Thursday, April 22, 2010

Allée of trees

I went to college in Houston, and during my junior year lived off campus on a spectacular street called North Boulevard. I lived in the carriage house of a family with five children, and tutored the children in exchange for room and board. After living in dorms for two years, it was heaven to live in one of the most beautiful areas of the city, yet still be only a few blocks from my college.
The end of North Boulevard is incredibly picturesque, with large and gracious homes on sizeable lots. In front of these homes in a park-like median with a path in the middle, flanked on either side by live oaks. I used to walk along this path on the weekends, and even as a brash 20 year old, I appreciated the unique beauty of this setting.

Perhaps I had an affinity for the setting as it reminded me somewhat of my visits to London as a child, and one of my favorite places in London: Hyde Park. Many of the long paths in Hyde Park are evenly planted with trees that are hundreds of years old.

There is actually a term for this landscape design element – it is called an ‘allée’. An allée is an walkway or path lined with trees of the same species, and is a formal design concept where the view is extended to a emphasize something in the distance, or extended to the horizon. This picture, with landscape architecture by John Howard of Howard Design Studio, beautifully illustrates this concept; the pea gravel driveway lined with trees frames the view and leads the eye to the house at the end. This is one of my favorite pictures from John’s portfolio!

Another iconic picture that beautifully illustrates an allée was taken at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. The live oaks (believed to be 300 years old) provide a picturesque canopy that frames the quarter mile walk to the entrance of this magnificent Greek-revival style home.

This landscape element combines both the incredible natural beauty of trees, and symmetry, which always speaks to me. The entire intent of an allée is to emphasize the axial view, which also has great appeal to me. Doesn’t this view make you want to walk down the path and find out what is at the end?

Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was clearly inspired by an allée of trees when he created this beautiful painting.

One of my favorite impressionist artists, Alfred Sisley, was also inspired by an allée of chestnut trees in this painting from 1878. Source.

This image, seen on Wikipedia, was taken in a park in Germany.

Many of the definitions of allée indicate that it is a very French concept. This image was taken at Chateau Margaux, France.

An allée of trees in the winter. I imagine that this view changes character every season, which is another thing I love about this design concept.

My post from last week, on a beautiful house in Atlanta, features a beautiful allée of oak trees. This is not the most common landscape feature in Atlanta, given that our topography is so hilly; a long straight path is really the best environment for this feature, in order to emphasize the sight lines. Photo credit: Brad Heppner.

As I was looking at the recent issue of Elle Decor (May 2010), I came across a charming article that showed some stunning garden paths throughout the world. One image from the Elle Decor article really caught me eye; it is quite sculptural and beautiful, and leads the eye straight to a pool. Unlike some of the other images in this post, this allée does not depend on trees that are hundreds of years old. I am not expert, but I see this type of cyprus tree planted quite frequently in places where height and quick growth are a requirement. Landscape design by Dominique Lafourcade.

A quick google search enabled me to put two and two together; Dominique Lafourcade is part of the design and architectural team behind Bruno and Alexandre Lafourcade Architecture, who have a unique specialty in the restoration of farmhouses, country manors, and castles in Europe. Visit their website for more beautiful examples of their work. This image was on their site; I think it is the same garden seen in the image above, with a view from the pool, through the allée of trees to the walkway and door of the house. The trees perfectly frame the view to the door from this vantage point; from the previous vantage point, the sphere perched on the edge of the pool is the distant feature (as well as the hills beyond).

Have you seen this landscape design feature where you live? Do you like its structure, or do you prefer for things to be looser and more natural in an outdoor setting? I definitely like the formality and visual beauty that an allée of trees gives to a space, and I particularly like it when a house is the visual reward at the end of the view.

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  1. Oh yes. Boone Hall north of Charleston has a great one and Spanish Moss to boot.

  2. Terry - just looked up Boone Hall - beautiful example!


  3. I have always been drawn to the tree lined driveways, and the tree line road from when I lived in NYC. Stunning images that inspire once again!!!
    We are hoping to have the same effect with our next home. Fingers crossed.

  4. One of the most beautiful allees here in northern California is at the Filoli estate in Woodside. It is a yew allee that ends with an amazing climbing-rose-on-columns-connected-by-chains feature that surrounds a sort of amphitheater. (terrible description, I know) You have to see it in person, but it's fabulous.

  5. Wow - the Filoli estate looks incredible!



  6. Growing up on the coasts of SC and GA it seems everywhere I turned there was an allee. On coastal islands many natural allees. I loved to play and dance and twirl upon the paths below. I once rode a scooter through one and went to kick a fallen limb away as I passed by it, but quickly drew my foot back and continue on when I noticed it was not a limb but rather a large moccasin. These images are magnificent and bring back many memories.

