Even if you don't speak French, your garden can. French gardens can be a formal design, sculpted like those found of Versailles, in the South of France, or dreamy like those represented in Monet's paintings. Explore the French aesthetic by adding a brick patio and a bistro table and pair of chairs for café au lait in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening.
Tarragon, chervil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, garlic and chives are all herbs used in classic and country French cooking. Plant them in a sunny spot in well drained soil. Most herbs do not require rich soil and fertilizing. Harvest often to keep the herbs bushy. Pinch off flower buds and stems. Herbs lose flavor when they start to flower. In mild winter climates all of the herbs will continue to grow. Parsley is a biennial, which means it will flower and die the second year after planting. Save the seeds to plant again.
Espalier Fruit Trees
Espalier is a method of pruning and training trees. While it can be used on any tree, it is often used on deciduous fruit trees. It is typically found in French gardens, although the English have adopted the method and it can be found in many English gardens as well. Trees are trained back to one vertical trunk with limbs coming off the trunk laterally and at a 90 degree angle from the trunk or in a fan shape. Peach, plum and apricot trees are trained against a south facing wall in cooler spring and summer areas. The wall absorbs the heat and releases it during the night to keep the fruits maturing. Espalier trained trees produce nearly as much fruit as normal trees in much less space.
The French have a way of making the most mundane things, like a kitchen garden, seem glamorous. Create a potager garden in your yard. Divide an area into four equally-sized vegetable beds. Separate them with gravel walkways at 90 degree angles. In the intersection of the walkways place a large urn filled with geraniums and ivy. Intermingle flowers, vegetables, fruits and herbs in the beds.
Le Jardin de Chateau Versailles
Unless you have several million dollars and hundreds of acres, it's not possible to literally recreate the gardens of Marie Antoinette at Versailles. What you can do is create a feeling of the palace gardens by using sculpted hedges to contain manicured flower beds accented with topiaries.