The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

French garden design in seventeenth century

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211. About the middle of the seventeenth century, and in the second year of Louis XIV.'s reign, France was visited by Evelyn, who makes the following remarks on the gardens in and near Paris: � The garden of the Tuileries �is rarely contrived for privacy, shade, or company, by groves, plantations of tall trees, especially that in the middle being of elms, and another of mulberries. There is a labyrinth of cypress, noble hedges of pomegranates, fountains, fish-ponds, and an aviary. There is an artificial echo, redoubling the words distinctly, and it is never without some fair nymph singing to it. Standing at one of the focuses, which is under a tree, or little cabinet of hedges, the voice seems to descend from the clouds; at another, as if it were under ground. This being at the bottom of the garden, we were let into another, which, being kept with all imaginable accurateness as to the orangery, precious shrubs, and rare fruits, seemed a paradise.� (Evelyn's Diary, &c., vol.i. p. 74.) St. Cloud. �By the way I alighted at St. does [St. Cloud], where, on an eminence near the river, the archbishop of Paris has a garden, for the house is not very considerable, newly watered, and furnished with statues, fountains, and groves: the walks are very fine; the fountain of Laocoon is in a large square pool, throwing the water near forty feet high, and having about it a multitude of statues and basins, and is a surprising object; but nothing is more esteemed than the cascade, falling from the great steps into the lowest and longest walk from the Mount Parnassus, which consists of a grotto, or shell-house, on the summit of the hill, wherein are divers waterworks, and contrivances to wet the spectators,� (Ibid., p. 75.) Cardinal Richelieu's villa at Ruelle. �The house is small, but fairly built, in form of a castle, and moated round. The offices are towards the road, and over against them are large vineyards walled in. Though the house is not of the greatest size, the gardens about it are so magnificent, that I doubt whether Italy has any exceeding them for varieties of pleasure. The garden nearest the pavilion is a parterre, having in the midst divers brass statues, perpetually spouting water into an ample basin, with other figures of the same metal; but what is most admirable is the vast enclosure, and variety of ground in the large garden, containing vineyards, cornfields, meadows, groves (whereof one is of perennial greens), and walks of vast lengths, so accurately kept and cultivated, that nothing can be more agreeable. On one of these walks, within a square of tall trees, is a basilisk of copper, which, managed by the fountaineer, casts water near sixty feet high, and will, of itself, move round so swiftly, that one can hardly escape wetting. This leads to the citroniere, which is a noble conserve of all those rarities; and at the end of it is the arch of Constantine, painted on a wall in oil, as large as the real one at Rome, so well done, that even a man skilled in painting may mistake it for stone and sculpture. The sky and hills, which seem to be between the arches, are so natural, that swallows and other birds, thinking to fly through, have dashed themselves against the wall. At the farther part of this walk is that plentiful, though artificial, cascade, which rolls down a very steep declivity, and over the marble steps and basins, with an astonishing noise and fury; each basin hath a jet in it, flowing like sheets of transparent glass; especially that which rises over the great shell of lead, from whence it glides silently down a channel, through the middle of a spacious gravel-walk, terminating in a grotto. Here are also fountains that cast water to a great height, and large ponds, two of which have islands for harbour of fowls, of which there is store. One of these islands has a receptacle for them, built of vast pieces of rock, near fifty feet high, grown over with moss, ivy, &c., shaded, at a competent distance, with tall trees: in this the fowls lay eggs and breed. We then saw a large and very rare grotto of shell-work, in the shape of satyrs, and other wild fancies; in the middle stands a marble table, on which a fountain plays in forms of glasses, cups, crosses, fans, crowns, &c. Then the fountaineers represent a shower of rain, from the top, met by small jets from below. At going out, two extravagant musketeers shot us with a stream of water from their musket-barrels. Before this grotto is a long pool, into which ran divers spouts of water from leaden eseallop basins. The viewing this paradise made us late at St. Germains.� (Ibid., p. 78.) This place, in the time of Napoleon, became the property of Marshal Massena. St. Germain. �The first building of this palace is of Charles V., called the Sage; but Francis I. (that true virtuoso) made it complete. Speaking as to the style of magnificence then in fashion, it has too great a mixture of the Gothic, as may be seen of what there is remaining of his in the old castle, which was an irregular piece built on the old foundation, and having a moat about it. It has yet some spacious and handsome rooms of state, and a chapel neatly painted. The new castle is at some distance, divided from this by a court, of a lower but more modern design, built by Henry IV. To this belong six terraces, built of brick and stone, descending in cascades, towards the river, cut out of the natural hill, having under them grandly vaulted galleries; of these, four have subterraneous grots and rocks, where are represented several objects, in the manner of scenes, and other motions by force of water, shown by the light of torches only; amongst these is Orpheus, with his music, and the animals which dance after his harp; in the second is the king and dolphin (dauphin); in the third is Neptune sounding his trumpet, his chariot drawn by sea-horses: in the fourth, Perseus and Andromeda; mills, hermitages, men fishing, birds chirping, and many other devices. There is also a dry grot to refresh in, all having a fine prospect towards the river, and the goodly country about it, especially the forest. At the bottom is a parterre; the upper terrace near half a mile in length, with double declivities, arched and balustered with stone of vast and royal cost. In the pavilion of the new castle are many fair rooms well painted, and leading into a very noble garden and park, where there is a pall-mall, in the midst of which, on one of the sides, is a chapel with a stone cupola, though small, yet of a handsome order of architecture. Out of the park you go into the forest, which, being very large, is stored with deer, wild boars, wolves, and other wild game. The tennis-court, and cavalerizzo for the maneged horses, are also very observable.� The gardens of the Luxembourg are near an English mile in circumference. �The parterre is, indeed, of box, but so rarely designed and accurately kept cut, that the embroidery makes a wonderful effect to the lodgings which front it.� (Ibid., p. 93.) There is a noble basin of marble in the centra, with a fountain nearly thirty feet high. �The walks are exactly fair, long, and variously descending; and so justly planted with limes, elms, and other trees, that nothing can be more delicious, especially that of the hornbeam hedge, which, being high and stately, buts full on the fountain.� (Ibid., p. 94.) The gardens of the Luxembourg are now celebrated for their collections of fruit-trees, vines, and roses.