Arriving at BilleCart in the Champagne -Ardenne region of France, I was in awe of the beautiful à la française jardin or French Garden that surrounded the Champagne House. We were early for our appointment to visit the famous vines of Le Clos Saint-Hilaire, the Chais and anticipated Champagne tasting so, we had plenty of time to wander in the Garden.
The Garden is semi formal and in a classic, distinctly French style. The focal point is an ancient Horse Chestnut tree and the impeccably kept hedges and lawn areas.
Within sturdy stone walls the impressive roses adorning obelisks and trellises with fountains, topiary, hedges and various foliage plants on manicured lawns. The overall effect is simple yet stunning, regal and elegant.
The marriage of Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon in 1818 was the beginning of the seven generational story of the House of Billiecart-Salmon. Steeped in history and today, 200 years later, still a family home, the house sits beside the famous cellars and only a few minutes walk to the Los Clos Saint Hilaire where the unique one hectare of Pinot Noir vines grow in the French sunlight.
“Give priority to quality, strive for excellence”.
The Billecart-Salmon motto illustrates the quality the company strive for in all aspects of the Champagne House including the garden.
So, what is meant by a classic French Style Garden? After the Italian Renaissance the French began to incorporate renaissance elements to their gardens whilst also adding their own special style. After the 1600’s one special attribute of the French Chateau garden was for the design to be, extravagant and impressive acting as an invitation for guests visiting the wealthy country homes of the Royals. Always the focus was the Chateau itself where the garden would then radiate from the house on paths and walkways providing gorgeous views of the garden beyond.
The style of a French Garden essentially combines stone, water, repetition, a cool colour palette, designated areas or virtual rooms, order and symmetry. How this is achieved is through the use of elements such as-
- Gravel Paths
- Statues and antique or glazed urns and pots
- Elegant, simple furniture
- Concrete balustrades
- Terraces to view the garden
- Neatly trimmed hedges
- Geometric shapes in plants through hedges and topiary
- Parterre or plant beds
- Trees often in rows
- Plants, most likely in the colours of mauve, white, pink, blue and because these were the only colours available in the 17th century.
- Follies and groves as sanctuaries to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the garden
The French like to mix the different elements together to create very pleasing spaces that are visually exciting and at the same time useful and full of beauty. French gardens may have a blend of fruits, flowers, herbs, vegetables and trees combined together to create the garden. Whether it is a large formal extravagant garden such as Versaille or a simple Potager garden. The same style applies of a limited colour palette, perfume, order and symmetry.
Visiting French Gardens can provide inspiration when we go to design our own garden space. Think perhaps walls, fountains, statues, trees in rows, cool colour palette and soft underplantings with gravel paths and roses of course.
“All gardeners live in beautiful places because they make them so.”
– Joseph Joubert, 1754-1824, French essayist
Photos & Words by Di Baker August 10th 2019