my garden, french parterres and your opinion please …

by Sharon Santoni

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that before taking any major decisions, I love to make the most of my readers’ expertise.  I am in awe of your knowledge and experience, and of your generosity in sharing your ideas.

Last year I asked for ideas when I was replanting the beds in front of our terrace.  I adopted a lot of your proposals, and today, the bed is one year older and beginning to take shape.  Some things I love, some have to be reworked, but no matter, everyone knows that a garden is an ongoing project……speaking of which …. I have an idea …

It’s one of those ideas that I can talk about more easily with  you than with my family…. are you getting the picture?

It’s one of those ideas which when raised here can cause a short sharp silence, followed by some rapid ” oh yeah, good idea”, followed even more rapidly by a whooshing sound as everyone I broach the subject with, turns tail and walks away.

My friends, I am talking about a parterre.   A parterre of four incy wincy, tiny little squares that would lend some structure to the centre of our garden.     I have visions of neat box hedges, of tumbling white roses, of spikes of white foxgloves of billowing blue perovskia – what could possibly be unreasonable about that?!

Four squares echoing the width of the terrace would cover just 76 square meters!  I mean, really, what is all the fuss about?!

Here is our garden as it stands today, with my ideas sketched over ….  seen from the terrace ….

seen from the middle of the garden …

and if four squares are really going to keep family members awake at night in a cold sweat, then I suppose we could always consider a different shape …

so what I am hoping from this blogpost, is that you’ll either shout at me in CAPITAL letters ” DON’T DO IT!!!!”, in which case I may hesitate, or – and of course this is what I would prefer – you write me flowing accounts of how you qu-i-te easily created parterres in your own garden, and how they are really no problem at all to plant, maintain, keep weed free ….

If at the same time, you would also like to give me recommendations for roses or other plants that would give me year-round interest, then I would of course be even happier.

PS… the next day …. I should add that there is another bit of lawn further down the garden that will still be available for badminton, grazing horses, dog training (ahem!), soccer ….  so it doesn’t matter if we lose this space.

If you want to see some more gardens that are inspiring me right now, then check out my garden board at Pinterest.

Merci mes amis – I look forward to reading your advice.

Images 3 & 4  thanks to Pinterest


Ardith July 1, 2014 - 4:42 pm

Sharon, I think your idea for the parterre is inspired. Either approach you present will look wonderful, it just depends upon whether you decide you want something highly symmetrical or with softer edges. Have fun with it. Cheers, Ardith

sharon santoni July 2, 2014 - 6:52 am

Oh I’d have fun Ardith, it’s just persuading the rest of the family that will be tricky


carol July 1, 2014 - 4:54 pm

I think it’ll take an already lovely yard up several levels and make it fabulous! Much better than just having a mass of lawn. I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like finished!

sharon santoni July 2, 2014 - 6:52 am

thank you Carol, if I do it I’ll keep you posted


Donna July 1, 2014 - 4:55 pm

Sharon, I love the second approach, with softer curves. I only wish I had someone who could help me do something like that as I have a large expanse of yard also. Good luck!

Maria July 1, 2014 - 5:09 pm

That is my choice also.

Lory Bernstein July 2, 2014 - 2:47 am

I love that one too. But then it’s calling out for something, a focal point, in the center. Can’t wait to see what you decide!

sharon santoni July 2, 2014 - 6:53 am

center focal point? hmmm, now you’ve got my head spinning!


Fra July 2, 2014 - 7:53 am

Second way for me to…and of course you will need a central something….a statue, a little fountain…
do you remember Anne Marie’s herbs garden?
I immediately figured something like that when I saw your second sketch….


Leslie in Portland, Oregon July 4, 2014 - 7:13 am

Yes…a fountain or pool for the dogs to drink out of and play in!! They deserve it. My Golden and long-haired dachshund are already envious!!

SISSY July 1, 2014 - 5:11 pm


Sharon Santoni July 2, 2014 - 8:41 am

that’s a dangerous offer to make a girl like me, Sissy, maybe it’s just as well you don’t live closer, you’d never get away


Sally July 1, 2014 - 5:17 pm

Lovely, but every home with a yard that large should have the space for sports and games. Where would football or croquet or badminton or tag or kickball be without room to play?

Heather in Arles July 1, 2014 - 5:21 pm

Sally, I was thinking the same thing, which is why I like the second style of parterre. It seems like a lovely compromise that would allow for a bit of elegance while complimenting the shape of the house and (it would seem) permitting at least for G&G to have some sprawling space or a croquet lawn in the middle!

Sharon Santoni July 1, 2014 - 5:26 pm

Actually Sally and Heather, there is a little bit of lawn further down the garden that is our badminton area, that’s why I don’t think I need this lawn now


Kathy Nordmann July 1, 2014 - 6:18 pm

Hi Sharon! I was thinking the same thing about needing the space for games, but if you don’t, I love the second sketch and would also think about adding a focal point in the center of the parterre. Think statue, fountain, or something…
Love your garden just the way it is, but I know when I get an idea in my head, there’s no turning it off! So go for it!

Donna Kaplan July 1, 2014 - 5:19 pm

Hi Sharon:
I have been inspired by your house and garden just as it is, because of its simplicity. I have actually saved images to guide me in a landscape and house renovation I am doing in California. I don’t wish to pour salt on your idea—-but I think the parterres add formality to an already beautiful space because of its casual simplicity. I say: “Don’t do it”.