  7. you have touched on one of my favorite landscape elements. but a misconception is that it requires considerable space, not so. my shop is in an urban setting (small grounds), i placed malus 'maypole colonnade' on either side of the walk. how it works is that the trees are very columnar.
    great post!

  8. I have always loved tree lined pathways and driveways. I am more drawn to symmetrical and formal European type landscape that repeats similar plants than the more random free flowing designs that use a lot of different foliage. These were beautiful images.

    I also want to thank you for visiting my blog and your kind words. Mona

  9. Wonderful post, just a great job on this. I've been to Oak Alley many times, Chateau Margaux, Hyde Park and I'm a native Houstonian and know North Boulevard very well, lived only a couple blocks away. Filoli is where the opening scenes from Dynasty were filmed and once I saw the house I had to go there to visit. So many beautiful places. Oak Alley for the property itself is still my favorite.

  10. It is such a romantic feature.
    Walking along an allee. In a white dress.

  11. I don't think I can ever have too many Allées of trees! Anytime there is a long driveway with trees flanking it I immediately fall in love with the house behind it. There is just a certain je ne sais quoi about it.

  12. These alees of beautiful trees just draw you in and you do want to see where they lead. The winter scene is especially inviting.

    Art by Karena

  13. St. Charles avenue in New Orleans has this effect... I know just the area you are talking about near Rice, a very special part of Houston indeed

  14. I especially love a smaller allee, with just enough room for a dining table or two.

  15. To me an allee leads to the future, and that is hopeful. Maybe that is why I like them so much. I will try to post a wonderful allee across the street from us in a post in the near future. Your posts never fail to inspire me! You picked a great name for your blog!

  16. I am amazed to see such a beautiful painting. It was nice going through your blog. keep on posting.

  17. Yes, avenues are fantastic. In every season. Great images!



  18. I think in the photo of the Dominique Lafourcade garden, those are Italian Cypress? Is that right? I want to put them on my property line to provide privacy. I call them "green pencil trees."

  19. I grew up in Houston and had friends who lived on North Blvd. A beautiful spot, indeed. I didn't know the term allee but I do love the look. You've posted some beautiful images.

  20. My favorites are the mall at central park - the largest and last remaining stands of American Elm trees in North America and the mall at The Pennsylvania State University - my alma mater. Thanks for the post - great images and memories.

  21. You didn't even need to ask -I love an allee :-) I'm including one in tomorrows post on Fonthill!

  22. These are beautiful images. The Oak Alley Plantation is my favorite.

  23. I do love the impact of well-placed, aged trees.

    You should also check out the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland. http://www.flickriver.com/photos/mrdphotos/4272986226/

    My husband and I visited them on a recent trip. The road, oddly, doesn't lead to anywhere but they are impressive nonetheless.

  24. Like many others who came to gardening with a romantic vision, I lusted for an allee of trees. Of course, reality intervened but I do have six (three on each side) of Yulan Magnolias that lead the path to my garden "temple." Planting magnolias in Kansas can be a bit dicey, but usually these trees prevail. When I ordered them 15 years ago they were so small they came on the UPS truck. Today they are over 25 feet tall adding stature and bit of formality to my garden that still makes my heart happy.

  25. Many of the major thoroughfares in the older neighborhoods of my hometown (Mobile, Alabama) are lined with live oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss. They don't always frame a view to anything except the road ahead, but the canopied effect is wonderful. In this case, it's a practical consideration - it keeps much of the area in shade, which is hugely appreciated in the muggy summer months!

  26. Christina McClellandApril 22, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    Great entry today! Beautiful and educational!

  27. I love walking or driving down old streets of Toronto with their towering Maple trees. They create this beautiful canopy to be enjoyed ever season.

    My all time favorite allee is Cours Mirabeau in Aix en Provence. The trees are enormous, and at the very end of the street is a huge and wonderful fountain, La Rotonde. I used to dream of one day living in Aix, studying art and frequenting it's famous cafes.. When i finally did visit, the entire street was being ripped up and reconstructed. it was completely baorded up, and I can still feel the deep disappointment. I guess it's time to go back.

    A beautiful post today Holly..


  28. Lovely images, which must have taken time and thought to create. Just a note, -- it's Klimt (no "p").
    Sue in RI

  29. I felt inspired! Thanks.

  30. Thank you for the comments, everyone! Seeing this beautiful landscape design feature confirmed something I probably already knew: that I do like some formal order on the landscape. What I love about using trees formally is that the freeform nature of the branches often balances out the formality of the arrangement - a great juxtaposition!

