Formal gardens are known for their symmetry and design, following a principle of imposing order on nature. The simplest of most formal gardens would have carefully laid out flower beds, while more elaborate ones involve elaborate landscaping and feature parterres, boxed hedges, terraces, topiaries, statues and of course our favorite piece of architecture – fountains. Here is a list of some of the best formal fountain gardens from all over the world that are definitely worth a visit:
1. Chateau de Versailles
The gardens at the Chateau de Versailles covers around 800 hectares of land, most of which is landscaped following the classic French Garden style. It was in 1661 when Louis XIV commissioned Andre Le Notre to design and layout the gardens of the Versailles, as he believed that the appearance of the land surrounding the chateau was just as important as the structure on it. The garden is known for its meticulously manicured green lawns, beds of flowers, 50 fountains and over 600 water jets, which are fed by over 35 kilometers of piping. Some of the most popular fountains include the Latona fountain, which dates back to 1670 and is inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses; and the Bacchus Fountain and the Mirror Fountain, commissioned by Louis XIV in 1702. The garden is operated under the French Ministry of Culture and is open to the public, attracting as much as six million visitors each year. From late spring to early autumn, the administration sponsors a weekend spectacle called the Musical Show, where the baroque fountains in the garden are in full play, and spouting water to the rhythm of music. The Gardens of Versailles is part of the UNESCO world heritage list.
2. Royal Palace of Aranjuez
The Royal Palace of Aranjuez is located in the town of Aranjuez, Spain and serves as a residence of the king of Spain. It was commissioned by Philip II to two designers – Juan de Herrera and Juan Bautista de Toledo in the 18th century and was completed during the reign of Ferdinand VI. The palace is not just known for its elaborate structure and opulent interiors, but also due to the huge gardens that surround the palace. These gardens were designed to relieve royal residents of the dust surrounding the area, making use of waters from the Jarama and Tagus rivers. Two of these gardens are the Jardin de la Isla (a man-made island) and the Jardin del Principe which hosts a miniature palace and one of the palace’s most popular fountains – the Narcissus.
3. Athelhampton House
Located in Dorset, England, the Athelhampton house is a manor built during the 15th century, and is known for its perfectly manicured designed formal walled gardens and yew pyramid topiaries. Water is a recurring theme with the presence of the River Piddle and many pools and fountains around the area. The Great Court is its most famous garden, featuring its pyramid shaped yew trees dominate the area and surround a beautiful but small fountain. The house is privately owned, and is open for visits, tours and all kinds of receptions.
4. Villa Lante
In central Italy lies a Mannerist garden that is known for its visually harmonious design in incorporating water throughout its greenery. This excellent choreography of water was achieved through the work of hydraulics engineer and architect Tommaso Ghunucci. At the heart of this formal garden sits the Fontana dei Quattro Mori, a fountain designed by Giambologna that features four life sized Moors that stand square, holding the Monalto coat of arms, while surrounded by two lion. Another fountain, the Fontana dei Lumini, features small Roman oil lamp sculptures that sit on a tiered. The lamps spout small jets of water into the fountain basin.
5. Marjorelle Garden
Located in Marrakech, Morocco, the Majorelle garden is a 12-acre botanical and artist landscape garden that was built in the 1920s to 1930s by the French artist Jacques Majorelle. The garden is known for its unique design and use of bold colors, as well as its two beautiful fountains – a square fountain at the entrance and the Majorelle Blue. Located right in front of the Berber museum, the Marjorelle Blue fountain features a square basin that’s painted with the iconic Majorelle blue color on the outside and white on the inside. Both fountains look simple and clean, but it is the interplay of bold colors that provide viewers a much needed change from the typical marble sculptures that are usually found in most classic fountains.
6. Palacio de Generalife
The Palacio de Generalife is one of the outlying buildings connected to the Alhambra, and served as the summer palace of the kings (Nasrid Emirs) of the Emirate of Granada. It was built somewhere around the years 1302 to 1309 during the reign of Muhammad III and was redecorated during the time of Abu I-Walid Isma’il from 1313 to 1324. The palace is features a medieval Persian design, one which incorporates fountains and flowing waters. The Royal Canal or Acequia Real serves as the principal court channel and is known for its crossing jets of water. Inside the royal chambers is a bedroom that opens to the Court of The Sultana’s Cypress Tree, which is an intimate court and garden with a U shaped pool of water and stone fountain in the center. These two are just a few of the many water jets and fountains that can be found in the Generalife, one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens today.
7. Nymphenburg Palace
Located about 15 minutes away from the city center, the Nymphenburg Palace or Schloss Nymphenburg is a magnificent structure that exhibits both baroque and rococo styles. The palace features a French style gardens with sweeping pathways and vast lawns that house classical statues and fountains. Aside from its gardens, the large fountains of the gardens provide pleasurable views to visitors. Aside from the view, the fountains also represent a landmark in Bavarian technology, as the fountains are operated using cast iron hydraulic pump machines for the past 200 years. Two of these fountains are the Fountaine in the large parterre and the fountain in front of the palace.
8. Enid A. Haupt Garden
The Smithsonian may be known for being a center of knowledge, but the Smithsonian complex houses more than just museums and research centers. It is also known for its 4.2 acre public garden. The Enid A. Haupt Garden was designed to mimic the American Victorian garden, as how they would have appeared in the mid to late 19th century. Fountain at the Moon Gate of Enid A. Haupt Garden. Named after philanthropist and donor Enid A. Haupt, the garden features a symmetrically patterned parterre which is flanked by the Fountain gate on the east side and Moongate on the west side. The Fountain Garden’s focus is a waterfall, a design inspired by the Alhambra (see number 6). Aside from the waterfall, the garden is also known for its other notable features such as tulip magnolias, historical cast iron outdoor and garden furnishings and brick walkways.