Sharon Santoni July 2, 2014 - 8:42 am

thank you for your honest input Donna, and thank you for the compliment! I’m taking your idea on board, although there is no way I would ever have created anything too formal, my english blood won’t let me!


La Contessa July 1, 2014 - 5:20 pm

JUMP ON THIS!LOVE the idea!IT will make YOU SO HAPPY!!!!
I ADORE BOTH LAYOUTS……..the second the horses could still come out to play?Well, maybe NOT as they will EAT the FLEURS!SHARON, its GORGEOUS as it is……..but this will be your VIEW!YOU adore FLOWERS and GARDENS and well,,,,,,,I SAY TELL THE FAMILY TO GRAB A SHOVEL!!!

Sharon Santoni July 2, 2014 - 8:43 am

You know, I never thought a horse would be tempted by a rose, but our poney ate one right in front of me this week – boy did he get an earful!


Bette Lee Collins July 1, 2014 - 5:20 pm

I have not read the above comments…but hope they agree with me… You should do it!
Unless you plan a soccer game in the space it is perfect for you plan… Either will work but I like plan two better, it is informal like your other planting beds fand has an open, welcoming design.
It will add interest and be a wonderful project to do. Besides, women are not happy unless they are changing things and moving on…it is the “staff of life”…
And think of all we will learn from you as you proceed…
Bette Lee

Sharon Santoni July 2, 2014 - 9:11 am

Totally agree with changing and moving on Bette Lee! We have space for the soccer at the end of the garden, and I’m thinking that now my little ones are no longer so little, that I can make this area ‘mine’ 🙂


Patty July 1, 2014 - 5:21 pm

I think the idea of having the curved parterres only on the corners, making a lovely oval interior space for picnics etc. I think the 4 rectangles are rather bland and just serve to fill up space.

Sharon Santoni July 2, 2014 - 9:11 am

point taken, thank you Patty


Sophie July 1, 2014 - 5:22 pm

Absolument oui! It will be very beautiful, you should do so. What kind of hedge will you use and what would you like to fill it with?

Katherine Leighty July 1, 2014 - 5:25 pm

FABULOUS IDEA! Think you can do this without digging it all up, CAN use newspaper for your design and cover with soil…boxwood for bordersand plantings in center…but if I were to do it I’d do the second design…lovely brick surrounds idn shape of design, heavy newspaper and dig for plantings..but unwanted grass will die! just suggestion but easy to do that way! Good luck as I know how the eyes glaze over when you try to introduce new ideas that may involve work! Ha!

Sharon Santoni July 2, 2014 - 9:12 am

had never heard of the newspaper trick Katherine, I’ll have to look into that, thank you


Katherine Leighty July 2, 2014 - 3:59 pm

You are very welcome…I have it pinned on pinterest and I also have done it! I can’t do a lot of yard work now because of my back so the easier the better! Happy Summer!

sevi July 1, 2014 - 5:29 pm

i really love your garden the way it looks today ,but since you have decided you want some parterres i would recomend you to make only 2 ,one by each side in the shape of parallelogram …with softer edges ,make a wooden corridor and a square platform so you will be able to put a table and chairs on it ,so you and your family will be able to enjoy your breakfast ,and as for the flowers add as many colourfull plants you want so you will make it more joyfull

Peggy Braswell July 1, 2014 - 5:33 pm

like the 2nd drawing with curves + tell your family to get it done, sharon

Colleen Taylor July 1, 2014 - 5:34 pm

I think it’s a gorgeous idea & would look wonderful but unless you have a gardener who can take care of this for you all the time, then maybe not. That’s a tremendous amount of work to keep looking neat & trim.

kari July 1, 2014 - 5:42 pm

i really don’t see how you could NOT do it, its the epitome of the dream we all have of a European garden, it is the perfect set up for a collection of herbs and those harder to grow flower that need a bit of extra care, it is where poetry begins and fairy tale princesses fall in love

DianeD July 1, 2014 - 5:46 pm

GO FOR IT!!!!!! Either form works. But make sure you have enough room n the middle of the intersection of the 4 beds for a beautiful focal point. Maybe a sculpture or fountain.
Can’t wait to see what you decide. Whatever have fun doing it.

Texas Francophile July 1, 2014 - 5:47 pm

Love option 2. Any opportunity for roses. I have 55. ENJOY

carolina elizabeth July 1, 2014 - 5:48 pm

That is a wonderful idea. It seem as though it would require a lot of upkeep, but I do think it would be worth it. I have found a couple that I think would fit in nicely and are a bit on the smaller side, so the family can sleep better.

Laura Lee Johnston July 1, 2014 - 5:52 pm

While I love the idea of the parterres – and I’d vote for the four squares – I wonder, as Donna said, they would add too much formality to the casual simplicity of your garden. Your other plantings seem to overflow their beds so lusciously – parterres seem too regimented in light of that.
I also wonder if some day in the future you might want to have that lovely open space for a special outdoor celebration or, as we once had on our big side lawn, a wonderful wedding reception for our daughter.

ann hodgkins July 1, 2014 - 6:07 pm

Your garden is lovely.If you were to do this I would go with option 2.It is less formal which seems to be more in keeping with what you have around the terrace.Multi colored flowers would fit in with some seasonal changes of annuals(just a few) as you do not want to become a slave to it.Better to spend time looking at the garden!

