Garden Design Styles Defined

I would define a garden style as the combination of plants and hardscape features that represent an individuals vision, or a cultural pattern, or spirit of place (genus loci). While there is a great deal of borrowing and variation, certain garden styles have been given names that bring visions of certain arrangements and plantings of an artist, time, or a region.

In designing your home landscape, even if you have a fairly small property there are opportunities to use style to create small rooms or areas for expanded use of your yard.

You may want your entire landscape to be a specific style, or you may want to overlay a style on gardens which have specific uses, like a culinary herb garden or your vegetable patch.

People have been creating their little plots of paradise as long as they have had the privilege of their own pieces of earth to work in. Now it is your turn!

create your own garden plan

Create your own garden plan: I drew this up one day for a friend online.

The New American Style:

An expanded view of how to use native plants and how to landscape in a more natural style helped bring forth the style called “New American”. It is seen more and more in public areas, lining highways, inside boulevards, along the “hellstripnarrow area of vegetation between the sidewalk and the street” next to a road, and in professionally done business building landscapes. It can conserve water, and keep maintenance chores low, so it is ideal in drier continental climates. It also has a fresh modern look that attracts many people.

  • Prairie gardens are a special type of landscape that gives inspiration to the New American style, but it is also a goal in itself for a garden that preserves native plants and provides an ecosystem for certain wildlife.
  • Grasses are integral to these styles. It’s not the old lawn anymore, Mama.
  • The Midwest of the USA is a good place to utilize this landscape type in your design.
  • It lends itself to xeriscaping methods, too.

The English Garden Style:

Perennial borders are quintessential English garden components. Borders that overflow with flowers throughout the growing season in artistic arrangements are a challenge to create. Flower color, seasonal bloom, height, and form are some of the things to consider, foliage, growing conditions and overall effect are a few others. Like a magnificent puzzle these pieces come together to give one of the most exciting and visually enjoyable outcomes of gardening.

Cottage Gardens Are Perennial Favorites

The Cottage garden is always a favorite, it is charming, intimate, and exuberant. It can incorporate elements from herb gardens, English flower borders, kitchen gardens, and specialist interests all in its own unique form.

Cottage garden

Cottage garden
Photo credit

More Traditional Styles

The Herb garden Colonial gardens served the utilitarian needs of people bringing their old culture to new places. In America, that meant an ordered garden in the midst of a wilderness of native forests, and impossibly broad prairies. The oldest parts of New England often were homes surrounding a commons, with blocks of medicinal and culinary plants close to the house. The home garden carried over many of the elements of the herb gardens of the mother country.

Inniswood herb garden

Inniswood herb garden

Victorian gardens are full and busy. They burst with the curiosity and enthusiasm for the new discoveries of the time. They also appeal to the senses in a way that we don’t often consider in making a modern landscape; with the fragrance of plants and blossoms included in displays of bright colors of exotic plants and places.

It is extremely interesting to work out gardens in which some special colouring predominates…… it opens out a whole new range of garden delights….. besides my small grey garden I badly want others, and especially a gold garden, a blue garden and a green garden. ~Gertrude Jekyl



Theme Garden Styles:

The Serenity garden could become just what you love in a garden… a calm place to gather your thoughts and relax. Sometimes less really is more. A “Look Into” Garden is a mix of your favorite plants viewed from your favorite perch in the house. A Fairy Garden is a miniature garden that sparks the imagination peopled with fairies, furnished with small chairs, beds, and other such accouterments. “Color” Themes:

morguefile photo by Pawel C

morguefile photo by Pawel C

Special Use Styles:

Among the designs that cater to specific needs are the food gardens that are particularly stylish.

The Kitchen Garden is more than a dressed up vegetable garden… it is a veritable paradise centered around the needs and desires of the dining table.

The French Potager is a variation of the Kitchen Garden.

Just For Show

The Cutting Garden is a way to grow your own flower material for arrangements and drying. Everyone is tempted to bring in some of the garden’s glorious bloom to brighten the house, but sometimes that leaves the yard looking denuded- or sometimes with a visual hole where your clouds of phlox once were. This is a way to cut your flowers and have your borders, too. It is also a way to collect certain colors together that might otherwise not fit into the landscape plan you are creating.

Begin Your Home Garden Designing Journey

These are just a smattering of the varied garden plans that can be implemented inside your home landscape to create a yard that is a joy to own, work and play in.

Modern landscapes may use Japanese influence or the above named “New American” which is a prairie style perhaps best illustrated by Piet Oudolf’s gardens.

Whether you choose to use themes by color or era, always take into consideration the architectural designs of your home. Widen your view to the neighborhood and the characteristics of your broader environment. If you strike a balance with uniqueness of your own tastes with the surrounding landscape, the result is bound to be beautiful.