    (Thanks for the note about the correct spelling of Klimt - I corrected it!)

  31. I'm so glad you're sharing what is probably the very best of Houston -- so much more beautiful than I suspect most people would imagine out of my home town! I spent my early childhood on South Blvd. and fondly remember walking down these medians on North and South with my sister and my mom. I don't think I appreciated it though until we moved to suburbia where trees were tiny and the neighborhoods not nearly so grand. A few weeks ago my sister actually had her bridal portraits taken with the allee of oaks on South behind her. The pictures turned out absolutely gorgeous.

  32. I was fascinated by this very concept during my first and every visit since to NYC's Central Park. The Central Park Mall is stunning during all seasons!

    Even in our little neighbourhood in Ottawa there are large trees lining the streets. In the summer it's like a beautiful green canopy!

  33. Love your blog & look forward to each post! My husband & I live in Houston & say if we ever decided to invest in our TRUE dream home it would be on South street the siter to North! I have the most adorable b & w portrait of my girls running hand in hand down this "allee" blonde hair flowing in the wind! As a southern girl it is dreamy!

  34. I live in Southern California and it is hard to find sites like these. Thank you from a East Coast transplant, for the inspiration! You forget how nature really makes you smile.

  35. I couldn't agree with you more, they are beautiful. I really like formal gardens and allée's, there is just something about the organized structure of plants that is really appealing since it's so random naturally.

    The John Howard and the oak allée are two of the best pictures I've seen in a long time. Thank you for sharing!

  36. Van Morrison has a song called "Cypress Avenue." The song stops me every time I hear it and I just imagine myself walking down a lane of Cypress Trees. I think back to all the trips we took to South Carolina when I was a child, and we would rive down thees long stretches of highway where huge trees and Spanish Moss lines the road. There was a feature in veranda about a year ago where there was a picture of a tree-lined path. The picture was so green and warm and wonderful. I wonder if you saw it. Thank you for a wonderful post.


  37. Spectacular allées - The Lafourcarde garden is gorgeous as are all your other selections. Tree lined driveways, what could be prettier? xv

  38. Charlotte, North Carolina is the same way. Completely gorgeous tree-lined streets in the middle of the city. I think I was sold on my house as soon as I turned onto my street.

  39. oh - I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this. I LOVE trees. There is nothing so beautiful. Nothing.
    I visited Oak Alley last fall - there aren't words!! I took a bunch of pictures of the trees (http://sfair.blogspot.com/2009/10/oak-alley-and-st-james-plantations.html) - I'm not the world's best photographer, but it was amazing to see these beauties up close. There are beautiful ferns that actually grow up into the branches too. Can't wait to go back someday!
    -Sanity Fair

  40. Such a visual treat! Without a doubt, add an allee to your landscape plan if at all possible. It adds such great structure and order to the garden. The plantings will naturally add the curves to beautifully counter balance it all. Lovely!

  41. A design blogger (that I read, even) that went to Rice? Very cool! I've walked these streets, and lived in garage apartments very near here, too. Thanks for the memory!

    Sara '97

  42. Love the pictures... stunning! What a nice treat!


  43. Yeah for Houston Rice Village! How fun to live in one of those homes during college. I went to Vienna this week with my German class and my favorite part was the Ringstrasse which was an alleé of trees! Have you ever been? Beauty.

  44. Although you say that an Allee is a french concept, it's origins can be found in the Low Countries (nowadays Flanders and the Netherlands)
    where is was/is calls "dreef" or "drift".
    It was also a good manner visualy give character for roads trough forested area's

    It was an with trees alligned road from the center of a village towards the fields where cattle were droven ("drift") to the fields.

    the "dreven" were sometimes alligned on top of the dikes who protected reclaimed land ("polders") from the sea.

    the concept has spreaded over europe when the first (with exeption of the roman roads) intercity roads were constructed in the 16th century. It's style fitted well the french formal architecture and garden design who was very influentual later on.

  45. Great shots of this landscape element.
    Its great to have some clients that can do this on a large scale. Recently I completed a [what we call in NZ] Lifestyle Farm with over 100 Platanus acerifolia (London Plane) lining a 500m curving driveway. Currently designing a shorter version for another client (about 100m), but will utilise other species, as the soil is better, so I have a greater choice this time.
    Interesting reference Jethro, it seems that since the first Persian gardens humans had a desire to formalise and create axial patterns in attempt to shut out the "wild and chaotic nature".

  46. Does anyone know the location of the 5th picture from the top is??? I want to get married in a setting like this during this coming fall and I would really love to know where it is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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