By Russell M. Gullo
When you picture your dream yard, does it look like a state park, or more like an English manor garden? Do you relish natural beauty, or the beauty man makes out of nature? Your answers will give insight into your landscape style. Gardens generally fall into two styles – formal and informal, each with their own distinct set of characteristics. When landscaping your home, it is important to choose which landscape style you desire before beginning your project.
Formal gardens are typically very symmetrical, use clean, straight lines, and feature tightly manicured plants, often dwarf varieties, or plants that can be tightly sheared such as boxwood. These gardens can be reminiscent of castle or estate gardens in Europe. Your home’s architecture can also lend itself to a certain style. A formal design pairs well with modern architecture, symmetrical Georgian homes, and modern home colors such as dark grey. A higher level of maintenance is required to create a formal look, in the form of increased pruning.
Informal gardens are defined by graceful, natural, curved lines that are typically found in nature. Plant material is generally less compact, less tightly trimmed, and more natural in appearance. Plants such as lilacs and full-sized hydrangeas are typical. Informal gardens also have a “welcoming” appearance and require less maintenance. Craftsman style homes, homes adorned in earth colors, or in natural stone lend themselves to informal gardens.
Let’s take a look at an example of each:
Here we have a dark grey, symmetrical home. The front porch is flanked by neatly pruned SPARTAN JUNIPER SPIRALS. A BLUE SPRUCE STD. highlights one side and a GLOBOSA BLUE SPRUCE highlights the other as focal points. Symmetry is maintained with WINE & ROSES WEIGELA in front of both bay windows. A mini hedge of tightly sheared GREEN MOUNTAIN BOXWOOD extends out in front of the porch. PYRAMIDAL GREEN MOUNTAIN BOXWOOD anchor the landscaping in front of the garage, again pruned to a neat, formal appearance. Geometric walls on either side of the house are done in the ultra-sleek UNILOCK LINEO DIMENSIONAL block in granite blend color with a midnight charcoal accent. The walkway is done the equally sleek UNILOCK SENZO block in nuvola color with a cremo border. A Massarelli fountain with pool will be placed to the left out of picture to complete the look.
Here we have a home with a partial stone face and country charm. Extensive use of ornamental grasses can be seen, accentuating the informal look. A KOUSA DOGWOOD tree is at center stage, providing a focal point. Edging out this enclave are flowering ENDLESS SUMMER HYDRANGEA shrubs and TOMENTOSUM VIBURNUM. Natural stone is used for both a small walkway as well as a wall. Plants are allowed to grow naturally, and are not extensively shaped, allowing the landscape to grow in, and have a fuller appearance than that of a formal landscape.
What to use in informal gardens: