I participated in the Flowers and Photography Maymester study aboard. During this program we visited three countries within Europe. We first went to the Netherlands, then Belgium, and France. The program focused on different gardens, plant production nurseries, and how to take representative photos of flowers.

In this post I want to focus on the different types of gardens I saw while in these three countries and specifically some gardens I saw in France. Europe is known for its formal gardens. Many places I visited while in Europe had traditional formal gardens. In America I have not seen many formal gardens. Usually, the gardens we see in America are informal gardens. What makes a garden formal vs informal? There are certain defining characteristics that make a garden look formal. For example, formal gardens have the beauty of symmetry and balance. Formal gardens have lush green hedges, neatly clipped topiaries, and many geometrically arranged flower beds. This creates a sense of order and serenity. Formal gardens have paved pathways which lead the wanderer through enchanted landscapes, with fountains and statues. Formal gardens are planned out and maintained. While in France I was able to visit the Palace of Versailles. I had the opportunity to walk the grounds of Versailles and see the different formal gardens. Here I walked along gravel pathways lined with neatly trimmed hedges which lead into different enchanted formal gardens. Each garden had statues of different Gods, people, water features, and geometrically arranged flower beds with neatly clipped topiaries.

In contrast, after visiting the Palace of Versailles I was able to visit Monets garden. Monets garden is considered an informal garden. There is a stark contrast between a formal garden and an informal garden. An informal garden represents a more naturalistic landscape which embraces the whimsical and untamed aspects of nature.  Informal gardens burst with vibrant colors, texture, and fragrances. Monets garden lead me through a garden of native plants, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees that were coexisting together. Rather than meticulously trimmed hedges. Monets garden showcased the beauty of wild growth, and allowed plants to reach their full potential, creating diversity within the landscape.