‘What’s in a Name?’


Pittsburgh Symphony Association presents Symphony Splendor Garden Tour on June 27, 2021, 11 AM – 5 PM, a visual feast of 12 Shadyside and Squirrel Hill gardens. The gardens are of different sizes and designs, and several have never before been open to the public.

Versailles Parterre Depositphotos Stock

The word “garden” implies a conscious design. Overall designs divide between formal and informal styles, but within those styles is infinite variety, and often some degree of overlap. Frederick Law Olmstead worked on a canvas of several hundred acres to draw the gardens of Biltmore; another designer may create a small jewel of a garden in a few hundred square feet; the design may be drawn from national or spiritual tradition, composed of a single species, influenced by national or spiritual traditions. All of these concepts and more inform our gardens.

Palace of Versailles Depositphotos Stock


In pictures, one of the most familiar styles of formal garden is a parterre, a flat space with geometric forms outlined by walkways and evergreen hedges clipped to a uniform height and width, or by masonry borders, the interior spaces planted with colorful flowers or contrasting greenery. The design is symmetrical; uniform borders form the main design element that makes the garden parts cohere. The parterre is low, designed to be seen from a height.

The gardens of the palace of Versailles have several parterres of quite different design. Parterres are most often associated with the formal gardens of large historic European estates or historic American properties such as Williamsburg. Fountains and statuary are often incorporated in the design of a parterre. The scale is often large and labor intensive to maintain, but it can also be as small as an herb garden.

A knot garden is similar to a parterre but differentiated by undulating borders weaving in and out.

Photos shown are examples from the palace of Versailles.

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