The first thing to do in garden design is create a physical boundary or framework for your garden. This should include not just an exterior boundary line, but interior markers such as paths, evergreen trees, and/or small architectural structures like an arbor or gazebo. Dwarf conifers are becoming a favorite for garden evergreen trees. Their shorter height keeps them from overwhelming your garden. Unfortunately, their slow growth rate and popularity have made them relatively expensive.
Gardening Styles and Themes
While there are general garden design principles like balance, unity, and transition, there's no wrong way to design your garden. Start with whatever you like and go for it. Gardens can be redesigned annually so there's no risk in making a mistake. If you're not sure where to start, consider a specific gardening style or theme.
Habitat GardenSometimes called a naturalistic garden, this garden is designed to attract pleasant wildlife, such as birds and butterflies. Not for every gardener or homeowner, but when properly managed, it can be an amazing addition to a home.
Formal GardensExamples include Mediterranean, English, and Cottage, these gardens tend to be more ambitious projects in their traditional forms. Still, design elements can be incorporated into a smaller home garden, making them more practical.
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White GardenThis garden is exactly what it sounds likea garden that uses all white flowers. This creates a specific mood and draws attention to depth, arrangement, and the transition of a garden. When done right, the result is a truly breathtaking garden.
Children's GardenThis garden invites exploration. It eschews strict physical boundaries and tends to include edible plants and flowers that attract wildlife. Hidden spaces that facilitate exploration and games are another common feature.
These styles are only a few common examples of gardening themes. There are countless others. You can even invent your own. Choose one of your favorite places or world cultures and design and populate your garden with those elements. Naturally, climate will play a role in this decision making. You're not going to create a tropical rainforest garden in west Texas or similarly water barren areas.
Treat Your Garden like a Painting
As you gain more experience with your garden design skills, you'll start to pay attention to nuances in color and texture. Many gardeners have a favorite plant or flower, but too much of anything can adversely affect your garden's overall appeal. Too much contrast isn't necessarily a good idea, either. A good painting tends to have a color scheme with contrasting accents. Consider more than just color. Plants and flowers have their own textures. You can have a largely monochromatic garden and still create interesting contrasts that will grab someone's eyes. Another good analogy might be song composition where you have recurring themes and contrasting verses with their own accents.