Choosing which garden style is right for you can feel intimidating at first, mainly because it’s challenging to know what garden styles are even available to you. A simple Google search will unleash dozens of different options that can be high-cost and high-maintenance but rest assured you don’t have to commit to overhauling your whole landscape to fit a particular look or ideal. Rest assured, it’s not an exact science, and the goal is to have fun and focus on what makes you happy for yourself and your garden. Here I break down some of the classic garden styles (from classic to casual) with some helpful tips on recreating the looks in your backyard.
Traditional Garden Style
This style typically goes with homes with colonial or French-inspired architecture, and traditional gardening styles focus on balance and symmetry the most. When I envision a formal garden to complement solid architectural features, I think of a perfectly trimmed lawn, rows of clipped hedges, and even stone fountains and cleanly edged walkways. Ina Garten’s home in East Hampton is a perfect example of this style.
If you are keen to go this route, landscaping will dominate around very well-manicured green lawn spaces balanced by trees and shrubs that are typically not filled with a lot of colour. Often you may see traditional gardens using only white as an accent colour—it’s that repetition of the same plantings in the yard (or walkway) that lends to this effect.
You could also add potted topiaries as sculptures that can be moved around the garden and pedestal urns, which are incredibly elegant. Likewise, if it is in your budget, you could opt for stone fountains as a focal point that reminds me so much of Tuscany and all of their wonderful garden stone fountains. For a much less expensive option, try pea gravel on surfacing walks, drives, and terraces, so it creates that desired ‘crunch’ when you cross it.
Cottage Garden Style
Naturally, cottage gardens are far more relaxed in style, with plants that spill over lawns and paths in a casual, haphazard way. I love it, and I think plants in cottage gardens have much more room to play because you can be as colourful and diverse as you wish. For me, I fill my gardens at my Muskoka cottage with all of my favourite flowers and plants that are practical and don’t require very fussy maintenance. Utilize every available space you have (no need to be as measured as the traditional garden style) and create beautiful chaos of flowers, herbs, and medicinals all mixed into one. Add in some clay pots, white picket fences, arbors, or trellis to give that casual, country feel.
Contemporary Garden Style
With contemporary gardens, not unlike traditional gardens, a clean-cut design is essential. While this style works across virtually every backyard space, it’s most ideal for smaller urban settings because the procedure can make the area feel larger.
The contemporary design relies on simple, clean lines, but the good news is that you can still incorporate your personality into it. Think sleek but unique. Whether you opt for geometric-shaped stepping stones or architectural sculptures, or planters (made from concrete, resin, or ceramic), each is a great choice and excellent contrast for your modern garden. Water features like ponds offer the requisite clean lines that make for a stunning look, too. Plants for contemporary gardens are all about structure and form. Think Yucca, succulents, or Japanese forest grass.