HISTORY OF IDEAS – French & English Gardens

There have been two central traditions in European gardening. Each one associated with a great European nation. The first originated in 17th century France, and became known as the “Jardin à la française” or “formal French garden”. The most sublime example of this school of gardening is to be found in the chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte which is about 50 kilometers southeast of Paris. It was laid out in the late 1650s by André le Nôtre the most important figure in the history of the French Garden. And the son of the gardener of Louis XIII. The idea was to arrange everything
around symmetry, flattening the existing natural landscape so as to create
perfect arrangements of borders, flower beds and reflecting pools. A grand perspective, a thousand five hundred meters long extended from the foot of the chateau to the end point: a statue of Hercules. The alleyways were decorated at
regular intervals by statues, basins fountains and carefully sculpted
topiaries. It was in an extremely logical precise
unyielding way perfect . Another masterpiece of French
gardening was then constructed at Versailles also by André Le Nôtreto. Here to there was
astonishing symmetry and a will to bend the unruliness of nature to the designs
of man. The French gardening tradition achieved
enormous popularity and was widely copied in far more modest homes across
Europe for a century at least. But the dominance eventually gave way to a new theory of gardening that developed in England in the 18th century. And was known as the “Jardin à l’anglaise” or “English Garden”. The central figure in
this tradition was Capability Brown, a gardener of genius responsible for a
170 gardens up and down the United Kingdom, including Petworth in West Sussex, Chatsworth and Darbyshire Bowood in Wilshire and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. The Jardin à l’anglaise couldn’t have been more different from the Jardin à la française. In the English tradition everything was about working with rather
than flattening natural features . Wildness of nature wasn’t the enemy. It was the starting point which the
skilled English gardener would enhance and work with. A good English garden
relish the raw impulses of nature it was about accommodating and
delighting in nature even though this was nature that was
tampered with in order to get it to look just that bit more natural. The English garden usually included a
lake, sweeps of gently rolling lawns and groves of trees. The English tradition reign supreme for
a century at least. These are two historical traditions of gardening but
they are also along the way two modes of being. The French style is about a
confident rationalism and willpower. This is how we might feel when we want
to change the world through thought and planning. The English tradition is about
accommodating ourselves to what already exists, bending with what is there, trying to
make the most out of what we’ve been given and to see its beauty and its charm. It looks like a battle but ideally we
need the two attitudes, the French and the English in our lives in order to
call upon them in diverse situations. Each of us is probably a bit biased
towards one or the other and could benefit from seeking out the distinctive
wisdom of either the French or the English style. The opposition of the to
gardening styles is stark but in truth we need integration, the Jardin à la française and the Jardin à l’anglaise, rational willpower and acceptance of
nature. There are in fact a few places that do
show the two integrated like Sissinghurst Garden in Kent which
borrows from both traditions. This shows us the model of how an ideal
individual might be, someone with a French and an English garden sight to
their nature. Ready to call upon either faculty depending on the occasion. That would be interesting gardening and
wise psychology.

Comments 100

  • OMG! Clever Animator! "No one I think is in my TREE, I mean it must be high or low!" You made me laugh with that one! Well, the leaves did look like strawberries! Funny!

  • Just a little disappointed that you didn't include the reasons for these differences: The French one came from a time of Neoclassicism, when the French kings wanted to show off and show how they dominated absolutely everything – a time when everything had to be big, perfectly decorated and therefore impressive.The English style comes from the time of the industrial revolution which lead to romanticism. People idealised and wanted to go back to the wild and to nature, fairy tales and folklore revived – very often people placed things with a story in their backyard, for instance a tree they claimed to have brought with them from a journey far away.

  • What about gardens from around Europe, not just French and English? Or for the sake of people's attention you've kept it short and precise, the gardens merely a means to an end to showcase the two philosophies?

  • italian gardens?

  • Would love to see a video on Chinese and Japanese gardens.

