The formal garden style originated in France around the 16 th century. These gardens are characterized by repeating patterns or elements within a space. The design relies on geometric lines that creates graceful shapes, carving vistas and pathways along the way. These gardens are very well balanced and highly structured.
Formal gardens tend to arrange plants in axial symmetry or graceful curvy lines creating strong visuals. The use of evergreen plants makes them very monochromatic in essence, using accent colors only within the areas shaped by these symmetrical planting patterns.
A focal point is a very important element in formal gardens and should be curated carefully. Samples of focal points can be fountains or reflecting pools, gloriettes, sculptures, statuaries, garden ornaments like urns, bird baths, armillary spheres, sundials, etc.
The most common plants used in this style are boxwoods, hollies, arborvitaes to create geometric shapes or green walls. Common elements in formal gardens also include open lawn areas, pleached trees and stone gravel when creating pathways. White flowering plants are traditional used in formal garden but not a must.
While formal gardens show significant human manipulation by controlling forms and color; the English garden shows the opposite… NO SYMMETRY. English style gardens are a loose, free-flowing explosion of color, textures and heights that is designed to look wild; mimicking a natural setting that just happened to grow that way.
This type of gardens originated in England around the 18 th century. Out of necessity, peasants utilized the space around their home to cultivate vegetable, plants with medical purpose, and gave some interest by incorporating colorful plants in between. It was a survival concept; every square inch had a purpose. This is why they look crammed but are in fact, highly organized and planned.
These gardens are fun but require a lot of maintenance and green thumb skills. Common elements in English gardens include bursts of color, height and texture. Fences to divide spaces and support vines, no defined edges and remember lots of plants randomly placed.
Other people call this style Zen gardens because they are meant for contemplation. This garden style originated in Japan at the same time Zen Buddhism started to become more popular around 1300 AC.
Japanese gardens tend to be minimalist, monochromatic and well-trimmed. Not straight lines like in Formal gardens, but rather round or smoothly in and out shapes. Since the purpose of creating this garden style is for contemplation, relaxation and meditation, every element brought into the design has to be in alignment with this philosophy. These gardens are meant to connect visually but not physically. Japanese gardens calm your senses.
Like English gardens, they are meant to be around your home. This garden style wants to replicate the mountains and rivers seeing in the beautiful natural landscapes in Asia but at a small, intimate scale. Every element brought to Japanese gardens has a meaning. These elements have to be well curated and carefully placed. Boulders represent mountains, raked white sands represent rivers and waves from the ocean, bridges mean connection between the earthly world and the spiritual earth, islands symbolize of longevity and health, water basins are used for ritual cleansing and the round trimmed bushes provide smoothness and calm to your senses. Sound is
something not to forget when planning these gardens. You can achieve this by incorporating soft running water or planting bamboo (its leaves produce a soft, crackling sound when wind passes by). Water also represents life-giving force.
Other garden elements to consider are stone lanterns, color red (denotes strength, strong emotions, vitality, power). Plants mostly used in Japanese gardens are cherry trees, Japanese maples, pines, Yaupon hollies, bamboo, azaleas, camelias, hydrangeas, water lilies, mosses among others.
Minimalist gardens rely on strong architectural elements and hardscapes to bring the beauty of an outdoor space without demanding lush, heavy plantings and, hence reducing maintenance.
The concept is to bring what you expect of a traditional garden… color, texture, balance, harmony, comfort, etc., into an outdoor space that still stimulates your senses but rely on fewer elements to create beauty. Repetition is the key word when planning minimalist gardens.
Common elements used in a minimalist garden include plants with strong architectural features, hardscape structures, straight or graceful curve lines, gravels, water and strong focal point like a modern, powerful artwork piece or sculpture.
Modern gardens are all about bringing the inside of the house to the outdoors. Apply the same design process when you are planning the rooms inside your home and translate them into your outdoor garden. Think about breaking up the outdoor space into rooms and the specific use of them. Plan these rooms to fit your lifestyle. In modern gardens you can borrow ideas from the garden styles described above and give them your personal style with a twist of modern aesthetic. Think about how the transition from indoor to outdoor flows… It should to be seamless.
Think about the rooms and your actual lifestyle. Do you like to entertain? Do you have kids, pets? Do you like to barbecue? How about planning for reading, meditating or just relaxing? Is it shade important to have?
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