By Ashleigh Smith, True Leaf Market
Photographs courtesy of True Leaf Market
Gardening is more than just putting plants in the ground and watching them grow. It’s an art form. Consider plants the paint on your canvas. With each selection made, you are creating a larger, more cohesive picture that tells a story or fosters a particular feeling in the garden. This cohesive combination of plants, materials, and other attractions throughout the garden develops a sense of style that usually favors specific themes found around the world.
If you find yourself attracted to clean lines, square shapes, and objects that draw your attention upward, Italian Renaissance gardens may fit you well. Going for more of a relaxed and wild look? An English cottage style will make you feel right at home! Or, if you like to keep things bright and exciting, a Spanish courtyard design will provide the perfect place to gather with friends and family from morning to night. Whatever the purpose of your garden space, there is a style that will make it feel organized and comfortable.
The English cottage garden is perfect for the naturalistic homebody who wants to feel enveloped in nature. The hallmark of this garden style is an abundance of informal flowering plants, natural stone, and curved or “soft” pathways. The English cottage style first started being developed in the countryside, where gardens were grown using both edible and ornamental plants that informally transitioned into wild vegetation. It has been casually integrated into gardens throughout the United Kingdom, where additional materials like wood fences have been added to this style.
Because it is centered on a very naturalistic look, there are very few rules to follow. The more sporadic and full you can make your space look, the better. Try using tools like lush hanging baskets and cascading flowers to maintain a sense of continuity in your porch and patio spaces. Plus, they create a relaxing setting to enjoy a breath of fresh air or settle with a good book during the summer months.
The Italian Renaissance style, in contrast, is quite formal. By utilizing straight lines and rigid stone elements, this style purposefully commands and directs your attention. While you may enjoy viewing the garden itself, the design should also carry your eye into the distance. It was originally crafted with influence from Roman villas to showcase the many beautiful views found beyond an individual property. As society began to feel safe living outside walled communities, so did the views of their gardens expand. With larger gardens developing, the focus on utilizing symmetry and a growing scale became prominent.
To create a garden inspired by the Italian Renaissance style, place plants in a mirrored pattern along a central line of focus. Additional areas of side interest can be worked into your design as tucked-away “rooms” or additional corners of focus. These areas are the perfect opportunity for relaxed plantings and a splash of color. Other elements of design within this style include the dominant use of evergreen plants, especially those that can be trimmed and formed as topiaries for year-long interest.
A strong focal point can also be created by using water elements such as fountains or ponds that are commonly paired with statuary. This style would later go on to influence French garden designs, where both edible and ornamental plants are used. I recommend working some Herbs de Provence into your plans to create a more functional design while maintaining the strong, stately appearance of the Italian Renaissance style.
Spanish gardens are one of my favorites because they create a space ideal for interacting with friends and family or relaxing in solitude. They are typically used to create a lush courtyard garden using a variety of edible and ornamental plants, stone, richly colored tiles, water features, and a combination of circular and cornered shapes. While other designs emphasize the use of curved or straight lines, the Spanish influence utilizes both to create a cohesive and exciting environment perfect for celebrations or artistic inspiration.
In addition to its unique use of shape, this design style heavily uses vibrant colors such as cyan, crimson and canary yellow. When it comes to the plants typically grown here, you can expect to see a variety of blooms, greenery, trees, and herbs typical of arid and semi-arid climates. Some of the most popular plants include Mediterranean herbs, roses, fruit trees, citrus, yucca, and other thick or showy foliage plants. Because this garden type is close to or within the home, stackable herb planters are great for increasing the planting capacity within a small and intimate space.
Just like anything in your life, a garden without direction can start to feel overwhelming and chaotic. Utilizing elements of a particular style can help you determine the purpose of the space and focus on a feeling you want to experience. When it comes to pinpointing a particular style that matches your personality and location, start by scanning images of other gardens. Take note of design elements that appeal to you, such as line, form, shape, color, space, and texture. These will help drive you towards styles that are more formal or relaxed, intimate or open, and exciting or muted. Everyone deserves to feel at peace in their garden. In the end, designing a garden comes down to creating a balance that satisfies your needs. Learn more: www.trueleafmarket.com.
Ashleigh Smith is the managing editor at True Leaf Market with a bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University - Idaho. True Leaf Market is a national certified organic, non-GMO seed and horticultural company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The True Leaf Market staff specializes in supplying a large selection of conventional, heirloom and organic seeds to home gardeners everywhere. Learn more about our seeds, supplies and other growing ideas: www.trueleafmarket.com.
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