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Choosing a Garden Style

When it comes time to choose a garden style, there are a number of things to consider.

First, look at the broad picture, and decide whether you are more comfortable with a formal or informal landscape. The former is definitely higher maintenance.

The type of house can dictate what looks best. My traditional two-story with a front porch would look odd if I went with a Japanese garden. To some degree, the typical garden styles in your neighborhood also play a role.

Since many people have limited time for garden work, easy care garden styles, such as the naturalistic, work very well. Consider the upkeep that each garden feature will need. For example, it requires more effort to mow around curved beds and borders as opposed to straight lines.

In some respects, there tend to be regional differences as well. While cottage gardens and English-style gardens are more common in the East, Mediterranean-style ones will be seen more frequently in the West.

Narrow the choice down to two or three styles. Then, study examples of those to see what you prefer. For ideas and inspiration, I recommend the following books.

“Exploring Garden Style” is part of the Fine Gardening Design Guides Series from Taunton Press. Sections are devoted to traditional, naturalistic, and specialty gardens with numerous sample designs of each kind. There are diagrams, and plant lists for each one.

“The Art of the Japanese Garden” by David and Michiko Young from Tuttle has around 30 examples of both historical and contemporary Japanese gardens. Lushly illustrated with watercolors and photos, this has in-depth details on the basic elements, principles, and history of Japanese gardens as an art form.

“Gardens Adirondack Style” by Janet Loughrey was published by Down East Books. This definitive, best selling title showcases many historical and contemporary gardens, including Victorian ones and shady woodland gardens with details on their creation, and garden features. Each of these gardens creates a sense of place, resulting from careful integration of the landscape within its natural setting. This is lushly illustrated with color photos and historic illustrations.

For seaside gardens, the definitive guide is “A Garden by the Sea” by Leila Hadley from Rizzoli. Both inspiring and practical, this explains which plants can withstand wind and salty air. Among the recommended plants are fruits, herbaceous plants, vines, and shrubs. The emphasis is on gardens with four seasons of interest. Readers will learn how to create drought resistant gardens as well as ones to attract birds and butterflies. There are also chapters on maintenance and care of the landscape.

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