European landscaping styles vary across the continent, reflecting the climates and cultures in which they arise. An intimate, human scale is the hallmark of most European landscaping styles, while the execution of that common theme varies from a hardscape dominated by stone and sculpture accented with a few native plants in dry southern regions, to a lush verdant proliferation of foliage and seasonal flowers in the misty north.
Formal French Gardens
Formal landscape design reached its epitome in 17th century France, where estate gardens like those at Versailles covered acres with ruler-straight paths, geometrically trimmed shrubbery and espaliered trees. According to academic materials published by Mt. Holyoke College, fountains and pools were also an important feature of formal 17th century French gardens. Channeling water into pools and verge into tidy sculptures demonstrated the ascendancy of reason and order over raw, untamed nature.
English Country Landscape
The romantic pastoral aesthetic of English country gardens arose in the 18th century as a turn in the landscape tide against the tight structure of formal French landscaping. The beginnings of the industrial revolution brought about a counter-interest in unbridled nature which evolved into the school of landscape design which the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment refers to as "picturesque." The picturesque landscape included artful clumps of trees planted in woodland groves, gently rolling topography, and romantic natural-looking ponds. In the cottage garden, undulating flower bed edges and blowsy, crowded blossoms recreated natural meadows by artful design.
The gardens of Spain, Italy, and Greece emphasize indigenous trees and shrubs--many of them edible fruits and nuts--which are well-suited to the mild wet winter and hot dry summers of the Mediterranean. Enclosed terraces provide wind breaks and summer shade to potted trees, while the trees provide dappled shade to chairs placed to enjoy the scent of the flowers and fruit on a summer's afternoon. A central fountain provides a focal point as well as blocking out noise to enhance the tranquil sense of privacy, and adding moisture to the dry summer air.
Sleek Swiss Designs
The picture-book image of Swiss mountainside chalets with geranium-draped window boxes has evolved to a landscaping style which is modern and sleek, while at the same time retaining the traditional Swiss sense of place and environment. A symposium held at the Harvard Graduate School of Design on "Constructing the Swiss Landscape" demonstrated that current Swiss landscape architects are forging new ways of incorporating highly structured installations such as boardwalks, palisades, and shade-casting sculptures into the landscape in ways that tie mountains, sky, meadow and village together harmoniously.