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Green and Grand: 6 Homes with Delightful Formal Gardens

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Formal gardens are an outward expression of a great estate’s grand design. By imposing order and symmetry on nature, their designers sought to delight—and impress. And impress they did! The Palace of Versailles’s gardens are integral to its overall design. Louis XIV’s principal gardener and landscape architect, André Le Nôtre, organized the gardens on two axes, creating the illusion of an infinite vista called “the Grande Perspective.” In 18th-century England, a new perspective emerged: While Palladian order and symmetry defined such great country houses as Blenheim Palace, the English landscape designers used great artifice to imitate nature. Their rolling parklands, punctuated by copses, reflecting pools, fountains, ponds, and serpentine lakes, were all as rigorously composed as a great symphony. Lancelot “Capability” Brown, England’s greatest gardener, compared his designs to the structure of a sentence: “There I make a comma, and there, where a more decided turn is proper, I make a colon; at another part, where an interruption is desirable to break the view, a parenthesis; now a full stop, and then I begin another subject.” Herewith, we present a few sentences on six homes with magnificent formal gardens designed in the French and English traditions, and some exquisite variations on our theme.

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