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Choosing a gardening style that fits your preference

By Hosea Omole | October 8th 2015
By Hosea Omole | October 8th 2015

Working with a theme or style that brings together all the components of a garden is a great idea. It guarantees a harmonious and co-ordinated design and makes planning decisions a lot easier.

But how do you choose a style? There are probably hundreds of garden styles and themes out there. Researching and deciding which one to adopt can be a daunting task.

Moreover, it’s not just a matter of personal preference, you have to factor in costs, especially long-term maintenance, environmental context and even available skills to install and maintain the garden.

Considering these factors can can help you narrow down to a few most appropriate styles. Here is what you need to consider before settling on a style.


It is often wise to go for a garden style that suits the climate in which you live. Anything else will involve an awful lot of skill and effort just to keep the plants alive.

Find out the plants that typically characterise each of your options and take note of their growth requirements, including hardiness, light requirements and temperatures.

Compare these with the micro-climatic conditions in your compound. If most of the growth conditions are comparable, the style in question will most likely work.

You will realise that some garden styles can grow in almost all kinds of climatic conditions while others are most suited for certain climates only. English gardens, for instance, owe their popularity to the fact that the range of plants that can be co-opted in their planting palette is so wide that you can recreate them virtually anywhere. On the other hand, a Mediterranean garden is more suitable for hot and dry conditions.

Site context

Your site, house and everything else that currently exists on your property will often dictate what styles you can successfully apply in your garden. Harmony with existing natural and man-made features is key to the success of any garden style.

Different garden styles lend themselves well to different site conditions. For instance, a Japanese garden will fit perfectly on a rocky site with gently undulating slopes similar to conditions in the Far East where it originated. Similarly, a contemporary garden will probably work best in the context of a modern house.

Overall, these garden styles only serve to focus our imagination. You could decide, for instance, to combine two styles. The most important thing to understand is the big idea and the context around the styles you are considering, and then to draw inspiration from them.

You will then be able to appreciate the purpose of a particular style of garden, and why it works so well, allowing you to create your own design that will suit your requirements.

Common garden styles

Japanese gardens: Japanese gardens are renowned for their serenity and tranquility. The overriding philosophy is harmony with nature, hence man-made features are made to look as natural as possible. They are characterised by a central structure corresponding to the traditional Japanese tea house that overlooks the skillful interplay of rocks and water or raked sand downhill.

English gardens (Romantic): English gardens are native to the English countryside. This familiar informal style of garden blends lawn, shrubbery, trees (if there is room), herbaceous borders and flower-filled garden beds in an open, park-like design. They typically incorporate wild flowers, rustic wood or stone benches and are suitable for all climates.

Formal (French) gardens: This type of garden has evolved from the 17th Century French-style and features topiary (shrubs tightly pruned into various shapes) hedging, large and elaborate parterres, lots of classical Greek-type statuary, highly ornamental water features, immaculately-maintained lawns and a few well-disciplined flowers such as roses in geometrical beds.

Native gardens: The idea of native gardens is pretty new but is becoming increasingly popular due to its environmental advantages. The main characteristic is the use of indigenous planting materials and artifacts from the local cultures. They have been found to be ecologically sound as they provide refuge for local animals and sustain the ecological balance of the environment.

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