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Jessica Johnson

Designing French gardens: 4 Key elements

To add classic elegance to your home’s exterior, consider taking inspiration from French gardens. French garden design has a legacy of precise, formal and beautiful landscaping, making it the perfect style for homeowners wanting to dress up their outdoor space.

While a French garden can be more maintenance than other garden styles due to the emphasis on clean edges and pristine shapes, understanding the fundamentals will help you achieve the same aesthetic at home.

To help, here is a basic guide to the key elements of French garden design:

The home as a focal point

Traditional French gardens highlight the home or residence as the focal point of the landscape. Garden designs typically include pathways directing visitors to the front door, often oriented perpendicular to the facade.

While Stucco and stonework homes are classic French focal points, any style of home can use this same design scheme.

Symmetry

Symmetrical lines are essential to French garden design. When creating pathways, planting or arranging shrubs, it’s crucial to keep everything precise and even on both sides. Boxwood shrubs are a popular way to create symmetry by growing them into easily trimmed hedge rows. Geometric shapes like diamonds, triangles and semicircles are all worth exploring in your design, as long as the overall aesthetic maintains its symmetry.

Fountains & water features

Water features like stone garden fountains, reflecting pools and carefully manicured ponds are important elements in French gardens. Traditional French garden fountains come in several varieties, including free-standing fountains and fountains built into walls. Multi-tiered and highly ornamental designs are perfect options to incorporate water into your formal French garden.

Simple color palettes

Formal gardens tend to stick to simple color palettes. Cool colors are especially popular for French style gardens, so when choosing plants or flowers, err on the side of gray, white, blue and purple. Lavender is the traditional choice for French garden style, and easy to grow either in decorative containers or in carefully manicured planting beds.

While these are some key elements of French garden design, they are only guidelines to inspire you. Using this design scheme, you can add custom creativity and create a French style garden all your own.

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    Pet-Safe & Pollinator-Friendly: Pentas & Other Great Picks for Your Garden

    When planning an outdoor garden, many want to prioritize plants that attract and support local pollinators. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds can add an enjoyable presence to your yard and help your plants and local ecosystem thrive. However, it's also important to protect and support your own animal friends. While many popular flowers and plants are toxic to dogs and cats, pentas and many other options are perfectly safe and help pollinators. Here are some suggestions:

    Pentas

    Pentas can grow in pots or in the soil anywhere they can get 6 to 8 hours of sun per day. These plants produce clusters of tiny, star-shaped flowers in white, pink, red and purple. Their blooms attract butterflies, hummingbirds and honeybees throughout their growing season. While supporting your local pollinators, they pose no threat to your pets--both the flowers and leaves of this plant are completely non-toxic.

    Marigold

    Marigolds are common in gardens everywhere for their ease of care and variety of colors. While they thrive in full sun and warm temperatures, they're hardy enough to be a great choice of flower for planting in containers or in the ground. Luckily, this popular and easy-to-grow flower attracts pollinators to your garden, particularly butterflies, and is completely safe for your pets.

    Snapdragon

    Snapdragons are dramatic looking plants with a strong fragrance. Their aroma helps make them especially attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Most varieties of snapdragon are grown as annuals, but they can also be perennials in certain climates, providing tall clusters of blooms in white, pink, orange and red year after year. Snapdragons are a favorite among pollinators and pet-owners for being a safe source of beauty and nectar in any garden.

    Plants to Avoid

    Unfortunately, many great pollinator-supporting plants are not safe for your pets. Some of the most popular examples include lavender, chamomile, geranium and azaleas. If you choose to grow these plants, consider keeping them in containers where your pets cannot get to them. Otherwise, remember these suggestions for plants that help pollinators without putting your pets at risk.

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      Aquaponics with fish: The basics

      If you’re interested in sustainability, aquatic life and gardening, you might consider aquaponics with fish. Aquaponics combines methods from hydroponic gardening and aquaculture to create a symbiotic environment in your home fish tank.

      To learn more about aquaponics, here is a basic guide to help:

      How it works

      Aquaponic systems are used to cultivate fish and plants in a mutually beneficial environment. Using aquaponics, you can grow plants without soil, while also providing a healthy living environment for aquatic animals.

      The aquaponic system process consists of these five steps:

      • Fish eat fish food.
      • Fish waste is eaten by special microorganisms called nitrifying bacteria.
      • The bacteria convert the fish waste and create nutrient rich water.
      • The plants soak up the nutrients like a natural fertilizer, purifying the tank water.
      • Fresh water returns to the environment for the process to begin anew.

      The main components of an aquaponics system are:

      • Fish tank or aquarium.
      • Water pump and filter.
      • Grow lights.
      • Your choice of plants.

      There are beginner kits available with all the parts necessary to set up your own aquaponics system at home. You can grow fruits, veggies and tropical plants among a wide variety of fish and water-dwelling creatures.

      Benefits

      From a gardening perspective, there are many advantages to aquaponics. Growing plants in water is a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to conventional soil gardening, and comes without the risk of weeds or most plant pests. The combination of fish waste and helpful bacteria removes the need to add fertilizer, and the water gives plant roots plenty of room to grow.

      Aquaponics systems are versatile, and can be set up almost anywhere. You can have an outdoor aquaponic pond, or a desktop garden over a small aquarium. Not only is there very little waste in the process, it’s an excellent way to combine two interests - cultivate plants and fish at the same time!

       

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