What is Style?

Style can be many things to many people. For you it will be the unique way you arrange the materials that will make up your garden. Usually, creating garden designs with style is a compromise between your wants and your constraints. Wants will vary from person to person. A family with six energetic children might desire hardiness over aesthetics. A retired couple may want a more aesthetic garden. A homeowner in a new suburban neighborhood may want just anything to cover the dirt left by the developer. So wants can range from merely functional to wildly biodiverse landscapes.
It is common for gardens to have a theme around which the style is developed. Themes can be simple, as those based on a particular plant type or color. They can be complex, based on a particular period or trend. Whatever the theme may be, it can help unify your garden design by tying the various parts together. As well, it can help you decide on a style.

Themes can help unify your garden design by tying various parts togetherWhichever style you opt for, here are some stylistic tenets that gardeners should be aware of. Although these fundamentals may seem obvious to some, others may find this information welcome:

There is no ultimate garden design

The first rule of garden design is that there is no ultimate garden design. Your garden design should fit your site and your wants. There may be several wonderful designs that accomplish this. Your goal should be a garden that does what you want it to do and looks the way you want it to look.

Our goal is to help you achieve that goal. While there isn’t an ultimate garden design, there are successful and unsuccessful gardens!

There is no ultimate garden design
Garden design takes time and vision

The notion of deferring your gratification is no better demonstrated than by gardening. Five years will pass quickly in retrospect, and remembering this when you plant can enhance your garden. Gardens grow and evolve, and you want to anticipate the mature growth of your plants. Resisting the temptation to fill in between plants that have been properly spaced when young will pay big dividends in aesthetic and personal satisfaction when they mature.

Garden design takes time and vision before
Garden design takes time and vision after
Focus on the design, not the plants

More often than not, plant arrangement is more important than the plants: if you just plant a bunch of your favorite plants, you will have a garden which is limited to a jumble of your favorite plants. If you design your garden and choose plants that are appropriate to your constraints and theme, you can have a healthy, interesting, and beautiful garden.

Nothing is etched in stone

From time to time you may see a mistake in the design of your garden or selection of your plants. Sometimes a plant won’t thrive, or it doesn’t fit in the way you hoped. Before losing any sleep you should look at your discovery as a positive experience. Simply put, not all gardening mistakes are bad and usually all of them are learning opportunities. Often you can correct things easily, and over time your tastes may change in favor of the ‘mistake’. If a particular plant type keeps dying, try to find out why. Or try a different plant. If something looks out of place, move it. Don’t be afraid to change and experiment. That is often the real joy of gardening, and you can get a lot of gardening wisdom by dealing with adversity.

Look at other gardens

If you see a garden design that someone else has created and you like it there is nothing wrong with borrowing ideas from it. Then you can enhance or personalize it as your site requires. You may like the selection of plant materials or just the curves that were used in another design. You can let other gardens inspire your creativity—you have to start somewhere.

Learn about plants

The more plants you are familiar with the better you will be able to choose plants that fit your design requirements. Also, the more plants you know the more creative you can be. Websites, blogs, books, magazines, and friendly suggestions can help considerably. In gardening as with most things, knowledge is power. Anything that can supplement your experience should be welcomed.

Learn about plants
Rules are meant to be broken

In this module we teach you about the elements of garden style. If you use our advice you will produce better garden designs. However, that doesn’t mean these concepts have to be steadfastly followed. Many pioneering designers have broken with conventional wisdom and gone on to produce some remarkable landscapes.

Breaking the rules

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Module 2: Style – The elements of garden style

Developing a garden style requires a solid understanding of the ingredients that go into creating aesthetically pleasing garden designs. Once you understand the core elements, you can create beautiful gardens with confidence.

Additional Modules

01

Module 1: Site – What is a garden site and site analysis?

What is a site? Your site is the place where plants go: a garden, flower pot, window box, yard. While most people think of a site as just a plot of dirt, it really is more than that: the site includes all of the ingredients that make it unique, such as its soil and climate. …

Module 1: Site – What is a garden site and site analysis? Read More »

02

Module 2: Style – The elements of garden style

What is Style? Style can be many things to many people. For you it will be the unique way you arrange the materials that will make up your garden. Usually, creating garden designs with style is a compromise between your wants and your constraints. Wants will vary from person to person. A family with six …

Module 2: Style – The elements of garden style Read More »

03

Module 3: Selection – Plants that fit your site and style

You will probably get plants and seeds from retail garden centers (nurseries) or from mail order retailers. Large nurseries usually have a wide range of plants; smaller garden centers usually have a smaller stock of plants to choose from, but you can often find a more relaxed and helpful sales staff. Mail order suppliers may …

Module 3: Selection – Plants that fit your site and style Read More »

04

Module 4: Design – From concept to plan

Up to now we have discussed principles and techniques for evaluating your site, designing gardens, and selecting plants. In this module we take up the process of actually creating your garden. The following steps should get you started: Determine the conditions in your garden site by doing site analysis. Compile a list of your site …

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05

Module 5: Prepare – How to get your planting site ready

Unless you are already endowed with good soil and a ready site, you will need to prepare your soil for planting. Preparation involves laying out your site, removing anything that has to go, making beds, and amending and grading your soil. Depending on your design and your site, this could be very easy work or …

Module 5: Prepare – How to get your planting site ready Read More »

06

Module 6: Preview – Make sure your garden looks right and has room to grow

Place your plants (still in their containers) in the bed and space them as the label indicates using the enclosed tape measure. When measuring the distance between plants, measure from the center of one plant to the center of the next plant. Step back and take a good look at your arrangement; if you want …

Module 6: Preview – Make sure your garden looks right and has room to grow Read More »

07

Module 7: Plant – Install plants of all types and sizes

You should be ready to plant now. Follow the directions on the plant label, if provided. Use a shovel or hand trowel to dig holes. Clean-up, mulch, and water when done. The following are general instructions for different types of plants: Balled and burlapped plants You should remove the burlap and wire basket (if the …

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08

Module 8: Maintain – watering to winterizing and everything in between

A clean garden is not like a clean room. A mulch will fade, weeds will crop up, and your sharp edges will blur. Your goal is not to fight a battle with nature but to work with it. Your maintenance and devotion can help your garden evolve into a complex, beautiful growth, but it should …

Module 8: Maintain – watering to winterizing and everything in between Read More »

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