French Gardens

“So French-style gardens are very exact in their layout, they’re supposed to ache, like there’s definite vegetation areas, and there’s gravel stuff, and they’re really into doing intricate designs, and you’re supposed to see different things the farther up you are. What you see on high is supposed to be different from what you see, you, know, at straight-ahead level. And the whole theory of it—you know, they have like, multiple level terraces and whatnot, so you’d see, like, a curlicue design if you’re standing inn, like, eagle eye, but if you’re actually staring just straight at it, it looks like different levels of topiaries.

“So the whole theory behind it is that, um, gardens are supposed to be man’s demonstration of his power over nature. So it’s a whole exercise in controlling, you know, what would otherwise be wild nature. And so, it’s about making sure each path is—strictly delineates between, um, say vegetation and gravel, because it demonstrates that man is ultimately at, by God’s design is at the top of the food chain and is therefore able to control any and all elements, and so the more control that you have, and the more intricate the designs, the better demonstration of man’s control over nature.”


The informant said that the purpose of the two different views was to further demonstrate skill: if you can trick the eye into seeing one thing from one place, and another thing from another, it was a good demonstration of power. She found that this belief is “in line with French thinking,” which often favors the art of precision and links that with divinity.

She learned about the gardens from one of her teacher’s in France in 2012, (and she found more evidence of the belief when she researched it on the internet). She discovered it started with Italian gardens and tree carving. The informant learned that it is a sort of big game to see how much you can do with plants in a controlled environment, and it was a way for royalty to demonstrate their power (the head gardener for such people was actually a very respected position).

This belief is compelling because it is so widely accepted it doesn’t exist on the margins of French culture, but in its center. The informant said that magazines and other publications exist solely to teach how to garden in the French style. It seems that the original purpose of the gardens (to demonstrate man’s power over nature) has fallen away in a way that it is not obsolete, but it is no longer truly important. The ideology has been totally absorbed by the culture.