The Path to Enlightenment
Gentile Allées inspire travelers to slow down and savor the journey.
The French are widely known to have given us countless great poets and painters. However, they have also given us a living art that, while slightly less recognized, is no less beautiful or craftily structured than a line of poetry. With its bold simplicity and inspiring clarity the allée is a landscaping technique where a row of trees or large shrubs lining of the same species line a street, pathway, or driveway, focusing the eye on a central point such as a house, park, or architectural feature.
"Allées were originally military parade grounds meant for riding horses, to guide them down a straight path," says Henry Hughes, Director of Education at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. However, he adds, "When I think of the allée I also think of southern plantations."
An allée lends an undeniable amount of sophistication and charm to any home and certainly the old manors that still prevail in parts of Alabama. There is nothing more southern, or relaxing, than driving along a lush foliage-covered road, anticipating the extravagant house that lazily transforms from a colored speck into a marvelous home. Although the allée is a formal landscaping concept, it readily lends itself to a certain romance and creates a calming effect with its rhythmic pacing.
In his book Trees in Urban Design, Henry Arnold explains, "An urban sidewalk without trees is like a building without a roof." Henry believes that the allée gives order to a city and completes the architecture surrounding it. He says, "They make the walls and ceilings of outdoor rooms and are used to connect and extend the geometry, rhythms, and scale of buildings into the landscape."
Both in the city and at home, careful planting of trees has many advantages. Allées improve air quality, increase property value, and offer noise control. But beyond the utilitarian benefits, the allée serves as a gracious greeting to all who travel beneath its arching branches.
Tip Box: Benefits of an allée
"Their peaceful beauty and psychological benefits provide us with the most poetic of building materials." -Arnold
climate, air quality, noise control
Economic benefits: property value
Tip Box: True allée
Trees should be…
Spaced no more than 20 feet apart center to center
Of the same species
Lining a street, path, or driveway
Suited for place (climate, soil, and available space)
Trees should not be…
In raised planters
Trees not siutable: