Gardening 101: Garden Styles – Formal & Informal

Today’s focus is to determine which garden style you like more – formal or informal.

I imagine your next question might be, “What does a formal or an informal garden look like?” Well, there are a number of design elements that make a landscaped area look a particular way. Here are a few to consider.

  • Formal gardens tend to have:
    • A manicured look.
      • The gardens have pruned or trimmed shrubs and/or hedges.
      • Plants are planted symmetrically and equidistance.
    • Lots of exposed ground cover, like mulch or aggregate stone.
    • Traditional garden ornaments.
      • If the garden has ornaments, it’s likely you’ll see statues, pillars, large ornamental planters, fancy bird baths, or some large piece of art sitting in the garden.
  • Informal gardens tend to have:
    • Plants more relaxed in appearance, greater in number, and “bunched” together.
    • Less exposed ground cover.
    • Nature-like ornaments.
      • If the garden has ornaments, you’ll probably see things like bird houses, bird feeders, an old wooden flower barrel, wind chimes, simple bird baths, contemporary small planters, or some rustic items.

Now that you know how to recognize these garden styles, the next question to answer is, which one do YOU like? When you’re driving around in neighborhoods, or paging through a Better Homes and Gardens magazine, which of these two styles do you find yourself gravitating to most often? Which one causes your glance to become a gaze – a stare of awe? If you’re not completely confident in your answer, take some time and take notice of landscapes in your daily chores and driving. You can also Google “landscape” or “gardens”, and then click “images”. I believe one of these two styles will appeal to you.

Once you’ve answered that question, you’ll be ready for our next step-by-step installment post.

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2 comments to Gardening 101: Garden Styles – Formal & Informal

  • Hmmm, what a thought-provoking question — I’ve never considered which garden style I prefer! I think the style that I consider jaw-dropping and stunningly gorgeous is the formal style, because I appreciate manicured lawns and shrubs, clear contrasts between plants and ground cover, and symmetry. However, for my own space, I definitely prefer the informal style, because, besides the fact that I don’t have time to maintain a formal design, my garden is a place where I can be more relaxed and imperfect and appreciate the beauty in a little disorder. Looking forward to the upcoming posts on this topic…!

    • Holly

      Thanks! Even though you’ve never considered which garden style you prefer, now that you’ve given it some thought, you clearly have a handle on what you like and why. It’s also great that you can see the beauty in both styles. My preference is an informal garden, but I always struggle in creating that style. I “accidentally” start creating too much symmetry and perfect lines, etc. It’s a learning process for sure.

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