The ornamental parterre gardens that we so frequently see on the grounds of great mansions and 18th Century gardens, and mentioned in historical novels, grew out of the knot garden. The knot garden was a medieval form of symmetrical flower bed made up of hedges which separated various plants, such as flowers or herbs. Knot gardens have an intricate woven effect which is very labor intensive. Their hedges must be clipped and manicured daily to maintain their precise shape, thus the knot design grew out of favor. Parterres do not weave in and out and require slightly less trimming, though this is in relative terms. The modern gardener would still find this elaborate design labor intensive.
Parterres look their best when viewed from above, if even from a slight angle. The site must be level, in full sun, and visible from the house (preferably from the windows.) The evergreen hedges, which outline the symmetrical shapes of the garden, look beautiful even in winter. In spring, summer, and fall, the hedges frame the colorful plantings inside. These could consist of masses of annuals and perennials, or herbs and vegetables if the parterre also serves as a kitchen garden.
Parterre is a French term that describes elaborate gardens designed from engravings and other sources, such as the one on the left. The parterre garden design uses a strict traditional layout, with a broad central gravel walk that divides paired plats, with each plat subdivided in four.
Parterres are created on flat ground and their pattern is very important. They are usually situated in front of the building. According to the design there are three types of parterres-cutwork parterre, embroidered parterre and English style parterres.
- The first type is made of square or rectangular areas divided by paths in equal-sized flowerbeds. Usually in the center of these patterns there are some topiary elements or fountains.
- There are also water cutwork parterres in which instead of flowerbeds the patterns are made of pools. According to their name these patterns resemble embroidery. This effect is obtained by using cut boxwood on the background of gravel or turf.
- The third type (English style parterres) is created of turf. The grass might be formed in squares and in the center there is usually a statue. The other typical look of an English style parterre is created when a turf with elaborate shape is surrounded with gravel. – Thinkquest: According to Location and Position
- How to build a backyard Parterre
- Image of Kensington Palace: Wikimedia Commons