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French Garden Tours

Although the development of the French garden occurred over a number of centuries, it was during the 17th and 18th centuries, under the rule of Louis XIV and Louis XV, that it found its clearest expression, most famously typified in the gardens of Versailles designed by André Le Nôtre. Le Nôtre was commissioned by Louis XIV to undertake the renovation of the palace gardens in 1661, a project so monumental it took decades to complete. A ‘manifestation of glory and power’, the gardens reflect the king’s absolutist rule. Symbolically and symmetrically ordered, nature is artificially rationalised, controlled and structured through complex optical tricks, a visual response to the mathematical, scientific and philosophical ideas of the Age of Enlightenment. The impressive style was almost universally adopted as the horticultural model for royal and stately homes, reigning supreme until the 18th-century developments of the English landscape garden, which conversely promoted a structured informality. Another important strand in the evolution of the French garden is that of the potager, humbler in purpose though no less lovely, these ornamental kitchen gardens take their name from the thick vegetable soup or stew made from a wholesome concoction of garden vegetables. Originating in the monasteries of Mediaeval France but subsequently adopted by peasantry and nobility alike, these gardens embody the insouciant French attitude of practicality and beauty, the companion planting of vegetables and specific flowers serving to deter pests and insects. As art history can confirm, the garden is central to French identity, few countries being able to boast the same proliferation of iconic horticultural depictions, from Monet’s Water Lilies to Seurat’s pointillist visions of bustling public parks. Under the expert curation of Boxwood Tours, experience the wildly eclectic world of the French garden.

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