What's Your Garden Design Style?
2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited
A graceful turret in the corner of garden wall supplies a shady spot to relax and take in the bountiful blooms in this English cottage garden.
Everyone has an individual garden design style. It influences the way we present ourselves to the world, and affects the clothes we buy, the makeup we choose, the car we drive, and how we decorate our homes. Our choices say something about us, who we are and what we aspire to be. The same is true of our outdoor space. Our style of garden reflects what we enjoy, and, if it is to the front of the house, it also gives a first impression to the outside world. But style is not just about decoration. It should be followed through with good design, and not just hint at your preferences, but present them in a clear, concise way.
Many garden styles we recognize today have evolved over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. They are often grand ideas that have been diluted and absorbed into smaller gardens, with various degrees of success. The best designs show a real understanding of another time and place, capturing the essence of a style, rather than creating a pastiche.
So, developing some knowledge about your chosen style is a starting point. It’s also important to consider whether it’s right for your yard; good design often means tailoring a style to suit what you have. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be quirky and amusing. There’s no reason why you can’t create your very own version of Versailles around your three-bedroom suburban castle. Style is just about doing something well.
To choose a style that’s right for you and your yard, collect ideas from garden visits, magazines, and television shows, and jot down those that appeal to you. You could also look at different national styles—Japanese, Italian, French, and so on—and styles you like in other areas of life, and see if you can create a garden version of these.
On a more general level, ask yourself whether you want a formal look—a stately, refined garden based on symmetrical patterns and order, with straight lines controlling the yard—or an informal design, which revolves around curved shapes and relaxed lines that lead you through the garden. Examples of these styles are everywhere. Your task as designer of your yard is to look at as many ideas as possible and consider how they might suit you. Even if you see a style that you don’t like, try to work out what it is about the garden that doesn’t appeal to you, because this gives you knowledge of what will work for you.