Jennifer Clark July 1, 2014 - 6:12 pm

What about a round parterre with a center focal point, perhaps a fountain or a small flowering tree? That would break up the large expanse of lawn, add a focal point, but small enough to not be horrible amounts of work and maintenance. Otherwise, I like the second option. With something fabulous in the center. An armillary sphere on a classical plinth, perhaps.

As for roses, what about climbers on trellises, for vertical interest? Regarding year round interest, I’m afraid roses aren’t going to give you that. They need the dormancy of winter. I cannot really advise you on this topic; my garden is in southern California. No snow and 3 growing seasons.

Best of luck and please share photos!

Teddee Grace July 1, 2014 - 6:20 pm

That’s a beautiful lawn…and easy to mow as is. What are the family objections?

Monique July 1, 2014 - 6:34 pm

I love the have the perfect etc..for sure..
It will be busier..and they will have to be kept just so.. as they are formal compared to the casual English(In France ) gardens you have there.I garden and know how much work they are.. but I am in QC..things are different there..
But I say ..yes:)
I do love the idea of one central one too though with a beautiful focal point.
Boxwood and lavender..yum.

Carol Parden July 1, 2014 - 6:40 pm

I live in a very large city and lush, green lawn is a pleasure to my eyes. However, you are in the country and see lawn all around you. So if I decided to add a parterre I would use the counter-balance of the curved parterres instead of the other square spaces, which seem to have a heaviness to them.

We, as your readers and followers, know you will create lovely areas, which we will watch blossom into beauty.

Marian from UK July 1, 2014 - 6:49 pm

Things to consider: Box edging is more formal, but still country. Who will be mowing/edging the grass around the parterre? (time/effort). Box hedge only needs clipping twice a year. Box blight is hitting some gardens here. From your wonderful photos, flower types, arrangements, you love beautiful informality. You don’t appear a formal sort of person. So I would go for the second option with curves. Hope this helps. I’m in a similar dilemma with my very small cottage garden about to be created. Wish I’d started a blog already!! Good luck!

Marian from UK July 1, 2014 - 6:51 pm

oh – and I agree that a central circle with perhaps a statue/water feature in would be a good idea!! Now that’s got the family gnashing their teeth!!!

Sandra Lambiotte July 1, 2014 - 6:57 pm


Go for it! It will just be outstanding. I started a small parterre in my garden 2 years ago as I just think they are so lovely. Anyway, I used English Dwarf boxwood and also used a variety named Green Velvet in another area. Both have done well and survived our brutal winter of many nights of 12 below zero temperatures. Back to the parterre, I planted peonies on the inside and it is just stunning.

I like very much, either of your designs. Keep us posted on this one. Also, beautiful with your home.


Zara Hunt July 1, 2014 - 6:58 pm

I love the idea, it’s wonderful. Like many others I think I prefer the second softer option, particularly if you paved the inner circle and had tables and chairs or a large table and chairs. Sitting there would be quite magical, totally relaxing and I think the whole design would bring great elegance to your garden which, although very beautiful, it lacks something which I believe the parterres would supply, particularly if you had the tall beech screens shown in the fourth photo, these obviously would require time to achieve but well worth the wait and effort. I do hope you go for it .

Sally Leonard July 1, 2014 - 6:59 pm

Hate to be a downer, but I love the natural look of your garden and vote no…

Rob July 1, 2014 - 7:01 pm

Much as I love parterres, I really think it would make your garden look too cluttered – too busy, with too much going on for any feature to be appreciated. Sorry…!

Lisa July 1, 2014 - 7:07 pm

Do the parterres. They’re gorgeous. On the subject of another post, who makes the beautiful white linen pants from your “Keep Baggage Light” post?

Kathy July 1, 2014 - 7:22 pm

Yes! It would be beautiful.

Fiona McKeogh July 1, 2014 - 7:33 pm

YES YES YES!! This is something I have wanted for the longest time and feel as insecure about it as you …. DO IT. I can’t think of anything nicer. I would love to follow you on the journey and hope that it would give me the required courage to do similar!

Madeline Margraves July 1, 2014 - 7:44 pm

Like the second view…..softer, fewer plants to take care of….room for a fountain or statue
Also might give you room for round tables scattered around incase of a wedding reception, party etc. love the idea.

Madeline Margraves July 1, 2014 - 7:48 pm

I meant the last view, not the second. Think small lights accenting corners etc.

Gill Dowling July 1, 2014 - 8:04 pm

Much prefer the 2nd choice-softer.
Although Perovskia looks wonderful in the photo, we had it round our Olive trees & it very quickly looked very scruffy, so we took it out.
I live in The Luberon, which is warmer than where you are, but the rose I would suggest is Iceberg. It grows well here & in cooler climates & flowers for months.
I bought ‘bare root’ plants, as recommended, as they are meant to grow stronger.
Don’t worry if they look dead for a while, they quickly shoot & mine are wonderful.
Good luck

Jennifer July 1, 2014 - 8:04 pm

DO IT!! I have wanted a parterre forever and ever and it is never going to happen, so I can live vicariously if you do it! It will be beautiful.

Patricia July 1, 2014 - 8:32 pm

Je n’aime pas les jardins à la française: je les trouve rigides et trop geométriques! Je préfère les jardins à l’anglaise, moins disciplinés et plus naturels.
Je n’aime même pas les jardins de Versailles!

