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Design a Formal Garden

Gardens can really bring ambiance to any setting. This article will tell you how to design a beautiful one.


  1. Choose your theme according to your needs, theme, environment and climate.
    • Needs - such as time - a high maintenance garden is probably not ideal unless you can afford a gardener to maintain it.
    • Theme - a garden to stroll in, play in or rest in? Is there an international style etc?
    • Environment - hilly / flat, good soil / poor soil, wet / dry etc.
    • Climate - work with your climate - growing rainforest plants in frosty areas is not going to work so pick appropriate climate plants.
  2. Many formal gardens can be used with native plants, its just about using them with defined edges and beds.
  3. Themes also vary according to climate, there are formal alpine, desert, tropical, temperate and Mediterranean styles. You might have local ones in your area open for display that may inspire you with ideas.
  4. Plant your plants in groups of types. Formal gardening is often expressed through the use of mass planting whether as an edge or a bed.
  5. This can be an advantage as you get a mass impact and also you can sometimes negotiate cheaper rates for buying plants in bulk. Mass planting reduces randomness but can also look very similar, so its better to have several small beds rather than one large one, unless you have space for many large ones. Having everything the same is typical of "McMansion" gardens which can look smart, but be very dull.
  6. Take a soil sample. This will help you decide what kind of plants to buy. Some need sandy soil, others need clay.
  7. Determine how much sunlight every part of your garden gets. Some plants thrive in shadowy parts of your garden, while others are sun worshipers. If you need shade, ensure there is a shade tree established before spending money on plants that may struggle or die before the location is right.
  8. Lines and edges are important. They may be straight edges, such as square, rectangular, parterre, etc. Hedges and borders are important to define the edges, but can be high maintenance, particularly hedged borders. Indigenous clumping grasses to your area can be ideal.
  9. Make sure you have a mix of plants: Scented, attractive, colourful, fruit, vegetable and herb plants, trees, ferns, climbers, etc.
  10. A center of attention, is important to formal gardens such as a fountain, sculpture or a large, exotic tree. Maybe have some scented flowers around it too, such as lavender, roses etc so when you look at it you will also be treated to a great smell.
  11. As you are deciding the installment of the flowers remember to put an entrance toward the center of attention (e.g. fountain). This means that your planting style should draw your eye towards the centre of attention. Its is ideal to have several focus points rather than just one (which increases interest).
  12. Consider buying a canopy to put over either part of the garden or over the whole thing.
  13. Get a gardener to keep your garden looking beautiful. Formal gardens are high maintenance as leaf litter, weeds, spreading or overgrown plants will make your garden look wild and forgotten as opposed to formal.


  • Formal gardens are known for being, well, formal. They tend not to have casual or personal charm elements in them. This doesn't mean that you don't have to have them, but if quirky, fun and charming is your goal, don't do a formal garden. Your additions should improve the garden (and vice versa, the garden should improve you).

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