Alley, avenue, allée – different name, same thing? In relation to garden design the terms in essence refer to long walks or drives bordered by rows of evenly spaced trees or by hedges. Break things down further, however, and avenues usually imply a wider spacing between the rows than an alley. The story about allées (my preferred term) began in Italy with the Renaissance.
Italian gardeners during the Renaissance were the first to use long avenues of trees as a method for unifying the garden and adjoining buildings. In times when gardens were getting larger they were useful in adding perspective. There was always a definitive ending, where in the distance either architecture and/or sculpture featured. And naturally, the grandeur created by this design was not lost on anyone.
It was the Italian born queen Marie de Médicis who brought allées to France. Although it was not to be until the reign of Louis XIV that they reached their height of splendor at Versaille. As everything there had to be larger than anywhere else allées were made 15m wide and nearly 1km long. They crisscrossed the vast gardens in every directions and occasionally interspersed with fountains. At Versaille not only one row of trees sufficed – elms, oaks and lime trees where often found side by side. Great garden architect Le Nôtre knew how to please his king.
The Dutch also adopted the French style, but had to use hedges in favour of trees due the shallow soil of the Low Countries. In England allées arrived during the Tudor era. They were initially small and intimate but with time, in Royal circles, acquired the same scale seen in France. In the 18th century many were destroyed as the popularity of the landscape garden design style increased. By the Victorian era, however, allées were back in fashion.
In my view allées are fabulously impressive. It takes vision to plant them, it will take decades and decades before the full effect is realised. I would think twice, at least, before destroying them!