French gardens are among the most formal. They boast order and clean lines and are designed for grandeur. “French gardens are typically defined as having strong symmetry and order based along a central axis,” says Paul Fields, president and director of design of Lambert Landscape Company. “French parterres—or patterns on the ground of clipped hedges, flowers, and gravel—are a defining feature.” Terraces, statuaries, and water features can also be incorporated—and according to Fields, limestone is a key material: “Limestone elements, such as benches or garden ornaments, along with paving or bed edges, add authenticity.”
Lavender (Lavandula stoechas)
Though a bit temperamental in Dallas, lavender can be successful if the soil is amended with limestone or shale to provide good drainage.
When used in cooler or pastel shades, roses add a colorful and romantic touch to the garden. Proven antique varieties are best suited to our climate and soils.
French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Also known as florist’s hydrangeas, these shrubs die back in winter but boast larger-than-life blooms in spring to early summer.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
This woody evergreen shrub is heat and cold tolerant and also works well as a low, clipped hedge.
Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
Most often used in French gardens, boxwood is also a staple in Dallas. It can be easily clipped into patterned hedges or topiaries due to its growth habit and fine texture.
Don’t have room for a full French garden? Try a potager (or French kitchen) garden. According to Forehand, it’s a fun way to create a touch of France in your own yard. “In the potager, you mix seasonal annuals with seasonal vegetable plants,” Forehand says. “The beds and the plantings should be very geometric. Sometimes there is a small boxwood hedge enclosing the bed. A Tasteful Place, the food and herb garden at the Arboretum, is a good example of a potager.”