  • Your french is very good (because you're not overdoing it) that one might not even realize you're british, great work btw

  • does the narrator is french, because he has got a really got pronouciation ( vive la france )

  • I believe that every human being should have at least a small plot of land to grow a garden / vegetables. This would doubly keep us connected to the land/earth as well as promote an agriculture, small-micro scale, which has been largely eroded due to industrialization.

  • I'd rather have a practical garden full of herbs and other edible plants.

  • fuck the french

  • Bad research, unreliable source. The picture shown at 1:35 is not a french garden but a italian renaissance garden, more precisely the garden of the Medici villa La Petraia in Firenze, the painting was drawn before Louis XIV was even born. If you are talking about art you should have at least some basic knowledge in order to avoid such embarassing beginner's mistakes. To show a golf course as an example of an english garden as in 2:47 is also funny to say it nicely.

  • As someone taking a landscape architecture course, I can say this is a well-researched, very approachable and AWESOME example about the philosophies behind landscape designers and planners. Please do one on city planning School of Life! Excellent video

  • Great video. This was completely new to me, and absolutely fascinating. Seems like the English gardens have some elements in common with some Eastern traditions like Taoism and Zen.

  • Permaculture FTW Both these gardening styles are super destructive to the landscape just sayin'

  • how do these over simplifications help? maybe it would be more useful to understand how the english garden you talk about came about in the first place. i guess one day some guy watched a vid on youtube and just made one. it reminds me of a monty python sketch on how to play the flute… ok you blow in this end and move your fingers up and down the other end.

  • Land art is a favorite art form of mine, so I guess I fall on the side of French philosophy. The reason why I love land art is because it is closest to nature–the source of all beauty. What is the difference between land art and gardening? Gardening is closely tied with functionality, but not so much with land art.

  • school of life is great, but you guys should source your material

  • I would love to see you explore the spiritual practice of bonsai sometime. My husband and I are fascinated by eastern philosophy thanks to you. 🙂 Thanks again for another awesome video Alain.

  • Great video! Also that French pronunciation is a delight.

  • Taming the wild, nature. Taming everything that used to have spirit, soul. Trimming and bending, simply because we can and we are bored and aesthetics make us feel less 'dirty' (from the blood on hands, maybe), and we're at race who has more power and are better, even when it comes to "beauty". Anyway, is there a video on missionaries (christian, for example), who brought nothing but misery to harmless indigenous tribes of Asia(for example). Maybe a long shot off, but when it comes to invasion of anything, there's no match for France and England. And there's absolutely NOTHING to be proud of, really.

  • Nothing beats the Old Summer Palace's "Yuanmingyuan" aka The Gardens of Perfect Brightness in China. The English and French troops said that all the gardens in Europe combined couldn't hold a candle to it. Then they burnt it down. What a shame.

  • Could you do the same comparison between french and english educational systems and the ideology behind them? Honestly, it's truly fascinating, please do!!

  • Lovely!

  • Hey! Let's visit this new page! It's going to be all about flowers! Your like will help us so much, thanks. /// Hola! Te invito a visitar esta nueva página! Va a ser todo sobre flores! Tu like nos ayudaría bastante, gracias.


  • @Mathieu Vernimmen
    I can't speak for the French, but I can say for the English that (generally speaking) there is an appreciation for nature in its wild form. Also, I suspect you're basing your English archetypes on our aristocracy, which is about as far as you can get from the 'average' English person. If you ever visit England be sure to go out to a pub or two at the weekend, your impression of English people being prim and proper will be shattered forever. 😉

  • "I'm gonna name my kid Capability" – a real human, once

  • Also the two ways to play Minecraft and Terraria

  • What about japanese gardens?

