A bosquet is a type of ornamental French garden that consists entirely of evenly spaced trees. Bosquets were popular in formal gardens during the French Renaissance and were not well known in America until approximately 1970. They are said to symbolize order and harmony. The word "bosquet" comes from the Italian word bosco, meaning wood.
The first instance of the term "bosquet" referring to a garden was recorded in 1572 in a document discussing the creation of a garden at a famous manor house, or chateau. Consisting of identical species, bosquets must have at least five trees. The trees are arranged in straight lines, usually creating a square. Often pairs of bosquets would flank a walking path, the overhead branches blending together to provide a canopy-like shade.
In French Baroque gardens, bosquets were considered a necessary element. These gardens were normally seen around palaces and other expensive structures. The palace in Versailles, France has one of the most famous bosquet gardens on its grounds.
The branches of a bosquet's trees are removed from the lower parts of the trunks in order to accentuate the uniformity of the trees. Using native trees was an important consideration in traditional bosquets, so linden, hazel trees, and hornbeam were popular choices in France. The gardens were originally paved with gravel, but once the lawn mower was invented, bosquets began to simply have grass underneath the trees.
A simple bosquet may consist only of a small stand of trees, but the more elaborate gardens had complicated designs or large groves with enclosed areas, or cabinets, to allow guests privacy. These areas usually have a curved path as an access point with trellis-framed entrances. Cabinets also might contain decorative elements. A single tree or a statue might be placed in the center of the cabinet, or the area may be lined with flowers.
Checkerboard patterns were also an option for larger gardens. Cabinets containing artwork would alternate with squares of trees. Paths through the garden would border these sections. Smaller trees were also sometimes planted around the bosquet to encourage birds to nest and give the garden a more natural element.
Though bosquets fell out of style in Europe the 19th century, they made a comeback in the 20th. Around 1970, bosquets were introduced to the United States and were planted in front of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Paris also still maintains some of its bosquets, many set in gravel.