Defining Your Garden Style
Updated: Mar 9
There are many different garden styles out there. Do you know what your garden style is?
If you prefer a more modern style home with clean, crisp lines, a simple color palette along with the use of materials that can include metal, glass, and steel, then you may prefer a formal garden. Alternatively, if you prefer a look that's more cozy with a rich, varied living space, you may prefer more of a cottage style garden. Some of it may be influenced by where you live. Our clients that live in New York City and come to the shoreline for the weekend, or the summer seem to prefer a bit more chaos in the garden.
To determine your garden style, you can start with the fist element of any landscape, and that's Garden Structure. Garden structure relates to the general layout and organization of the landscape. It's about arranging the space in a manner that feels right and gives visual pleasure. It's balancing the clear, open spaces and protective screenings, or general borders. Your preference may be highly symmetrical, or more organic, informal and flowing.
The Formal Landscape
A formal landscape is highly structured and provides a sense of order. If designed and
maintained well, it can be a place of deep beauty. Something very relaxing and satisfying about everything being in it's place and under control. Deep rich greens blending harmoniously with one another. Strictly clipped hedges, strong definition of lines between beds, lawn, and paved areas. Strategic positioning of ornamental features are also characteristic of highly structured, formal landscape design. The grand gardens of Renaissance France or Italy are classic examples of formal gardens designed to impress. They are always perfectly neat and tidy. This is often accomplished today in smaller scale. Tall, immaculately pruned hedges with clean lines often provide screening, while rich manicured lawns are crisply defined from beds and paved areas.
The Informal Garden
There seems to be varying thoughts on what an informal garden is. Is it cottage style?
Is it an English Garden? Both are true. An informal garden is one with rich, flowing lines. Loaded with color and texture, it exudes a charm quite unlike anything else. Almost a carefree sense of being. Informal gardens are not neglected, they too need care. Beds are neatly tended with a crisp, clean edge and weed-free. Informal gardens tend to be fuller, with less rigid structure than their formal counter parts. Flowers sway playfully in the passing breeze while fragrance wafts through the air. The richness of an informal landscape is carefully contrived to be a beautiful, tranquil space with a natural, relaxed feel. Flowers can have a mind of their own and will happily set seed and root in places that they are not designed to be. These gardens are also carefully tended so that things don't get too random and end up looking like neglect. Informal gardens tend to be awash with color and encompass a greater variety of plants than a formal garden. From the best spring blooming flowers to the last leaf drop in fall, the informal garden has something for every season. To me an informal garden seems to beckon almost playfully, encouraging you to spend time in it. Perennial beds laden with rich texture can curve graciously along a foundation or steal the show in an island bed.
With today's modern garden, rigidity is gone.
When planning your garden, you don't have to have just one style. You can incorporate elements from both to give your landscape just the right feel for you. A landscape or garden is a very personal thing. Unless it's a public space, the whole idea is for you to derive enjoyment out of your landscape. Quite frequently we'll soften formal hedges with colorful beds of perennials. Place formal garden structures such as an armillary within an informal bed. Not everybody's garden style fits neatly into a box, and that's ok. Your landscape style can be as unique as you. Go ahead and combine the elements that speak to you. No matter your garden style, select plants for your landscape that are suited to your growing conditions and what you are looking to achieve with your landscape.