FORMAL ROSE GARDENS - PART I



As rosarians, we are in constant pursuit of a rose garden whenever and wherever we are. During the rose peak blooming season, we love to see all rose gardens we can possibly see.  In this pursuit, we come across all types of rose garden designs.  On most of the public gardens we see, there is one element that seems to prevail.  Have you ever noticed that the rose garden in a public setting is always a formal garden? Elizabeth Park, the first municipal rose garden in America, and the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at New York Botanical Garden are fine examples of formal rose gardens.  For centuries, the Queen of Flowers seems to command a place in the garden where order and calmness prevails.

Formal gardens were the gardener’s ultimate expression of man’s control over nature.  The greatest formal garden in the world is Versailles in France.  The medieval monks perfected the neatly ordered knot herb garden.  The miniature knot garden at Rosemary Verey’s Barnsley House in England interfaces two kinds of boxwood, green and golden with clipped germander.  Yet we do not have to go abroad to see one.  I saw a knot garden at Agecroft Hall in Richmond, Virginia and another one at a private garden on the East End of Long Island.

The Italian garden with fountains and water features are also very formal.  There is a great example of the Italian Garden at a less known garden “Nemours” of the DuPont family at the Brandywine Valley in Delaware.  In France, Andre Le Notre designed the formal gardens at Versailles for Louis XIV, the Sun King.  Boxwood parterres that punctuate an English Rose Garden are well documented.  Then there was the garden of William and Mary with baroque parterres in the 1680’s at the palace of Het Loo in Holland.  The Roseraie at the Parc de la Grange near Lake Geneva is a highly formal rose garden of 25,000 roses.

About three thousand years ago, the Egyptians developed a formal pleasure garden with water as an essential element.  In Granada, Spain, at the Generalife garden above the Alhambra is a formal garden with narrow water channels called rils hemmed in by hedges and cypresses with standard roses along the perimeter of the hedges.  I saw a small version of a Persian Garden at the 60,000 sq. ft. conservatory at Doris Duke Garden in New Jersey.  George Washington’s garden at Mount Vernon is still a formal garden but not as elaborate as those found in some expansive gardens in Europe.  Every master of landscape design from the Renaissance on have put their marks into the landscape of formal design with the exception of Lancelot “Capability” Brown who integrated the surrounding into the natural contours of the landscape.  The most basic components of the formal design can be summed up into few basic principles – clipped hedges, stone pavings or grass pathways, clear vistas like big expanses of lawn- these are the elements which form the palette of formality.  Just like doing a flower arrangement but in a much broader sense, the principle of order and a sense of achieving beauty and harmony are of paramount importance.


Roses are not difficult to grow contrary to popular belief as long as you know what they need. Why do you think Roses have been around for millions of years?  All they need are food, water and sunlight.  Just like you and me.  
 Here at Rose Gardening World, we’ll educate you about the Rose - our National Floral Emblem and the state flower of several states.  Welcome to the World of Rose Gardening or Rose Gardening World where Rose Gardening Tips, Rose Growing Advice, Planting a Rose Garden, Rose Descriptions, Where to Buy Roses, Where to see Rose Gardens, Rose Culture, Rose History, Rose Events, Rose Verses are all here in one place.  

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