WHAT IS A PARTERRE?
Put simply, a parterre is a formal garden constructed on a level surface consisting of multiple planting beds. They are usually edged in stone or tightly clipped hedging with gravel paths arranged to form a pleasing, and usually symmetrical pattern.
The compartments within the hedge or path are either open and in-filled with sand or closed and planted with flowers or herbs. Their design is such that their best effect is only really appreciated when seen from above.
French parterres originated in 15th-century. They were then developed - but not invented - in France by Claude Mollet,a member of the Mollet dynasty of French garden designers in the seventeenth century, and first gardener to the French kings Henry IV, Louis XIII and the young Louis XIV.
However, Mollet is believed to have been the first introduce as an edging to his parterre patterns.
He likened them to 'un tapis de Turquie' - a Turkish carpet.
Mollets new designs didn't meet with everyone's approval as his new clipped box hedges met with resistance from certain garden patrons for its 'naughtie smell' - as the herbalist Gervase Markham described it.
Mollets inspiration in developing the 16th-century patterned compartments was the painter Etienne du Pérac, who returned from Italy to the château of Anet, where he and Mollet were working.
About 1595 Mollet introduced compartment-patterned parterres to royal gardens at Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Fontainebleau.
But the fully developed scrolling embroidery-like parterres en broderie' appear for the first time in Alexandre Francini’s engraved views of the revised planting plans at Fontainebleau and Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1614.
Although they can still been seen today, their popularity reached a climax at Versailles from where they spread across to the Royal palaces of Europe such as Kensington Palace, England. Contrary to modern depictions of parterres, they do not require flowers to be displayed within them.
For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW A LEYLANDII HEDGE
WHAT IS A PARTERRE?
WHEN DO YOU CUT BACK A LEYLANDII HEDGE?