French Landscape Design

French Landscape Design

French landscape design was said to have originated in 1662. It was during this time that King Louis XIV imprisoned the then superintendent of finances, Nicolas Fouquet, for embezzling royal funds. Fouquet’s ambition to build his own private and luxurious chateau at Vaux-le-Vicomte had led to his disgrace and allowed King Louis XIV to shift his attention to the Gardens of Versailles. It was here, and with the aid of Fouquet’s architect (Louis Le Vau), painter (Charles Le Brun) and landscape architect (Andre Le Notre), that the Gardens of Versailles would become one of the largest and most remarkable gardens in Europe.

André Le Nôtre: French Garden Design - Reds Landscaping and Design
André Le Nôtre: French Garden Design.

The Gardens of Versailles

The chateau’s expansion followed shortly after the gardens, with both having tours carefully managed. In bringing this space to life, existing bosquets and parterres were enhanced, and new ones were designed and built. The most significant and influential creations at this time were the Versailles Orangerie and Parterre. It was here that the architectural talent and creativity of Louis Le Vau’s design symbolised both the building itself and the parterre, becoming an irresistible attraction to visiting diplomats and foreign royalty, even to the liking of King William III.

Versailles Orangerie - Reds Landscaping and Design
In the winter, the Versailles Orangery houses orange trees from Portugal, Spain, and Italy. In the summer, the gardens are home to lemon, oleander, palm, and pomegranate trees, some of which are more than 200 years old.


The Versailles Orangerie was first completed in 1663, then in 1678, a ten-year growth plan was decided to create what has been described as Jules Hardouin-Mansart’s crowning achievement, replacing the Louis Le Vau design of 1663. The Orangerie doubled in size and was modelled on theories by master gardener and horticulturist Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie, whose writings discuss a detailed system for protecting exotic plants from the harsh cold without the use of any artificial heating.

Aerial snapshot of Versailles - Reds Landscaping and Design
Aerial snapshot of Versailles.

"Trees of Versailles"

As Louis XIV lived out his reign in Versailles, he became allergic to the perfumed flowers and developed a preference for the smell of citrus trees, his favourite being orange trees, which he had potted in silver tubs and placed around the palace. After the Fouquet incident, Louis had over 1,000 orange trees removed from Nicolas’s property and transferred to the Orangerie. By the 1790s, there were several thousand trees. During the winter, the trees were sheltered in a cathedral like space, and the gardeners would burn fires during the coldest months, which were cleverly designed to heat the housing of the trees.

French gardeners were able to keep the citrus trees blooming throughout the year, by withholding water, valuable nutrients and using pruning techniques. It wasn’t until a visit from John Locke, who described the peculiar appearance of the trees as having small heads and thick trunks, as a consequence of the planters’ not allowing correct rooting into the soil below. Gardener Valentin Lopin created an extremely useful device in 1689 to assist with the transportation of the larger citrus trees, which were originally shipped from Italy.


French Garden popularity

The Orangerie Parterre covers over three hectares and, during the reign of Louis XIV, was ornamented with several sculptures, which are now housed in the Musee du Louvre museum. It’s said that French landscape designs are seen as an extension of the existing architecture, creating a series of rooms within the garden by using compact hedges and bodies of water to execute the meticulous, elegant, and rich designs. Today, French gardens still have a strong influence and presence in our society, being one of the most popular and hard-to-perfect designs. The French landscape design also has a very strong popularity in Melbourne’s inner city and south eastern suburbs, such as Toorak, Malvern, and Armerdale, where you can find beautiful French provincial homes with classic gardens inspired by the Versailles orangerie.

The gardens at the Palace of Versailles in winter - Reds Landscaping and Design
The gardens at the Palace of Versailles in winter.


It is easy to be tempted into driving straight into a design for your landscape. It is advisable to take your time and plan your landscape design properly before you start. While at it, consider the plants that are likely to perform best in the climate of your area and the purpose of your landscape, among other things. For more inspiration on landscape design, please refer back to our blog, where you can find many more articles on the subject.


“Top 10 Astonishing Facts About Versailles Orangerie - Discover Walks Blog.” Discover Walks Blog, 23 Sept. 2022,

“Gardens of Versailles.” Wikipedia, 30 Apr. 2023,

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