There are so many ways that you can create a garden. ultimately it comes down to personal preference. There are a few basic garden styles that you can follow. Make sure when you choose a style that you consider the architecture of your home. A formal garden will not necessarily be the best choice for a cottage style home. Also, consider the color of the items in your yard, the fence, any outbuildings. The color of your home and it's trim are also important factors. There are five general garden styles.
The formal garden has a long history. French or Italianate gardens feature strong symmetry. Asian or Islamic gardens have strong geometric patterns. A formal design will have strong defined lines and edges. Paving and paths are central and will lead the eye to some kind of specimen plant or other garden element, such as a statue.
Hedges and shrubs are prevalent. They should be trimmed into symmetrical shapes such as pyramids, balls and boxes. Formal gardens are frequently monochromatic in color. Often they will be one single color, like white.
Asian gardens are meant to reflect the serenity of the natural world. The dominant color is green, with colorful foliage used sparingly. Shapes are tailored and controlled, and stone and water are frequently used elements. These gardens work well with Asian-inspired and contemporary architecture and in natural settings; they are also a popular choice for small urban gardens.
The goal of the informal garden is to soften the boundaries between the home and the garden. An informal garden will have winding paths, and mounded groups of plants. The casual garden will include more potted plants and beds with mixed flowers. Large shrubs should be used as a backdrop for plants. The casual garden should have a relaxed and inviting feeling.
Contemporary gardens use shapes that include circles, ovals and triangles. Geometric beds can be used, but the plantings should appear to have a bit of organized chaos. Often architectural features of a home, (I.E. oval windows), will be copied into the garden. House trim color is also copied with the flower color.
Also present are living walls covered with climbing vines, container groupings that mirror bed shapes, and newly introduced plants. The contemporary garden is also a great place for espalier's and topiary's. The topiary's should be trimmed into free-form triangles and ball shapes. Of most importance is that this style remain fluid. A contemporary garden is a "blend of traditional style with modern design principles." (Flower Gardening; Julie Bawden-Davis; 2004)
The ultimate goal for a natural garden is to replicate nature. Major features include groupings of odd numbered plants, plantings in layers and levels, and native flowering plants. A natural garden should also include plants that attract wildlife, like birds and bee's. Keep in mind when creating a natural garden that room should be left for a compost pile or bin. A natural garden should also be free of harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
The combination style of gardening is perhaps the most difficult to do successfully. This type of garden requires experience. A successful combination garden will have many aspects of different styles woven together. The best way to approach this design is either to plan it right from the start, or experiment as you go. Begin by choosing one of the classic styles that works for you. Transition this style slowly into a combination garden.
The above garden styles will add flair to your garden. By choosing a style that you enjoy you will add cohesion to your garden, inviting people in to experience it's pleasures.
Cottage gardens may have had their start as the practical mix of vegetables, fruits, and herbs, but they've since evolved into a riotous combination of flowering perennials, shrubs, and trees.
Perhaps the most dominant feature of a cottage garden is its lack of structure. Plants don't seem to have been set in place with any precise plan, and they often spill out into other areas of the garden.
Although this style is traditionally paired with a "cottage" style of architecture, it is surprisingly adaptable. For more traditional homes, confine the plants to garden beds and surround them with more-formal features, such as lawns or hardscape.
To compliment contemporary architecture, choose plants with strong structures and add ornamental grasses for softness.
Gardens in the Southwest have a unique style that reflects the native landscape as well as Indian and Spanish cultural influences. Strong colors for both plants and decorative features are designed to hold their own against the intense natural sunlight, and courtyards and water features are prevalent.
Perhaps nothing is so personal as the eclectic garden. This garden mixes a range of styles, with strong focal points but no one predominant point of view. What ties an eclectic garden together is an underlying theme, such as a color, a plant, or a collection.
A close relative is the fantasy garden, designed to replicate a specific place, whether it's a Hawaiian paradise or a woodsy campsite. These gardens can work with any architectural style, but beware of overdoing. Too much of a good thing in these gardens can turn a quirky individualistic garden into disorganized chaos.
Based on the gardens of Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the southern coast of France, the Mediterranean garden features fragrant plants, terra-cotta pots, stone and tile accents, and an emphasis on outdoor living, all in a judicious mix of formality and informality. It is an especially good choice for a waterwise garden and blends well with Italian- and Spanish-style architecture.
Native or Natural
Whether it's called native or natural, this garden is designed to reflect the natural landscape that surrounds it. It's a habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies and a great choice for families with children. Because it blends in with the surrounding countryside, it looks at home in any situation. For best effect, though, keep the formal areas close to the house and let the further reaches have a softer, more natural look. One bonus: Because these gardens feature native plants, upkeep is generally easy.
Tropical gardens have come into their own in the past decade. While true tropical will only thrive in the mildest climates, subtropicals can be surprisingly hearty in moderate climates.
Cold-climate gardeners who are willing to take on the task of overwintering plants, or starting anew every spring, can also enjoy this style of garden during the summer.
Lush, large foliage and standout colors are key components of a tropical garden, and there are few, if any, bare spots between plants.
A surprisingly large range of architectural styles, from contemporary to Mediterranean to Asian, shows off these plants to best advantage, but if you love the style but don't think it works well with your home, consider creating a small tropical "scene" with containers or around a pool.