While you are recording the particular characteristics of your garden, spend some time to develop your garden style. In my opinion, the most important consideration is what do YOU like? A controversial position, I know. But, seriously; how much pleasure will you find in a garden that dDunbarton Oaks, DCoesn’t please you, no matter how stylish it is? So, do you prefer a formal or informal style? Formal style is structured, symmetrical and geometric. Typified by grand allées and classic French parterres, they frequently showcase clipped evergreen hedges great or small. They complement houses with solid, symmetrical architecture and appeal to gardeners with a strong sense of order. image Informal gardens are inspired by nature; asymmetrical, soft and curvilinear, they are more relaxed. Plants flow into one another and spread into pathways. Grasses are popular and garden art tends to be whimsical. They appeal to plant collectors and flower arrangers. Are you dazzled by a color riot or do you seek serenity in your garden? You may enjoy the excitement and energy of a imagegarden full of colors and bloom. There is a wonderful book, The Bold and Brilliant Garden, which demonstrates this point of view quite beautifully. Perhaps you have quite enough excitement in your life, thank you. What you want is a sanctuary of serenity. Vita Sackville-West’s famously monochromatic gardens at Sissinghurst epitomize the peacefulness of this approach. Are you drawn to Japanese gardens with their symbolism and structure? Each Japanese garden represents a natural scene in miniature including sand, rocks, plants, water and islands. They are like three dimensional representations of larger vistas.image Wildlife sanctuaries utilize the natural topography and native plants of the region to create habitat for local fauna. Provide water and structure for cover, use environmentally friendly techniques and your garden can be a Certified Wildlife Habitat site. These gardens tend to be low maintenance as well. These are just a few style options. Of course, rigid adherence to one style is not necessary. Consider them more of a continuum and find your preference in a composite of what appeals to you. The best way to explore different garden styles is to research. Read voraciously-your local library is the best resource imaginable. The internet has an astounding array of information and images available. Even more fun, seek out and visit gardens, public and private. Check out thiPhoto0040s website for a list of gardens you can visit in your area. Spend some summer weekends taking in the garden tours that are hosted by garden clubs or your local Master Gardener program. Look for nurseries that have great demonstration beds. Ask lots of questions. During your research take photos, collect articles from magazines or websites. Store your growing materials in a notebook or on your computer. As your style comes into focus, plan your garden accordingly. Let your style change and adapt over time and never stop learning. Don’t let anyone force their opinion of design upon you. One definition of style is “a distinctive manner of expression.” Express yourself!


  1. I once tried to convince someone that, because the apartment building was rectangular & symmetrical that the garden style needed to be formal and symmetrical. haha, the apartment manager wanted to have an informal garden! I thought, well, good for him to keep his style! 🙂 The garden really has to fit the gardener's personality and maintenance abilities. So true! I also live at the library, and hunt out the new books, and re-read my favorites. 🙂

  2. Exactly! Principles of design are guidelines to help create an effective plan. They are "safe" and proven but, as you said, sometimes preference or practicality can favor a different choice. Your garden should not be a burden but a delight!

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