Parterre Garden

A parterre is a formal garden construction on a level surface consisting of planting beds, edged in stone or tightly clipped hedging and gravel paths arranged to form a pleasing, usually symmetrical pattern. Parterres need not have any flowers at all.


French parterres originated in 15th-century Gardens of the French Renaissance, such as the Chateau of Versailles, The parterre was developed in France by Claude Mollet, the founder of a dynasty of nurserymen-designers that lasted deep into the 18th century. His inspiration in developing the 16th-century patterned compartments — simple interlaces formed of herbs, either open and infilled with sand or closed and filled with flowers — was the painter Etienne du Pérac.

Photography by Rick Liston.
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Parterre gardens have come back into vogue because they are hardy, evergreen and provide structure in a garden. The patterns in parterre gardens sometimes tell a story or depict an emblem or symbol in the way they are designed. The patterns can stand alone with mulch or gravel in between or the internal spaces in the shapes can be planted up with flowers or structural plants.


We have planted up our parterre into four separate segments, each having a different look. The first, with very geometric shapes, has Echiveria elegans planted inside the shapes with gravel on the outside lines. The second segment has more complicated shapes with only gravel in the surrounding lines and paths. Segment three has a tudor rose depicted with swirls on the outside and segment four spells out the word Alowyn.

Three varieties of box hedging are used in this garden. Buxus sempervirens (English box) is used for the tall topiary like shapes in the gardens. The box making up the patterns in the four segments is Buxus sempervirens “Suffruticosa” (Dutch box) and the long walkways are bordered by Buxus microphylla “Koreana” (Korean box). This is a a lovely green with a smaller leaf, but tends to be a bit floppy, so we are slowly replacing them all with Dutch box.