  • I found information about the Japanese gardens hidden in the upload of the rocks in Eastern philosophy. Thank you that the uploads are in some way connected. Happy Easter sunday! I always wondered why the easter bunny lays eggs and what is the correlation with the story of jesus or mozes? Has it anything to do with the miter of the pope that looks like two bunny ears? 🙂

  • Funny…I have always looked at the gard from a combination of both ideas

  • You did it School of Life. You made gardens interesting

  • Please, could you add subtitles to your videos? It would be really helpful!

  • If you can spot Cornelis Vreeswijk in this video I'll give ya a thumbs up.

  • Soon both styles to be replaced by islamic styles

  • Thanks.

  • What does the school of life have to say about cheating in relationships?

  • thank you for this little film. I loved it. It struck a nerve by suggesting that we need both forms of thinking to survive in the world.

  • my garden is the ultimate English , let-nature-rule, garden 🙂

  • What about the Japanese or Chinese Gardening?

  • When I visited France, my jaw-dropped at the amazing work they put into gardens and landscapes. I could have spent months or probably years meditating around each garden and labyrinths. The smells were amazing. I think I enjoy them so much because I find peace in symmetry and complimenting colors and textures.

  • American gardens are known as "blacktop".

  • Chatsworth is amazing, but then I would say that as I am from Derbyshire . . The fountain is the centrepiece and was pure innovation, the pressure required for the fountain was created by making the water run from high and far away to get the pressure build up.

  • How would Singapore's gardens by the bay fit in gardening philosophy?

  • I don't even have a garden what am I doing here

  • I had a university lecturer that had a theory that the English Garden saved the monarchy by evading the Us vs Them uprising that the French Garden symbolised.

  • Just as an aside apart from the main point of the video, I'm not sure why the narrator pronounced the English garden titling in the French language. Sure it's understandable if he wanted to pronounce French garden in the French language, but it just seemed to me a bit like he was desperate to show off his French pronunciation skills.

  • not very much information in this one. almost as if the concluding lesson came first and it was forced onto something random from history.

  • Obviously English gardening is superior is ever way imaginable. Just like everything we do against those fucking bastard frog eating wankers.

  • Just a slight criticism, the French influence was from the Romans when they invaded Europe… although the Romans influence was from the Persians and Egyptians…

  • You sir are an elite Marxist can't.

  • Those certainly were some particularly nice 4 minutes and 38 seconds.

  • Great video! Reminds me of Slavoj Zizek's 3 toilets theory. How does the Giardino all'italiana fit in this? Is it simply an incomplete ancestor of the Jardin a La Franceise?

  • The picture was of Louis XIV not XIII!

  • Practical maybe back then but it's still wasteful. The lawn industry is wasteful and harmful to the environment. All those chemicals used so you can have a vast stretch of lawn for nothing to do on it. English concept is better at least in the fact that you can't really bend mother nature.

  • Could anyone tell me what is the last garden pictured here?

  • Here I am in youtube at 2 am in the morning, watching a video about gardens and the philosophies they embody and wanting more.

  • Cornelis Vreeswijk? O.o 3:24

  • Yeah, the English one doesn't really work in Dubai.

  • Anyone wish they had seen this before studying Arcadia?

  • Got a rubbery one for gardening now, thanks.

  • Thank you for the interesting video, another manifestation of the contrast between the Apollonian and the Dionysian, the classical and the romantic. It brings to mind Iain McGilchrist's tome 'The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World', a brilliant and exhaustive work on the topic.

  • Video about drugs

  • Persian Gardens that were built in India are a perfect blend of both English and French gardens which came into existence long before these European gardens

  • Wow. Heavy and important stuff.

  • why not do a video on the subject of "the methapor" ?

  • I would have liked to learn about the great Persian gardens which from what little lack of research I know was based quite strictly on the biblical Quranic idea of paradise as a walled garden

  • The movie "Little Chaos" is about Andre La notre. It's quiet good.

  • outstanding video – good on you

  • …both (fussier?) derivatives of the renaissance gardens of Italy.

  • nice video!

