decorative use of ornamental grasses, hearty shrubs, & trees shaped into globes punctuating the edges of the lawn.

How to Create a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

Finally, in the far South of France, you’ll find rows upon rows of one of the most famous French flowers of all: lavender.

Learn when you can see the spectacular South of France lavender fields in the height of full bloom, here

How to Create a French Country Garden

If you’re itching to add a water feature to your yard after viewing these gardens, check out this bird bath I found on Amazon (I have three & LOVE them).  Or find a delightful little corner of your yard to add a cozy daybed in….taking a little nap is very French indeed.

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: How to Create an English Cottage Garden

 

 

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How to Design a French Country Garden, Girl Who Travels the World