Formal gardens are orderly, often with symmetry in their design and a highly manicured appearance. The pathways and garden beds are frequently arranged on either side of a central pathway in regular shapes. Each side of the path is a mirror image of the other side. Formal landscape design heavily depends on straight lines and geometrical shapes. The plantings are orderly and pruned neatly pruned to maintain their formal effect. The Georgian garden would reflect this style and would easily fall under this category.
Informal gardens are not symmetrical, they can be more natural in appearance and an untidy appearance often does not look out of order. Informal landscape design is the exact opposite of the formal style. A more relaxed feel is achieved by using curved lines and irregular shapes. The plantings are massed in a more informal manner creating a naturalistic appearance.
Formality in a garden is not a black and white thing though. There are an unlimited range of compromises between the very formal and totally informal garden.
Curves or Straight lines
Straight edges to garden beds or pathways will create a more formal affect while curved edges create a more informal and relaxed feeling.
“How we deal with spatial concepts determines the style of a garden, as well as the strong psychological effect they will have on our feelings and behavior. We are attracted to those spaces that we feel are suited to our use. In garden history, the French preferred to have monumental spatial corridors radiating out from their grand chateaus. Formal geometric space with strong vertical accents and still water reflecting the sky and leading the eye upward was often the skeleton holding the garden together. Man (in the guise of the King) was in control, with natural spaces made monumental in scale so that those experiencing the space would be in awe. Renaissance architects knew this when they built the great cathedrals of Europe. Italians were masters of sculpting exciting, more intimate garden spaces with plant forms that flowed directly out of the boxy villas. These spaces were often connected at various levels with broad stairs, accented with pergolas and statuary, and stitched together with the common thread of moving water. The English garden space is also broken up into more intimate garden rooms, romantic and human in scale, while the Japanese often manipulate space and scale to create an idealized miniaturization of the natural world.” Linda Engstrom, FAPLD [i]
The roots of Tuscan landscaping came from the region of Tuscany located in southern Italy. This style creates an Old World ambiance reminiscent of the Italian countryside. The use of stone, old brick, wrought iron, heavy wooden beams and authentic Tuscan plants are typical of this style.
An increasingly popular trend in Mediterranean regions is the creation of ecological Italian gardens. These gardens are designed with nature as opposed to the more classical “Palazzo” landscape design style which has its roots in the Italian Renaissance period.
There are many styles that fit neatly under this regional heading. Given its name partly from the climate, the Mediterranean landscape design style includes Tuscan, Andalusia, Santa Barbara Revival, Moroccan and French Country styles.
English Garden Style:
English garden design often is a blend of formal and informal styles. The cottage garden and country garden are similar examples of this casual style. The practice of mass layering using country garden plants confined within low hedge borders is a very common in this romantic garden style.
A well designed tropical garden can be very beautiful. They are typically made up of plants with very large leaves and flowers with intense color. Lush foliage builds in height towards the back of the garden creating a dense planting area.
This Asian style of garden design tries to mimic nature on a small scale. The informality of nature plays a dominate role here. Oriental gardens often incorporate the art of Feng Shui with its nine zones that helps to instill a sense of peace and balance to one’s life.
Modern landscape design has been quickly gaining ground in popularity. Clean lines, bold patterns and new use of materials all play a part is this fresh style. Mass planting in large groups and the use of abstract specimens are common practice.
This landscape design style can be so beautiful and full of life. And the popular Southwest style is no exception but these designs require proper planning to ensure their success. The use of drought tolerant and native plants is highly recommended.
This form of design incorporates the practice of water conservation and is sometimes called “Natural style”. Natural woodlands are a good example of this style. Xeriscape is commonly used in many coastal gardens and urban landscape projects
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[i] Linda Engstrom, http://www.gardenaesthetics.com/index.html