From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A parterre is a formal garden construction on a level surface consisting of planting beds, edged in stone or tightly clipped hedging, and gravel paths arranged to form a pleasing, usually symmetrical pattern. Parterres need not have any flowers at all. French parterres originated in 15th-century Gardens of the French Renaissance, such as the Chateau of Versailles, and were elaborated out of 16th-century Baroque Garden à la française knot gardens, and reached a climax at the and its many European imitators, such as Kensington Palace (illustration, right).
The word parterre comes from French, "on the ground" where it is used in the same sense but also has several other meanings, for example, that part of the auditorium of a theatre that may also be called in English "orchestra seats" or the "stalls".