The GARDENS we remember with pleasure are the ones which appear to have been set out quite effortlessly. These gardens have style. Yet if we look more closely at them we will find that a considerable amount of thought has gone into the layout. One reason for the success of a garden is when it seems to have become an extension of the house; the terrace for example has been constructed of the same material as the house, or the path which leads into the garden has been centred on the French doors and makes an unbroken transition from house to garden. The colour scheme and shapes of the plants may echo the colour and shapes in the house. The style which emerges is entirely individual to this garden and this is what makes it successful.
How can you make your own garden distinctive? Consider the style of your house and its surroundings. Consider how you and your family will use this outdoor space. Will you sit in it, play in it, entertain in it, grow vegetables and, look at it through the window?
Once you have thought this out, you can really begin to use your imagination; even tiny backyards have been turned into wonderfully exuberant gardens with luscious planting, imaginativeand judiciously placed statues. Visit gardens, look at books and magazines, take photographs for inspiration. This inspiration and a good understanding of your own site will enable you to find the style suitable for your own garden.
Traditionally gardens are divided into formal and informal gardens. Formal means that the garden is divided by a central axis and often cross axes;are surrounded by low hedges. Topiary, ornamental pools, urns, statues and vistas are all parts of a formal garden. Quite often this style is dismissed because of its apparent high cost and maintenance. Yet hedges need to be cut only once or twice a year and the geometric shape of the lawns makes mowing easier.
An informal garden has gentle curves throughout. Beds and borders are part of these gentle curves. Plants spill over onto paths and the atmosphere of the garden is that of vitality. To achieve this gentle rolling style, the design of the curves has to be strong and definite otherwise the garden could look insipid. Large gardens are usually formal near the house and become more informal further away from the house.
It is a good idea to spend some time deciding what type of garden you and your family find most attractive. Is a cottage garden with its emphasis on colourfulwhat you envisage; or a low-maintenance foliage garden with ferns and ivies, fatsias and oak-leaved hydrangeas; or a magical water garden with formal or wildlife ponds planted with candelabra primulas, irises, rodgersias and gunneras; or a serene oriental garden with its wonderful acers, mosses and symbolic rocks? Your final decision, of course, will depend on your personal taste and what time and money you are prepared to devote to looking after your garden.