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Green and Grand: 7 Homes with Delightful Formal Gardens

Luxury Defined tours seven homes with scrupulously maintained gardens to enjoy in summer and throughout the year

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 seven homes with magnificent formal gardens designed in the French and English traditions, and some exquisite variations on our theme.

Listed Louis XIII-Style Château in Blois, Loir et Cher, France

This exceptional, listed château in the Loire Valley, near the city of Blois, dates from 1636. Framing the monumental limestone structure, its gate lodges, and outbuildings are nearly 100 private acres of forests, meadows, pastures, and magnificent French formal gardens.
At the center of the formal gardens is a beautiful water mirror. Boxwood hedges, topiaries, landscaped moats, verdant lawns, and century-old plane and lime trees add to the splendor.

This magnificent estate encompasses nearly 100 private acres in France’s Loire Valley, about 135 miles south of Paris. Listed as an exceptional property, the Louis XIII-style château was built in 1636 and expanded in the 18th century with the addition of two entrance pavilions and various outbuildings. In 2010, the property underwent a meticulous, three-year restoration by the owners. The château and ancillary dwellings offer 21,528 square feet of living space, with a total of 50 rooms, 25 of which are bedrooms. Period details remain beautifully intact, from the Versailles parquet flooring and intricate wall and ceiling cornicing to the grand marble fireplaces. The French formal gardens, styled in the jardin à la française tradition, are an outward expression of the order and symmetry within, forming a perfect ensemble. The water mirror is the centerpiece, set like a jewel to dramatically reflect the château’s limestone façade. The border is a verdant framework of topiaries and boxwood hedges, statuary, wide lawns, and gravel paths. Beyond the château and the gardens are 100-year-old plane and lime trees, a walled orchard and vegetable garden, pastures, meadows, and ancient forest.

Provençal Manor House in Lorgues, Var, France

This traditional Provençal manor house, between Cannes and Saint-Tropez, has an idyllic 100-acre setting composed of French formal gardens, pine and truffle forests, and an olive grove.
A private chapel, swimming pool, tennis court, helipad, and equestrian complex are further highlights of this enchanting country estate.

This pastoral manor house abides within 100 private acres in the heart of Provence, close to the medieval town of Lorgues. The property offers stables, paddocks and rolling pastures, forests of pine and truffle oaks, and French formal gardens graced with topiary trees, flower beds, towering cypresses, stone fountains, reflecting pools, and meandering paths. The idyllic ivy-clad main house and guest house provides 14,531 square feet of living space, exquisitely finished and detailed, with 15 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms. Sash windows and French doors bring in the light and the views of the gardens and the Provence countryside. The reception areas open to wide terraces with elegant conversation areas shaded by centuries-old trees. The wider grounds include an olive grove and olive oil production facility, a private chapel, a swimming pool and spa, a tennis court, and a helipad, providing air access to both Cannes and Saint-Tropez.

Château de Cuarnens in Vaud, Switzerland

Bounded by rolling countryside, this 17th-century château and its immaculate gardens form an elegant ensemble.
The formal gardens, with their striking geometric design, boxwood borders, elegant walkways, and stone fountain, reflect the order and symmetry of the jardin à la française gardens of 18th-century France.

This historic estate is at one with its magnificent parklike setting in the Vaud countryside. The focal point of the six-acre grounds are the elegant formal gardens, a sanctuary of peace and privacy secluded by the meadows and woodlands that lie beyond. Château de Cuarnens was built in the 17th century. The stately 10,225-square-foot residence underwent an extensive restoration in 2000 by the present owners, who added luxurious modern touches while retaining the elegance of the original design. Decorative woodwork, parquet floors, and ornate fireplaces grace the reception rooms. The hunting room harks to the past while the professional-grade kitchen is a contemporary addition. A grand, sweeping staircase leads to the upper-floor private quarters, comprising four sumptuous en suite bedrooms. The top floor houses a handsome wood-panelled library and an attic with ample storage space. This pastoral retreat is a world away yet close to Geneva Airport and the city of Lausanne.

Majestic Manorial Villa in the Florentine Hills, Tuscany, Italy

An earthly paradise awaits at this fortified manor in the hills above Florence.
The property is ensconced within idyllic private grounds of wooded parkland, an olive grove, and Italian formal gardens framed by the Tuscan landscape.

This fairy-tale estate is a private paradise overlooking the Florentine Hills in the heart of Chianti wine country. The three-story villa offers nearly 7,000 square feet of living space with nine bedrooms and seven bathrooms, and several beautifully appointed reception rooms adorned with frescoes, carved wood beams, traditional Florentine fireplaces crafted from local Pietra Serena sandstone, and terracotta tile and wooden floors. The orangery opens to a formal Italian garden, graced with hedges and gravel walkways. Nearby is a mosaic-tiled saltwater pool surrounded by a paved stone terrace. The main-floor appointments include a billiards room, artist’s atelier, gym, and a private two-bedroom staff apartment. The second floor features a vast center hall with a fireplace, a dining room with kitchen, and a living room opening to a paved terrace. A second hall graces the third floor, along with a lounge, and three guest bedrooms. A staircase rises to the crenelated tower, with an office and a rooftop terrace overlooking the countryside. A private chapel is situated within the grounds. Encompassing 4.7 acres, the tree-lined gardens grant privacy and shade under the Tuscan sun. The remaining land is composed of gardens planted with specimen trees, colorful flowers, and an olive grove producing a small quantity of olive oil for personal use. The medieval towns of Rufina and Pontassieve and the vineyards of Chianti are all close by.

Kilmurry House in County Kilkenny, Ireland

Kilmurry House is one of Ireland’s finest country manors. The birthplace of Irish watercolorist Mildred Anne Butler, the Georgian manor house and its resplendent two-acre walled garden, lake, pastures, and woodlands were the setting for many of her finest works.
The two-acre walled garden, quintessentially Georgian in its scale and symmetry, inspired Butler’s best-known painting, The Lilac Phlox, depicting a flowering plant that has flourished on the property for over a century.

Kilmurry House, the birthplace of Irish watercolorist Mildred Anne Butler, is quite simply one of the finest country manors in all of Ireland. The Georgian house, executed in timeless Palladian style, was Butler’s lifelong home: Its former orangery was her studio; its walled gardens, lake, and woodland were the setting for many of her finest en plein air paintings. The great house itself, set within a private demesne in excess of 90 acres in Thomastown, County Kilkenny, dates from 1690 and remained in the Butler family until 1981. The current owners extended the home to 17,861 square feet with eleven bedrooms and eight bathrooms while retaining the order and symmetry of the original Georgian design. Lawned gardens grace the front and rear of the house. The resplendent two-acre walled garden is quintessentially Georgian in its scale and symmetry. The courtyard cottage could be used as staff quarters as could the original two-bedroom gate lodge. Beyond the gardens a serene lake surrounded by mature woodlands provides habitat for red squirrels, hares, hedgehogs, foxes, pheasants, otters, and a pair of nesting eagles. Other delights are the children’s adventure trail and zip line through the woods. The remaining acreage is composed of paddocks and wooded pastures for horses and livestock. The estate is within a 20-minute drive of Kilkenny City and 1.5 hours from Dublin.

Luxurious Family Estate in Jersey, Channel Islands

Eagles Rest Channel Islands
Walled gardens, formal and natural gardens, and a beautiful lawned amphitheater mirror the symmetry and scale of the interiors at this manor house above St Aubin’s Bay on the island of Jersey.
Lawned amphitheaters, such as this fine example in St Brelade, Jersey, were a prominent feature of English landscape design until the mid-18th century. It is reminiscent of the amphitheater at Claremont House in Surrey, England, designed by Charles Bridgeman in 1716 and extended by William Kent in 1738.

This elegant manor house in the sought-after enclave of St Brelade in Jersey, Channel Islands, reposes on three acres of landscaped grounds above the tranquil expanse of St Aubin’s Bay. The 10,000-square-foot main house is a fine example of traditional Jersey architecture that has been tastefully renovated and extended for the 21st century. There are five bedrooms and six full bathrooms, and a sunny, south-facing aspect with sea views. The vast, contemporary kitchen adjoins a dining space with large doors that open to a terrace and the gardens beyond. The owner’s suite includes a mezzanine level, two dressing rooms, en suite bathroom, and an extensive terrace that overlooks the garden and bay. There is also one bedroom available for staff or guest accommodation. The walled grounds include a newly installed swimming pool, a sauna, steam room, gym, and garaging. Wide terraces and gardens both formal and natural invite quiet contemplation, but the magnificent lawned amphitheater begs for a Bach string concerto or a rousing performance of The Tempest. The home is within walking distance of the restaurants and cafés of bustling St Aubin’s Village.

Villa in Los Altos de Valderrama, Sotogrande, Cádiz, Spain

D. Rafael Martos Manzano, winner of the University of Notre Dame’s Driehaus Architecture Prize, designed this classically inspired mansion in the exclusive resort of Sotogrande on Spain’s Costa del Sol.
The grandly appointed interiors flow out to a beautiful French formal garden, wide lawns bounded by royal palms, a maze created from lush vegetation and flowers, and a cork-tree forest.

This grand mansion abuts the fifth hole of the Real Club de Valderrama championship golf course, dubbed “the Augusta of Europe,” at Altos de Valderrama in Sotogrande, one of Spain’s most exclusive residential resorts. The 10-bedroom residence is surrounded by more than five acres of lush grounds comprising formal gardens, palm-lined lawns, an orchard, and vegetable garden. A lavish pool terrace, shaded sitting areas, and an adventure playground are added highlights. The main house has three levels, with many reception areas opening to grand, garden-view terraces. The beautiful elements of classical architecture, stunning craftsmanship, and the Moorish and Persian influences are elegantly reflected throughout the estate. The formal dining area offers a grand space for entertaining with its vaulted ceilings, while the summer house, beside the pool, is ideal for alfresco dining and informal entertaining. The property was designed by Spain’s most prominent classical architect, D. Rafael Martos Manzano, winner of the University of Notre Dame’s Driehaus Architecture Prize.