Although in the nineteenth century the English were easily first in their zeal for seeking out and rearing new plants, development was not confined to them. The French carried out similar ideas logically and completely. The Revolution had cleared away nearly all the old gardens, and those that were left had been neglected. The works of the eighteenth century had passed away, and the new style of gardens fitted in with the new notions about the rights of man and the return to nature. All sentimental adjuncts had been cast aside, and nothing received attention except the natural qualities of soil and plant. Thus under the First Empire the picturesque attained almost entire mastery, and when the old nobility returned to their estates, so often found in a ruinous condition, they did not feel much inclination to restore their gardens in the old style. For one thing, they had no money, and for another they had learned from England new ideas. Nevertheless, there remained in some quarters a certain undercurrent of feeling for form as seen in the old gardens of France, and therefore it was possible for the garden at Chandon de Briailles at Epernay to be laid out as it was in the days of the First Empire (Fig. 611).
Isabey, the miniature painter, the “darling of the Incroyables,” made a picture of it. It was kept in the traditional, formal style at a time when nobody on the other side of the Channel would have thought of such a thing. The whole garden was laid out as a sunk parterre in three divisions, with a raised surround furnished with clipped trees. The middle part was formed by a large basin, the slopes at the edge being of grass and flower-beds. There was an orangery at the back with a semicircular parterre in front of it. To the right and left were the other two parts of the parterre, also with beds of flowers.
A few gardens of this type continued to exist in France until, towards the middle of the century, landscape gardens won the day, and became practically universal. In 1835 appeared Vergnaud's book, L’Art de créer les Jardins, in which the success of this style appears to reach its highest point. Vergnaud wrote as an architect, and warned people against letting their gardens fall into the hands of gardeners; yet he did not think of making any connection between the house and the garden; and even close to the house he could not tolerate anything formal. When he enumerated and described beautiful English parks, Chatsworth was a thorn in the flesh to him on account of its formality. Very soon, the only mistress of the garden in France as well as in England was the plant itself. Tree and shrub gained every advantage from the picturesque style. Flowers were permitted to encroach on certain fixed parts and display their brilliant colours. Carpet-bedding seems to have been carried out very early in France. Hirschfeld reproached the French for liking this wretched kind of decoration, but they kept to it, even up to our own day, more obstinately than the English.
In the time of the Second Empire there was a fashion for formal flower-parterres both in France and in England, and the French gave them the name of jardins fleuristes. Edouard André, a pupil of Alphand, who in the middle of the century was the unquestioned leader and chief of garden art in France, thus defines the jardin fleuriste: “ Ground reserved expressly for the cultivation and arrangement in an ornamental way of plants that have beautiful leaves.” We find attempts at the Gothic and Italian in a pseudo-historical manner, but difference of style was only apparent in the balustrades and statues. A formal bed at the Gothic castle of Bois Cornille was supposed to be laid out in the Gothic style.