Elements Of Style

from Garden, Deck & Landscape
Whether you’re choosing a flower garden design or trying a landscaping idea, the right garden accessories and plants can set the mood you’re trying to achieve.

The right details furnish your garden with a welcome style. Which style is yours?

Landscape design trends come and go, but certain century-old garden styles continue to maintain their appeal.

Each style — Asian, cottage, formal, and others — possesses its own characteristic details such as particular plants, water features, and hardscape materials. Many features are so strongly identified with a style that they immediately evoke the appropriate mood.

Choosing a garden style that works for you is a matter of taste. You can design your entire garden according to a specific style, but sometimes just a few carefully placed details evoke a style.

Look through our primer on three enduring and cherished garden styles, then incorporate style elements into your garden for the look you want.

The controlled naturalism of Asian gardens embodies nature’s grandeur and spirituality. Asian gardens simplify natural forms like mountains, lakes, and forests.

Asian
In the Asian tradition, landscape contemplation — in the wild, in a garden, or in a scroll painting — serves as a spiritual experience. The Chinese and Japanese traditionally held sacred the space within a garden and considered the world outside profane.

Lake- and island-style gardens, developed in China, influenced Japanese garden design. Islands symbolized the dwellings of immortal spirits and consisted of carefully placed earth mounds or jagged rocks set in an artificial pond. Zen monks abstracted this concept into a flat rectangle of fine raked gravel from which carefully chosen rocks emerged. The stones represented islands or mountains; the raked gravel stood for the water currents around the islands.

Some Japanese gardens offer a rustic landscape and contain wet or dry streams and waterfalls, surrounded by ferns, moss, and clipped, gnarled pines.



Cottage
gardens express joy and passion for individual plants. They originated centuries ago as humble, fenced-in plots of land kept by cottagers who treasured wild-collected flora for its usefulness. Livestock and vegetables, berry bushes, fragrant flowers, and herbs for crafts, cooking, and medicine packed the enclosures.

In the 19th century, cottage gardens assumed a more romantic aspect. Inspired by paintings that idealized cottage life, gardeners filled dooryards, window boxes, and borders with old-fashioned flowers, bulbs, herbs, roses, and apple trees.

The informality of cottage gardens lends them an exuberance lacking in most planting schemes, yet the gardens are neither random nor sloppy when the overall design is carefully
structured.

Formal
A formal garden looks best near a traditional-style house so the garden echoes and embellishes the home’s architecture. Formal gardens are symmetrical, featuring a main axis and sometimes several lesser axes branching off the principal one. The main axis often leads from a specific location near the house (the front door, a central balcony, or a stone
terrace) to a distant focal point such as a bench, pavilion, sculpture, or urn. By continuing the geometry of the house outdoors, a formal layout creates a transition to a wild or informal landscape at the property’s edge.

Whereas a love of plants or nature inspires cottage and Asian gardens, formal designs express the humanistic ideal of people as the center of the universe. At the Château of Versailles in France, the gardens’ grand scale and precise geometry were designed to glorify the power of the 17th-century Sun King, Louis XIV. For most homeowners, however, a more modest formal layout works well.




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