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…

Style Book

 

Outdoor Fountain

 

Metal Arbor

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 by the home for a cozy feel, with larger trees further away for privacy & beauty.

What is a French Country Garden? Girl Who Travels the World

This is a lovely example of a relaxed outdoor patio in the French country style. Note the color of the shutters: a near-perfect Provence Blue. Photo by Veranda.

French Country Look, How to Design a French Country Garden, Girl Who Gardens

I recently dog-eared this oh-so-French look in “Victoria” magazine: an idyllic outdoor setting.

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.

What is a French Country Garden? Girl Who Gardens

French style can also be very simple: the stand-out here is the gorgeous golden tone of the stone wall & the simple, rustic table set. Photo by The Spruce.

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.

What is a French Country Garden? Girl Who Travels the World

The abundance of flowers here brings in an English cottage feel surrounding this She Shed. Photo by French Country Cottage.

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 Design a French Country Garden, Girl Who Gardens

Perfect French country style with a muted palette. Aged urns create repetition with boxwood, while wisteria climbs up the trellis. Photo by Veranda.

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.

Outdoor String Lights

Chandelier

Hydrangeas

 

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, check out this bird bath I found on Amazon; I have three & LOVE them.  Or find a corner of your yard where you can add a cozy daybed….because taking a little nap is very French indeed.

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: How to Create a Drought-Tolerant Garden

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

What is a French Country Garden? Girl Who Travels the World