Dale Reed July 1, 2014 - 8:37 pm

Hi Sharon: I have followed you for several years now, however this is the first time I have expressed my opinion.
I love your plan, but I’d like to see you do the 3rd design, as it is softer and not as formal. Several years ago, you posted a photo of that lovely front lawn with 2 horses just munching away on the grass. It is one of my favourite shots of your lovely home. So I’m asking, where will they play now when they escape the pasture?
Although… I think that last design with a fountain in the centre would be such a lovely sight. Thanks for asking our opinions. I’m sure everyone else loved the opertunity to give their thoughts as much as I did. Have a great evening, Dale

Pat Crowder July 1, 2014 - 8:39 pm

Sharon, go for it. There is nothing like bringing a dream to fruition. I am sure the one you chose will be the perfect one for you and your garden. Looking forward to following along. Pat

Jeanne July 1, 2014 - 8:42 pm

yes, do it! You could consider clipping the inside corners in a curve and adding a fountain or statue in the center.

Nat July 1, 2014 - 8:54 pm

What a lovely idea! To inspire me, I like to see Louis Benech’s advice. He is a landscape architect who gives very professional advice even for people who have no time to spend gardening. His projects are gorgeous, from Tuilerie and Versailles, to smaller gardens in Normandy! His website is :
I recommand his very usefull book : “L’Esprit du Jardin, structures, rythmes et proportions, fleurs et couleurs”. Every thing is in the title. It is written for people who know nothing about landscaping and plants.
At least, I hope you will enjoy as well as I do looking at his projects on the web!
As for the buxus, I spent a very nice time visiting and choosing mine at a place I can give you the address by mail (intended by an english man in Vexin area, not too far from you, but maybe you know him?).
I am looking forward to seeing what you will choose to do! Just enjoy creating!

sharon santoni July 1, 2014 - 10:05 pm

Merci Nat, je ne connaissais pas Benech, je viens de parcourir son site – c’est magnifique!


Nat July 1, 2014 - 10:17 pm

Je suis contente que le site vous ait plu. Le livre conseillé est très pédagogique, une vrai mine d’idées concrètes et pratiques, se trouve d’occasion car malheureusement pas réédité.
Bonnes recherches!

Jen Owens July 1, 2014 - 8:55 pm

I too, love the idea! The softer design with a circular center section, smaller scale boxwood bordering framing seasonal plantings would be beautiful. I might suggest some height- oblesques on all outside corners and/or a large planted urn on a pedistal in the very center. Would be great fun to have a “garden party” & hand everyone a shovel! XO

Susan Erlandson July 1, 2014 - 9:25 pm

Is there ever enough garden?? NO! A terrific idea and, since you have such a great touch with your other beds, it will certainly be a success. A formal border with a riot of blooms in the center is a lovely look. It seems that rounded edges somewhere in the new plan would better match the rest of the landscape. Is your family annoyed with all of your blog readers who have urged you forward?!!?

Linda July 1, 2014 - 9:30 pm

Thanks for asking…I absolutely love the idea of 4 square parterre as you illustrated. Your garden already looks terrific, but this addition would be truly magnificent. Another thing to consider why not use 2 square with 1 round in the middle…I’ve always been told to decorate in 3’s…Either way, I think you are on to something wonderful. Love your blog and beautiful photos. When I was a child, I lived in Chatellion (near La Rochelle) and then in Poitiers. What wonderful memories I have of the beautiful gardens and scrumptious food!

Nadja July 1, 2014 - 9:42 pm

Oh how beautiful it will look and I’m thinking of the wedding with an arch over the middle circle full of climbing roses and the bride and groom standing there reciting their vows , how romantic would that be !! Lots of work but sooooo worth it .

Rhys July 1, 2014 - 9:53 pm

I assume you realise the effort to maintain the trimmed shape. That being the case, I like the more ornate shape (curved interior) to the straight square sides as the ongoing effort will be the same. Do it. life is too short to not take those creative opportunities. when your old and decrepit, in a nursing home what will be the memories that gave you a smile? not doing it? or “the time I planted a parterre, in my own garden”. I regularly travel 16000 km’s to visit such gardens as do many others. to have your own unique garden would be fantastic. If you’re not happy with it in 15 years time, change it. such is the flexibility of gardening.

laney July 1, 2014 - 10:32 pm

…DO IT…and…i am the person who never ever ever uses capital letters…blessings laney

Lyn July 1, 2014 - 10:53 pm

I like the second one. I’m fairly new to your posts but love the beauty of them and look forward to receiving every one. I wish my garden was as beautiful as yours. Lyn

Penelope July 1, 2014 - 11:26 pm

Sharon, Your gardens and your flowers you post in vases are already so lovely! You have such great taste so I am sure you will make it even more lovely but I love the gardens you already have……from photos.

Debbie V. July 1, 2014 - 11:27 pm

Although all of the parterres are nice and I know whatever you decide will be fabulous. Your lawn and gardens are beautiful! I would love to be able to have a large grassy area like your lawn, so, because you asked and although I know that I am probably in the minority – I’m going to vote “NO, please don’t do it”!!!

La Pouyette - Karin July 1, 2014 - 11:46 pm


Denny144 July 1, 2014 - 11:54 pm

Yes, absolutely do it. The curved version would be lovely with a fountain, bench or statue in the center although that won’t make whoever does the mowing happy.

Patti July 1, 2014 - 11:58 pm

I vote no! Your gardens are so lovely and casual that I think the addition of parterres would lessen their wild blousy aspect and add an unnecessary formality. But a lovely useable potager? Mais oui!

