Gardens with Style
a garden style is a little like getting dressed. You might choose a
"tie and jacket" look for your garden, using formal, symmetrical
plantings, sheared hedges, and rows of flowering plants. Or you might
be more of a "blue jeans" gardener, opting for an informal
layout with rambling plantings. Or maybe you are somewhere in between.
like your closet, which may contain formal wear and sweatshirts, and
everything in between, you may choose a blend of styles for your gardens.
For example, you
might like a more formal look for the foundation plantings around your
house, where shearing keeps hedges and shrubs inbounds, well-behaved
perennials are carefully mulched, and annuals are planted in a symmetrical
beds--those surrounded by a sea of lawn--might be a little less formal
and consist of shrubs and perennials allowed to grow more naturally, with
perhaps some annuals tucked into the spaces to add season-long color.
Edging and mulching keep the bed looking tidy.
Finally, the gardens
on the borders of your property might be on the wild side. Here, rambling
shrubs, self-sowing wildflowers, and spreading ground covers might predominate.
You may not bother with mulching or adding annuals, since this type
of garden has a natural beauty all its own.
shrubs, self-sowing wildflowers, and spreading ground covers work
well in property borders.
'Goldsturm' Black-Eyed Susan
the more formal the garden, the more regular maintenance it requires.
(Note, however, that all perennial gardens will require some maintenance.)
the size of your perennial bed in relation to its surroundings. For
example, a tiny island bed in the middle of a huge lawn may look a
little lonely and lost. If you are new to gardening, small plantings
near the house are often a good place to begin. Design the beds so
that you will be able to enlarge them in subsequent years, rather
than overdoing it the first year.
consider the size of the plants in relation to the size of the
bed. Overly large plants in a small bed can look awkward and out of
proportion. On the other hand, a few well-chosen and well-placed large
plants can liven up a bed. Similarly, small-leaved, tiny-flowered perennials
can get lost in a huge bed. But these, too, have their place and can
be used to unify a diverse planting.
Japanese Silver Grass can grow
to 7 feet tall.
'Burgundy Glow' ajuga grows
just 6 to 8 inches tall.
Generally, straight lines in a garden give it a more formal feel.
You may have walked through formal gardens where each square or triangular
bed contained a different herb, for example. If you want a formal garden,
you might want to get out the tape measure and square the corners, or
use a string and two stakes to create rows. Semicircular gardens can also
appear quite formal, and the more symmetrical the plantings, the more
formal the appearance.
lines, geometrical patterns, and symmetry create a formal appearance.
of the risks of a formal design is that if one plant in a row dies,
or one plant in a symmetrical design falters, the whole design is thrown
off. In an informal planting, the loss of a plant or two is usually
For a more informal
look, avoid straight lines. Instead, create an outline using gentle
curves. Following the contours of the land will help give it a natural
feel. Try using a garden hose, or sprinkle limestone, to outline the
shape of a new bed. Even if you are creating a new island bed in a flat
lawn, where there are no slopes to define the area, you can create an
informal, curved outline. If you are hesitant to dig up an irregular,
amoeba-shaped hole in your lawn, start with a crescent- or kidney-shaped
about where youll be spending your time observing your garden.
Will you have a bench, or even a breakfast table, in its midst? Will
your hammock be next to the garden? Or will you be enjoying your garden
primarily from a distance?
mentioned earlier that bright colors are often best for gardens that
will be viewed from afar. Blues, violets, and pastel colors often get
lost at a distance, especially in bright sunshine. Save these colors
for beds youll enjoy from a closer vantage point.
Bold textures also
hold up better for distant viewing. Plants with large flowers (or lots
of small flowers) and heavy foliage will draw attention, while dainty
plants with tiny flowers and delicate foliage may get overlooked. Save
these for places where theyll get the attention they deserve.
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