Find Your Garden Style
Design Your Garden as a Complement to Your Home
Most homeowners understand the many housing styles—Spanish or Mediterranean, English Tudor, French Country, and Contemporary, to name the most popular ones. Gardens are no different. And although matching a garden to the style of the house creates a cohesive whole, there are times when two different styles can work together well, as long as there’s some commonality such as a palette or choice of materials. Understand the different possibilities that each style garden is known for—the favorite materials, colors, and plants, so you can make a wise choice. If in doubt, peruse garden and architecture books for ideas. And definitely take liberties and mix and match elements to let your own garden style evolve rather than strive for complete authenticity.
Mediterranean or Spanish. This style garden is very casual and loose and works well in a warm climate where materials generally are rustic and plantings are big and lush. Walks may be lined with natural flagstone, terracotta tiles, or travertine; walls may be constructed from natural rock or hand-troweled plaster colored or left unstained; and rocks and boulders may be used lavishly as key accents. For plantings, think about drought-tolerant choices that require little water and maintenance because of the hotter climates. Fruitless olive trees, crepe myrtles, native oaks, lavender, carpet roses, salvia, sages, flax, coral bells, ferns, and some palms such as Sago palms all work well. The palette generally veers toward hotter orange, red, and yellow hues. GREEN? For furnishings, think about wrought iron tables and chairs, stone tables and table tops and dark stained natural wood.
Tropical. While this isn’t a style of architecture, it does reflect a warm weather outdoor look, filled with sun-loving plants, colorful, big flowers, and exotic lighting and colorful floral patterns . Because of the warm weather, these gardens are designed for year-round pleasure, but include some areas in shade for relief. Flagstone, bluestone, or slate may be used for paving, often with oversized boulders and rocks for accents. Fireplaces and fire pits are common features, often constructed from stucco and rocks. Water is an essential element that might show up in the form of a swimming pool, spa, pond, stream, waterfall, or fountain. Big urns, umbrellas, and teak furnishings are other essentials. Popular plants are oversized palms, bananas, cannas, hibiscus, citrus trees, and exotic vegetables. For color, go bold with reds, purples, yellow and golds as well as coral and lime green.
Traditional. Whether it’s an English Tudor or Colonial, American Colonial, or French Country or Provencal house, the garden look has a classic, old-world feeling with much more structure, more rectilinear than curved designs, and a repetition in the choice of plants and materials rather than too many different selections. Garden walls may be built from plaster, ledgestone, or brick, and topped with slate or flagstone for a precise, finished look. Fountains or water features may be quite stylized and elegant and constructed from concrete or cast iron and often in multiple tiers. Fireplaces tend to be large, also stylized, with mantels, all built from stone or brick, sometimes in multiple hues. Plantings also are quite formal picks such as iceberg or hedge roses in classic white, pink, or red colors, typically plant in organized rows rather than loose masses, even for cutting gardens. Other favorites include boxwood hedges, clipped topiaries, espaliered fruit trees and annuals such as lobelia, and alyssum. Lots of green lawn is an essential, so are terraces paved in classic flagstone, gravel or crushed granite, or brick materials, which may be repeated in walks and paths.
Contemporary. Minimalism is the mantra whether it’s for the palette, materials, or design. Paving may be constructed from a stained or poured concrete, often scored in a simple grid pattern, or travertine, slate, or large expanse of gravel or crushed granite. The plant palette tends toward an Asian Zen look with lots of grasses and noninvasive bamboo, weeping serpentine cedars, and a bonsai tree or two. A few rocks, particularly large ones, become a major focal point. Colors tend to be monochromatic, although a bright accent might be included for contrast. Water features are common for the tranquil look and sound they introduce, typically in the form of waterfalls, streams, and fountains. Less is always more, even when it comes to furnishings, lighting, and accessories.