Doni Belau July 2, 2014 - 12:21 am

I did 2 parterres at our home near Bordeaux in the lawn and it made a world of difference and I just love it. I did rectangles but broke them up in a pattern that was an X in the middle breaking them up into four quadrants and putting a small weeping tree in the middle and the X is made out of boxwood. I put one color in each quadrant. Loads of fun. Get moving on it, although its a tough time to plant, I’d wait until September when its a bit cooler – but of course in Normandy doesn’t get as hot as it does down south. Can’t wait to see it completed.

Mary Ellen July 2, 2014 - 12:35 am

Hi Sharon, I LOVE the idea of bringing color out into the lawn. I’m afraid I have to disagree with the majority and say the rectangle or square design is my preference. They compliment the shape of your patio, home and out buildings. The curves in the other design seem to be more formal to me and not as natural in your setting. I see very miniature greens on the perimeter with color inside and then maybe a pyramidal trellis of wood or iron in the center for climbing roses so during the snowy months you have something for the snow to glisten on. Some type of focal point in the center of the parterre; statuary, salvage piece or armillary would be very interesting. Can’t wait to see your final decision. I know it will be as beautiful as you envision.

Debbie Spence July 2, 2014 - 12:43 am

Ultimately, it is your home and you should do what makes you happy. Truth be told, there is NO SUCH THING as a weed free garden. I have extensive gardens and no matter how low maintenance I design them, they require maintenance. My 3 sons are now gone from home and I am down to 2, 13 year old daughters. I didn’t realize how much I depended on a larger workforce. What will I do when the nest is empty? Who is going to weed all these gardens, mow and weed eat all around my lovely rock retaining wall? NOT ME! The lawn in front of your home makes your house a striking image. I love it as it is, but it is not my house, it is yours. Do you have time for all the work? You seem to have plenty to do with your blog and brocante business. Don’t make yourself crazy! Just some thoughts from an over busy lady from America’s Midwest who now wishes she had not planted so many gardens.

Linda July 2, 2014 - 12:49 am

I don’t know how old you are, I am 58. I have had experience with gardening since I was 10….so a long time! ha! If you have help (either paid or family, friends) I would consider doing it, but as you get older these boxwood hedges get very tiring – with the constant clipping and manicuring. These parterres don’t look so great when they are not manicured. Do you have the time and desire to spend a lot of time doing this? No one loves gardening more than I do – but I have to tell you as you get older you won’t want to do it as much. I have eliminated many beds and have never regretted it because it has freed me to relax and enjoy what I do have. Please think about this – it’s a big commitment. I love your blog.

Victoria Athens July 2, 2014 - 12:56 am

I think parterres are wonderful, and since you have the space, go for it. I had parterres in my former home that were done in four quadrants of a circle with stone paths separating the quadrants and leading to an antique fountain in the center. The quadrants were bordered in English boxwood (a dwarf variety) and the interiors of the quadrants were filled with tulips and creeping Jenny. I have also done parterres trimmed in teucrium (germander) with tree-form wisterias in the centers and a ground cover of Lamium.
Have fun.

Sharon Santoni July 2, 2014 - 9:14 am

Wow Victoria, your parterres sound divine! Do have any pictures, I’d love to see the wisteria/Teucrium/lamium mix


kerrie July 2, 2014 - 1:01 am

I don’t think I would do it. Your gardens are so beautiful as they are. I think I am maybe too much of a perfectionist and if the parterres wasn’t done just right, it would bother me. It seems you would need a gardener for such care of it. But maybe you have one? If you do decide to do it, it will be lovely to watch the transformation. I would be heaven just to have the garden (and home) you have!

Ann July 2, 2014 - 1:03 am

I would do something totally different. I would make an outdoor space that is usable such as an outdoor living/dining area covered with a pergola type structure with rose vines growing up and around. Then you can dine al fresco all summer long. Even in the winter if you add an outdoor fireplace. I’m all for outdoor living.

kerrie July 2, 2014 - 1:07 am

I was actually thinking the same thing.

Judy Jensen July 2, 2014 - 1:06 am

It’s way too much time to maintain all that planting area. Go for a ride on one of your horses or spend more time visiting with friends. Why make more work for yourself?

lacroix July 2, 2014 - 1:26 am

Je suis désolée, votre jardin me semble très séduisant et très charmant dans son arrangement qui va bien avec l’architecture et les proportions de votre maison et surtout son époque de construction… un jardin formel à la française de type classique avec parterres a besoin de très vastes perpectives ouvertes et de place pour prendre vie (à moins de faire jardin municipal de la troisième république et retour aux glaïeuls, comme le rond-point des champs élysés) , ou alors peut-être sur la moitié de la pelouse, au fond, un jardin dessiné de type médiéval, genre jardin de simples?
une lectrice fidèle et admirative

Esther George July 2, 2014 - 1:38 am

Hi Sharon I like the softer version it won’t take away too much from your terrace. You know I love parterre gardens but am always thinking you need time or gardner to keep it looking good. I have been looking at Delbard Roses and I’m in love with the Bordure collection especially Bordure Blanche/Camaieu or Rose. I know you always make the perfect decision, can’t wait to see. Thank you for sharing. Regards Esther from Sydney. PS I like softer colours in the garden these days.

Lynnette Punjak-Williams July 2, 2014 - 2:07 am

I love the beauty of parterres . I also like the softer curves but actually I feel either would look just gorgeous. Good luck. I also feel if you want a parterre garden then you should just do it I’m sure you could make it work with the rest of your pretty garden.

