In the vast parterres of the Chateau de Versailles the neatly clipped yew trees stand at precisely spaced intervals. Impressive at a distance, sometimes comical from close up.
Each piece of topiary is unique, depending on the branching pattern of the growing plant as much as the intentions of the gardener. These trees have character.
The simpler shapes, such as cones and pyramids, can be trimmed to nearly identical rows but the layered forms depend more on convenient branches. The gardeners must have a certain license to use their imagination too. I don’t know whether that was the case in Louis XIV’s day.
In the orangerie garden clipped yews add an air of formality among the more free growing forms of the fruit trees. When the citrus and pomegranate trees are moved indoors the hardy yews provide winter interest, though their spacing seems surprisingly haphazard.
Towards the end of the day the lengthening shadows add an extra dimension to the formal patterns of the grand gardens. Regularly spaced, almost identical cones stripe the raked gravel with bars of light and shade, contrasting with the ‘wild’ woodland beyond.