Choosing a Garden Style

The default setting for most beginner gardeners is to find some plants that you like and try and find places for each in your garden beds (I’ve done this too). We take a trip to our favourite nursery and pack the trolley with plants that we like. Maybe it’s the flower, the foliage, and the perfume or even it’s bird-attracting qualities.

Unfortunately, we take little consideration as to how they will interact with plants we already have. We just thought that they were nice plants and they might look good in our garden.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach unless you are trying to construct a garden design that oozes beauty, order and desirability. If you want these things and have been following this series then the next step to take is to think through what style of garden you would like to have. has already done the hard work of explaining the different styles available. I plan, in the rest of this post, to just highlight some key themes of each garden style in the hope that they may inspire you to be creative with your own home garden design.

  • Cottage Garden – is a style that is open to rambling plantings and informal design. Vibrant colours, especially through spring and early summer, make this a winner for many gardeners as does the low-maintenance aspect. Many plants that make up this type of garden style are flowering annuals and self-seed prolifically.Picket fences, arbours, and garden whimsy are some of the structures and bling you would find in this style of garden.
  • Formal Garden – structure and order are the keys to this garden style. Hedges, topiary and bold statues and ornaments symbolise this design and portray its steeped history in European culture. Paths are clean and wide and garden beds are ordered and usually symmetrical. Conifers, lawns and hedging plants feature prominently in this style.Not for the faint-hearted, this garden style is high-maintenance to keep everything in its place.
  • Woodland Garden – if you want to keep a grove of mature trees that provide a wonderful canopy over your garden beds then this garden style might be what you’re looking for. Shade loving plants and bulbs are the main plantings for this style and decorations should be restricted to purely natural materials – stones, pebbles, moss covered rocks.
  • Container Garden – if you’re limited for space or live a transient lifestyle, then container gardening may be a good option. The use of containers, pots, urns, and recycled wheelbarrows are all great ways to keep your garden from becoming staid and the option to move them like a piece of furniture means that you can change your garden instantly.This style lends itself well to apartment living as well.
  • Native Garden – many gardeners opt to have a garden style that reflects their local flora. The benefit of this style is that plants are usually easy to come by and they will handle the conditions of your climate and soil type more readily than other exotics. They are more widely attractive to local fauna as well and so you may see more birds enter this style of garden.
  • Japanese Garden – it could also be called the Oriental Garden but most of the features that depict this style originate from Japanese gardeners. Dry riverbeds made with single coloured pebbles, low ornamental foliage shrubs offset with distinct flowering trees characterise this style. It is the Orient’s version of the European formal garden and has very bold decorations. These include teahouses, bamboo water features and zen style paths and focal points.
  • Rainforest Garden – these can be created in many areas by choosing plants that are synonymous to rainforest areas. Palms, bamboos, bromeliads, cycads and a host of other tropical plants grow well together in a similar style as the Woodland Garden. High levels of organic mulch help create the dampness and retain moisture for this garden style.
  • Xeriscape Garden – this style is becoming very chic as gardeners are growing in their awareness of water resource limitations. This style uses cactus and succulent plantings as well as indigenous species to contrast the ever important foliage of many plants. Irrigation is never used, as the plants are required to sustain themselves on annual rainfall.This garden style is fairly low maintenance especially as lawns don’t feature in them at all.

These are just a few of the main garden styles that can be easily transferred to your own garden. The key to doing these well is to remain true to the original idea of the style but also be creative in how you express that style.

Don’t try to incorporate opposing styles or add plantings that could never work together such as roses in a xersicape garden or cacti in a cottage garden. Apart from that, test the boundaries and see what works. Try something and if it doesn’t work then try something else. After all, it is only gardening. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Additionally, we participates in various other affiliate programs, and we sometimes get a commission through purchases made through our links.