Jan Smith July 2, 2014 - 2:30 am

Your garden is beautiful as it is – but parterres are beautiful too, especially when you can enjoy the view from above. Give it a go!
The charm of the present design is its blousy profusion. And that can be maintained in the choice of plantings … your idea of billowing roses and Sandra’s suggestion of peonies ….
Your sketch of the curved beds seems to offer more of an invitation into the garden, while the square beds seem to fill it and that engenders in me a feeling of being excluded.
If you end up hating the result, put it back to lawn and give your family something to really gnash their teeth over!
Jan from Piesse Brook in Western Australia

Lisa Sweeney July 2, 2014 - 2:33 am

Your house and garden are georgeous ! I think you should go for it! I like the second design because i think it goes better with the rest of your garden. Looking forward to seeing what you do!

maria dias July 2, 2014 - 2:50 am

Absolutely lovely idea, breaks up the expanse of lawn nicely.

olcay semieoglu July 2, 2014 - 5:08 am

Parterres are really inspiring,Your sketch of the curved beds seems softer, if you
use spikes of white foxgloves of billowing blue perovskia it would be enchanting.Good luck looking forward

Helena Botha July 2, 2014 - 7:17 am

Hi Sharon, Great idea …. however, why extend in the middle of the lawn. Maybe do the parterres from the current borders inwards with a walk way in the middle (not sure if I make sense). Would love to send you a picture, but cannot at the moment I’m suppose to do budgets etc! Please see images on – there is one in particular. let me know what you think about the idea.

Louisa July 2, 2014 - 8:18 am

Definitely the first idea. The shaped version might look a bit too ornate/Versailles in style and out of proportion for your garden. Big and bold! We have an asymmetric garden at the front of our Tudor cottage and put in a round box parterre with an inner flower shape created from euonymus, then pea shingled the lot. We love it – less grass to cut too! Virtually maintenance free bar the annual cut (never before Derby day). One point to remember, box roots are close to the surface and spread a long way, in a few years you won’t be able to put in new plants without damaging the box roots. So plant everything together. Box also love a good dose of sequestrene once a year.

Diana in New Zealand July 2, 2014 - 11:30 am

Hello Sharon – I’m the gardening equivalent of a back seat driver, but here goes. I think there is a risk that the formality of a parterre, whatever its form – in front of your sweet house and beautiful blowsy flower beds – will be visually incompatible. That huge lawn is sensational and I too remember your photo of the horses grazing and thinking, “perfection”. Your question has polarised your readers and it will be fascinating to see what you decide! Best wishes.

Garden, Home and Party July 2, 2014 - 12:48 pm

I’m late to the party. I live in Southern California on a postage sized lot and years ago I planted a parterre. I pretty much got the same reaction you did from family. Now, everyone agrees it is lovely and I’ve loved it. It is small, so weeding and hedge clipping isn’t too much of an issue. Unless you use that great expanse of lawn for croquet or some other summer, outdoor past time, I say go for it!

Linda July 2, 2014 - 2:43 pm

I’m in the group who say no to formality in a country style garden , and also as I am getting older I have been ripping out flower and veg beds as I just don’t have the stamina to keep it all looking good- tidy and weed free- and that bothered me more than having less beds does. Sometimes less is better.( Also doing the same inside- sick of clutter and all the dusting and cleaning of “stuff”)

Jody July 2, 2014 - 3:08 pm

Do it !

ana amelia orciuch July 2, 2014 - 3:16 pm

FAÇA SIM. Adorei a segunda opção. Aqui no Brasil não tem jardins amorosos como os franceses. Aqui tudo precisa combinar perfeitamente e não gosto muito. Adoro a diversidade e a beleza da mistura de flores e de cores. Parabéns

sue davison July 2, 2014 - 3:36 pm

I love your garden,it’s like a cottage garden and therefore doesn’t really lend itself to the formality of a parterre,sorry.Sue

Nancy July 2, 2014 - 3:41 pm

It will be stunning and a focal point, such as a bird bath, fountain (there are solar ones out there) or other such thing would be the crowning touch.
I like the second design, however restrictive in what you really can grow in it.
Either case, hope you do it….

Sally July 2, 2014 - 4:01 pm

Oh it looks a beautiful idea Sharon, and you MUST make a parterre……I know I will if allowed:))

Two thoughts :
DO The one with the curved beds and a centre focal point, but squeeze them up, closer together.That way you will get impact without having a mile of box to trim. Put a standard rose in the middle of each of the beds, and then make a central stone circle on which to place- urn of flowers, statue, sundial etc ( interchangeable with season)

Make a focal point in the distance, on the other side of the lawn beyond…it could be a small avenue of trees..that way the eye will be drawn forward and the garden still appear large.

As well as the fabulous inspiration from your french (parterres) abundance, I would look at the parterres of Carolyne Roehm, Prince Charles at Clarence House, and Hidcote

I wish it were me!! Thank you for including all of us in your plans Xx

Lydia July 2, 2014 - 4:29 pm

I love the idea of parterres in your lovely garden! Go for it! If maintenance is an issue…go for the second option with just the corner ones. Lovely idea!

Emm July 2, 2014 - 4:31 pm

You go, girl! Love it, especially the last sketch, which seems a bit less formal.

