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 pattern.
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
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.
speaking, 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
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.
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
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 less noticeable.
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 bed.
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.
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.