  • do one on Zen gardens!!! 🙂

  • I like English gardens,I like making gardens look natural.

  • This video took me by suprise. It is amazing.

  • That's such a strange reversal. Normally one would associate refinement as inherently English while "laissez faire" would be inherently French.

  • This is so easily seen today still, especially in France where the entire countryside, end to end, looks to have been meticulously landscaped.

  • I disagree with your conclusion. In regards to attitudes towards life, I think the French style of gardening represents a pursuit of beauty in the perfect and symmetrical, where they simply alter nature if it does not meet their standards. As such they miss out on the inherent beauty of the imperfect, as Kenkō would put it they miss out on the glory of spring by waiting for the flowers to bloom. The English style of gardening seems to reflect an ability to look for beauty where it is already present in nature, and then enhancing that, which in my view is a far superior attitude to have in life. It speaks of finding appreciation for any situation, time or place, and emphasizing that instead of overlooking it while striving for some conceived idea of perfection. You say the French style represents the sort of attitude one might need when wanting to change the world through thought and planning, but does not the English gardeners do that also? They only do it in a less high-handed way, planning along the lines of nature. Much like existentialism, it represents the idea of accepting oneself as part of this very complicated world, but also identifying the parts of it that can make life a somewhat more fulfilling.

  • Those palaces are really good places for jogging.

  • I thought that this would just be a history lesson on gardens. But the video beautifully equates the two styles of gardening to the faculties of our minds. School of Life never disappoints.

  • I'm surprised the garden at Stowe was not mentioned. This archetypal English garden was also a political statement.

  • Actually, it was Marie de Medici, mother to Louis XIII, who introduced the "French style," brought with her from Italy.

  • 0:42 louis xiii or louis xiv?

  • 3:25 Cornelis Vreeswijk lives on forever <3

  • I fully disagree, Before 1580 till 1640 all garden design came form Claude Mollet and his son André Mollet and the rest of the Mollet brothers. André LeNotre started with his father Jean Le Notre as a garden brigade leader. But all Design and Overseeing works was in the hands of the Mollet family. After 1640, André LeNotre used the book "' the formel french garden"' written by Claude Mollet. André Mollet wrote"' le jardins des plaisir", ideas witch LeNotre also used later. So try to be historicly correct please!!!

  • Been to the English Garden in Munich and liked it because is was simple but nice. Now I know why. TY

  • Very enjoyable to watch

  • this video helped my presentation about Schloss Charlottenburg, Germany. Danke…

  • English gardens are better to sit in whilst waiting for the sun. If the sun don't come you get a tan from standing in the English rain!

  • And then there is the Asian style of Gardening which is the best of above al……..

  • It was good and educational until you added your self-help bullshit

  • Shocked to learn that the English were more human and natural than the French here!

  • The animations on this one are hilarious.

  • Wow. Surprising videos as usual. Thanks a lot for these great productions of School of L!

  • SGH Kozłowski

  • If only I had 10% of your intelligence.

  • Make a video showing the difference between Chinese and Mughal Gardens in India

  • Formal French Garden: 1600-1700 (Paris)

    Andre Le Norte: arrange everything with symmetry.

    Statues, basins, fountains.

    Versailles. Andre Le Norte:


    Dominance gave way to new theory in England, the English garden.

    Capability Brown.

    With rather than flatten.

    English gardener would enhance nature, acclimate, delight in nature. Lake, sweeps of gently rolling lawns, and trees. 2 historical traditions of gardening.

    French: confident rationalism and willpower.

    English: accommodate yourself to whatever already exists, see it’s beauty and charm.

    Each of us is bias towards one or another, seek our wisdom from both.

    Rational willpower and acceptance of nature.

    Ideal individual might be someone with a French and English garden to their nature.

    wise psychology.

  • I love how varied the topics of these videos are

  • Fantastic graphics and animation! …….Brilliant!!!

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