By Sarah Kuper
With the Royal wedding approaching, monarchy admirers are turning an eye to all things regal, including elegant homes and gardens.
But, when it comes to gardening like a sovereign, garden designer and planner Troy Rhone said royals really are just like us.
The parterre garden concept is hundreds of years old, and the look can call to mind the gardens of castles and chateaux. But the French style is something Rhone said is appropriate for almost any yard.
“It is just partitioned space – creating a garden scene within a box or oval,” he said, “If you just look at one individual piece, it may look formal, but if you look at the garden as a whole, it doesn’t have to look stuffy.”
Parterre gardens date back to the French Renaissance, with simple symmetrical designs. It was the famous landscaping at the Palace of Versailles during the Baroque period that elevated the style to regal status.
While palaces throughout Europe find themselves surrounded by boxwood patterns, here in Birmingham, Rhone said the segmenting of garden space can be as simple as container gardening.
“It is not difficult to work on one. You just find the right location and use them as a focal point. If you are looking out at your back yard and you want to look at something pretty, it is easy to contain a flower garden that way using a hedge,” he said.
Rhone said gardeners often prefer curved linear bed lines when landscaping their yards, but for a parterre garden, he embraces angles.
“If you look at a house, you have right angles everywhere; shingles, bricks, corners, doors. And if you do rectilinear lines, it ties in better with the house. Even the inside of the house is full of squares,” Rhone said. “It is interesting to me that we don’t do more of that outside.”
Rhone said he does a lot of ‘x’ patterns with boxwoods and adds a statue or planter in the middle, filling the voids with hydrangeas.
“There are endless possibilities. I think most people don’t think of doing them because they do think of a castle, but whenever I talk to clients more they get enthusiastic when they see how it can blend into their landscape and not look too formal,” he said.
While the Over the Mountain area has its share of grand gardens, Rhone highlights the possibilities of a simple side yard as a spot right for a parterre.
“We did one off of a master bedroom of a rustic farmhouse,” he said, “With a white fence we tried to make it look more primitive, but it has an elegance about it without looking brand new.”
With regard to maintenance, Rhone said a parterre garden isn’t more than what a willing gardener can handle.
He recommends trimming the boxwoods every six to eight weeks and pruning plants as needed.
Rhone said gardeners should embrace the creativity a parterre garden inspires, not just its formal reputation. ❖