Choosing a garden style that complements you
Story and Photography by Susan Albert
Adding to an existing landscape or starting from scratch can be an overwhelming proposition. But it doesn’t have to be. By designing around a garden theme based on the homeowner’s personal style or ecological view, the task suddenly takes on new meaning and direction. The chosen style ultimately determines what plant material to use.
In the photo examples included, styles run the gamut from formal with clean lines to wild and windswept, all showcasing the homeowners’ individual charm.
To create a formal feeling in a garden, consider simplicity in design and plant material. Formal gardens generally draw the eye through linear rows of trimmed hedges and limbed-up trees. Boxwood (Buxus spp.), a dense, slow growing evergreen, is often the hedge of choice. Lots of lush, green foliage and repetition in flowering plants, which are usually white, add to the simplicity. Walkways should continue the clean lines with material such as concrete, stone, brick, or pavers.
Cottage garden is the perfect style to showcase a homeowner’s personality. This style invites whimsy, unique combinations of color and texture and a romantic, relaxed feel. Curved pathways add to the informal look. Choose sturdy favorites that require little care, such as purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Coreopsis, tall zinnia (Z. elegans), hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), and garden phlox (P. paniculata).
Pollinator gardens continue to increase in popularity. These provide nectar and host plants for butterflies and moths plus nectar and pollen-rich plants for bees. Gardens generally contain several varieties of milkweed (Asclepias spp.) for monarchs, fennel or parsley for black swallowtail butterflies, and other host plants. Nectar plants include Gaillardia, Lantana, Pentas, Liatris, and butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii).
Wildlife habitat gardens incorporate not only native plants to attract wildlife, but also water features, birdbaths, feeding stations, and perhaps even a working beehive. Pathways are informal and often are of natural materials and the requisite compost pile is in full view. Choose native plants that provide seeds or fruit for food and dense foliage for cover and nesting. Perennial gardens showcase favorite perennial plants, sometimes in masses. Choose long-blooming perennials for the greatest impact such as candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), Coreopsis (C. verticillata ‘Moonbeam’), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera), and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).
Quiet reflection or sanctuary gardens provide a place where the homeowner can relax, meditate, and ponder the view. Typically, the focal point is inspirational scenery or a natural area already on the property with comfortable seating from which to enjoy it.
The traditional style exhibits well-defined gardens and green space with a variety of plant material, hardscape, and architectural elements.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match styles or create your own!