And you’ve covered the matter of what about horses getting loose on the lawn, so that’s handled. Looking forward to the pictures.

annie July 2, 2014 - 4:41 pm

Yes, do it! It would look so lovely…

Zanna from Zona July 2, 2014 - 5:20 pm

Darling Sharon,
I don’t want to put a fork in it, but you really should listen to your families concerns if they will be the ones who will be caring for it. You are very busy these days with you tours and Brocates and parties, etc. It is very easy to dream up wonderful things to create, but if you are not the one putting in the time… well. Maybe… you could hire someone to care for it and that would leave the family out of the equation. In that event I vote for the second featured design. You can make a varied number of attractions in the center as the seasons wax and wain. Dream on my darling girl, but your family members have lives of their own too. I live alone and have a wonderful garden, but I have to think long hand hard before doing something I might regret. I will be anxious to see what you decide. XOXO

Nancy July 2, 2014 - 6:40 pm

I’d be careful with the idea of a parterre. They tend to suit quite formal areas and your garden, from what I can see of it seems to be more of a relaxed, English style. You might consider enlarging the gardens at the bottom or having a path lined with gardens, herbs or mixed borders, leading to what seems to be an arch at the bottom. It’s a bit hard to tell what would be best. If you do go with the parterre, I’d pick something like the second overlay but more relaxed. The first is much too structured.

cava July 2, 2014 - 10:31 pm

I made a parterre seven years ago, from cuttings I raised, in an oval design with six beds, three either side of a wide, gravelled path divided by a lily pond and a cordyline in a beautiful urn. The beds are planted with veg, which are healthy and decorative in this protected sunny spot.
I took immense pleasure in clipping the hedges and topiarising balls and pyramids at the ends of the paths …… but it’s just taken me about a week to clip by hand, the gravel is a haven for weed seeds and last winter box blight took hold before I realised what was happening (didn’t expect it in southern France). I love my parterre and the contrast to the rest of the blowsy informal garden, but it has its drawbacks! Hope this adds to the discussion. I’m sure if you go ahead it will be created with your usual stylish flair – bon courage!

denise@magnoliaveranda July 3, 2014 - 1:19 am

I love the whole idea of a parterre, and both versions I am sure would look wonderful but I know from our small courtyard that has box hedging its a killer for the back when pruning and now hubby can’t do it one day. Hope you envisage a gardener to do the labouring work.

jewel July 3, 2014 - 2:32 am

I love your English/French garden and I also think the formality of the addition would take away from the beautiful charm already there. Possibly instead of a boxwood border, maybe a stone border? (you would have to spend countless hours trimming stone either) 😉 I do like the look of the four squares. I’m sure whatever you do will be beautiful!!

Penne July 3, 2014 - 3:54 am

Hi Sharon, the majority of replies I read seem to go for the second design but I think the 4 squares would be lovely in that space! I know you would make them absolutely beautiful and in keeping with the rest of your garden. Have fun! Penne

Erin D July 3, 2014 - 4:36 am

This is beautiful. But, what about a central circle or oval with the four boxes shared around it? Looks like you have the space and it would be so pretty.

Erin D July 3, 2014 - 4:37 am

*shaped not shared. Apologies.

Debbie July 3, 2014 - 6:21 am

I like the second one best. Your garden is pretty and soft and the second one with roses I think would look the best.
I love your garden and the way you have greenery near your house.
Where I live in Qld Australia everyone goes for the one or two trees or bushes in the front yard and a lawn cut so short it dies. As far as the backyard goes most people have nothing but a lawn which is usually only watered by the family pets.
My husband and I are the only ones in our street that have a garden of any kind and we never cut our lawn too short so it always stays green. We never water our lawn, only our plants.
When a house is for sale the owners cut down any tall trees and pull out all the gardens. I think they are trying to create the “just built” look to make the house look newer. Such a different way of looking at things. To most of my neighbours my yard is seen as overgrown even though it’s what I grew up with living in Sydney.
Snakes is often used as an excuse for not having a garden. I’ve not once seen a snake in my yard.
Have fun with your garden.

portefeuille July 3, 2014 - 7:29 am

Wow, so beautiful. .

Susan July 3, 2014 - 1:21 pm

I think you most definitely should do it! I am an avid cottage gardener myself and also have solid plans in place for a parterre. I too need to keep mine less formal. I like both layouts, the second one would need something in the center, my suggestion would be a small simple gazebo covered in a climbing rose. Weed free is impossible at my place when it comes to the grass without excessive use of chemicals which I don’t use. I plan on planting a darling ground cover which I think is called “Virginia Blue Creeper”” in the grass. It grows slowly and integrates itself into the grass and leaves a lovely blue carpet of tiny flowers. Year round interest, I think the boxwoods would take care of that. Look forward to your decision.

Carline Anthony July 3, 2014 - 2:50 pm

I love the idea and only wish I had the room for it. The second layout is my favorite as it gives an open look and kind of frames what ever choices you may decide on. Your choices so far in your garden are inspirational. Keep it going!

Carol July 3, 2014 - 4:47 pm

I have an 18th century house in lower Normandy. Definitely do parterres! I have 4 similar in shape to second sketch and with a fountain set in the central space. Box hedging has been a long favourite but beware of spending a lot of euros and finding out later you have to rip out and burn the lot, due to box blight. I’ve been lucky thus far. My parterres are filled with blue geraniums, daphne odoratas, lavanders, hydrangea paniculata, foxgloves, agapanthus, etc. I had to forego roses due to hungry deer. Not too much work once planted and started off —and a great look. Go for it.

