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
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.