French Garden Flowers

The Best Trees, Shrubs, and Perennials to Plant in French Style Gardens

A list of French garden flowers with pictures and purchasing information.  Also, trees and shrubs commonly used in French garden designs.  French style garden topiary.


As French gardens are highly structured and depend most heavily on trees and shrubs to provide their basic framework, I'll start with these and move on to color-contributing perennials further down the page.

Skip ahead to the perennial section.

Classic French Garden Trees

Weeping Willow

Juniper 'Skyrocket'

American Linden

The American Linden is very similar to the French lime tree.  In fact, both trees are members of the Tilia family.  This is the tree you often see lining avenues in France. 

It produces fragrant, yellow flowers, and its leaves turn pale yellow each fall.

Tilia americana tolerates dry, clay, and alkaline soil but will not abide wet feet.  Give it excellent drainage in USDA zones 3-8.

Conifers with a blue or yellow cast to their foliage are quite popular in French country gardens, and there is nothing more romantic than a weeping willow planted beside a pond.

Espaliered apples and other fruit trees are grown in most French kitchen gardens.


Trees to Keep in Pots

Improved Meyer Lemon Tree

Orange - Trovita

Knockout Rose Tree

In its heyday, the orangery at Versailles displayed 3,000 orange trees!  All in boxes.  The entire collection had to be moved indoors each fall.

While your French garden plan may not include space for a citrus collection of that magnitude, you may find room for two or three of these delightful trees.

Trovita is simply the best orange to grow indoors.  This is because it does not require as much heat to ripen its crop as most other varieties.  The fruit ripens in the spring which is also its bloom season.  This will give you the opportunity to enjoy the colorful, tasty fruit and the deliciously fragrant blossoms while the tree is still indoors.  An unforgettable experience.

If you only have room for one potted tree, may I suggest the Meyer lemon.  Lemons are the most useful of all citrus as their juice can be used in a multitude of dishes and even homemade cleaning products!

The Meyer lemon is a natural dwarf which produces a very special mildly-flavored fruit.  I have been growing this variety for more than a decade and I prefer it to the other types.


Topiary

Hetz Juniper - Poodle

Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Boxwood

If you want a ready made topiary, buy the Hertz Juniper.  It will be "poodled" when it arrives at you door.  Also, know that you can easily clip any slow-growing, small leaved shrub into the shape of your choice.

The dwarf Alberta spruce is a great example, and boxwood abounds in French garden designs.


Other Shrubs to Use

American Boxwood

Rose, Mr. Lincoln

Red Double Knockout Rose

Did You Know?

While the Empress Josephine was establishing her garden at La Malmaison, it was said that she collected every rose in existence at that time.

The most commonly used shrub in French gardening is boxwood.  This is what most of the parterres and hedges are constructed from.  There are several different types.  Choose the one that best fits your planting site and scheme.

French gardening is heavily influenced by English garden design, so roses are understandably popular.  The French have a particular affection for red roses, so, if you must choose between two favorite varieties, choose the red one.

One of the best selling red roses in the U.S. is Abraham Lincoln.  Richly fragrant, classic hybrid tea rose flowers on an AARS winning plant.

If you are not interested in cutting the flowers for indoor arrangements, a landscape rose may be more desirable.  Knockout roses need very little in the way of pampering.  Provide them with the same care you would give to any other shrub in your garden, and they will reward you with repeated flushes of bloom throughout the growing season.

Rose - Blanc Double de Coubert - Hybrid Rugosa

Dwarf, Reblooming Lilac - Josee

'Bonica' Roses

Perennial French Garden Flowers

Lavender - Grosso

Poppy, Oriental Flamingo

Aster, Dwarf Hardy Carefree

Iris, Mariposa Skies

Hydrangea, Expression Double Delights™

Carnations

These are the plants that contribute such glorious color to French parterres.  If deer are a problem in your neighborhood, the deer resistant Mariposa Skies Iris would be a wonderful choice.  Its hard-to-find, true blue color is an added bonus.


French Garden Flowers
Annuals and Bulbs

Tuberose, Fragrant Double

Tulips

Dahlia, Avignon

Wax Begonias

Geraniums

Sweet Alyssum

Fun Fact

So many tuberoses were planted in one of the gardens at the palace of Versailles that visiting ladies were sometimes overcome by the fragrance.


French Garden Vines

Choosing the Right Grape for Your Climate

Wisteria

Thornless Rose, Climbing Zephirine Drouhin

No French country garden would be complete without a vine-draped arbor.   Grapes, of course, are the perfect vine for any French planting scheme.  There are French varietals you can order online if you wish to be absolutely authentic, but it might be better to choose a grape that grows well in your area.

Growing Grapes at Home

Grape Arbors

If you don't want a fruiting vine, grow flowers instead!  While any climbing rose will fit the French gardening theme, 'Zephirine Drouhin' performs the task without the nuisance of thorns.

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French Garden Art

Viale de Gardino, Claude Monet

The Artist's Garden at Argenteuil

The Japanese Bridge, Claude Monet

Stiller Winkel im Garten von Montgeron