Avril July 3, 2014 - 5:43 pm

No, don’t do it. Too much work, too formal for a sweeping, tumbling garden such as you have. Put up a pergola there and grow a tangle of things up it if you need to break up the space. I think it is lovely as it is.

Si je veux July 3, 2014 - 7:07 pm

Absolutely gorgeous either way!

Cindy Vetrano July 3, 2014 - 7:30 pm

Sharon–I’m late to this party (computer mouse glitch!) –but judging by the amount of comments you have already received—this is what I will say… I have longed for a parterre and hope to have space for one (one of the positives to possibly moving out of our house of 22 years that I cannot tear myself from) if/when we relocate. So to answer your question YYYYYEEEEESSSSSSS!!!
And please cover it in your blog so we can see how it is done!!! Cheers! Cindy

burnside July 4, 2014 - 1:25 am

You’ll laugh at me, Sharon. I’ve been thinking about your pretty lawn for days.

I find I keep thinking of an old garden near Lucca. The owners started an herb garden probably thirty years ago; now it’s mostly green and is wearing oranges in terra-cotta tubs. Where a parterre tends to draw the eye out to a vista, it’s in the nature of this pattern to bring the eye to rest and, like yours, it was chosen to complement a dining loggia.

Nice to know it will still charm if simplified. But you know you want it in drifts of lavender and creamy iris.

Sonya Wodicka July 4, 2014 - 12:16 pm

I had a similar project. My bluestone dining terrace overlooks a large, rectangular field surrounded by woods. Because I wanted to keep it simple and appropriate, I placed a large old birdbath in the center of the field and planted it with Creeping Jenny that drapes over the side. I planted deer and drought resistant Nepeta, lavender, and boxwood around the birdbath in a circular pattern. It is beautiful, easy to mow around, and still leaves plenty of room for sports when the boys come home. Inexpensive, easily installed, and in time, I can expand with parterres if I want to. On a snowy winter day, the view from my kitchen window is striking.

Nib's End July 4, 2014 - 4:00 pm

You have already shown us that your intuition and taste in gardening is impeccable. So, even if the choice you make seems, at first glance, incongruous with the rest of the garden, I am confident that you will make it work and make it as inviting and lovely as the rest of your garden is. Trust your instinct. I suppose my only advice would be to make sure that the primary gardener (whoever that is) is on board with the idea. We can sometimes burden others with our passion and inspiration and leave them no freedom to follow their own.

Susan Owens July 4, 2014 - 7:39 pm

Am a new subscriber but have been following you for quite a while. I love your taste and sense of humor ! You are adorable along with your all the pets. Yes, do it. It is in keeping with your lovely home and country. I like both plans. Guess it will depend on your mood.

Thanks, Susan

Laurie July 4, 2014 - 9:04 pm

What wonderful comments and advice! I have been wanting to add parterres as well in our backyard. We do already have a focal point, an apple tree. I’ve always wanted to surround it with 4 parterres with boxwood hedges or stone and then fill with edible herbs and plants. Like you, I am lacking the offers of help plus sprinkler heads would have to be moved. There needs to be a parterre club- shop, eat and build parterres together. 🙂

Pytel Danièle July 5, 2014 - 7:25 am

Hello Sharon
What a lot of comments ! Nevertheless I will add my own . My favourite design is number 2 with a focal point in the center : a statue , an armillary sphere or a fine tree ( pyrus salicifolia , salix integra Hakuro Nishiki or Malus Crittenden for example … ) . Be careful with the plants surrounding your parterres , the box trees having a disease in our area . Introducing a little formality in a garden is restful for the eyes . It is a lot of work but it’s worth doing it . I know you won’t be discouraged . Creation is always enjoyable .

Peggy July 6, 2014 - 6:44 pm

flowering fruit tree in the middle with a round seating bench – French green in color?

barbara July 8, 2014 - 2:20 am

Yes, yes, yes. Parterres do not have to be terribly formal. I had four squares with stone edgings and centered each square with an old garden rose. Surround with easy going perennials, geraniums, lavenders, herbs of all sorts and edge with stone so the edges can be trimmed mechanically. very rewarding. An urn in the center to finish it off. Bonne chance.

Sophia Home July 8, 2014 - 2:06 pm

You have a big resounding ‘OUI!’ from me Sharon! But then I am a bit of a ‘parterre’ fanatic…..I have created them all around the garden we have created here in Kent from scratch and can feel another one coming on soon! We are fortunate to have open lawn areas away from the house, so that’s any ‘games’ covered, so I love to keep interest close to the house. I love the way that the parterres always give the garden structure and interest even in the winter. In some I have roses (David Austin ‘Sweet Hermione’ which are highly scented, and in another the beautiful ‘Iceberg’ rose) and in others I have Alchemilla mollis and cat mint, with tulips and alliums taking their place in the Spring.

I say go for it! It will look stunning….

Have a lovely week,

Sophia x

Ann July 9, 2014 - 8:04 pm

Don’t do it.

Wendy July 11, 2014 - 3:39 am

So many wonderful ideas and comments to consider. I’m swayed against it…..however, for any ideas on a parterre I would be consulting Paul Bangay’s books, or website, he is definitely the guru of parterre here in Australia, and of course, so many clients worldwide…worth a look….I do love your garden…..good luck with the ideas….Wendy

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