A well thought-out, carefully planted garden should reflect a style. Whether your preference is for clashing colours, or for cool, calm shades of green, it is worth considering how you can unify your garden to give it a designed, stylish appearance. As the Chelsea Flower Show season approaches, and the number of gardening, broadcasting hours increase, there is plenty of opportunity to get inspiration.
Firstly decide if you want a Contemporary look, which generally means a restricted palette of different plants; one colour with green, often white/lime-green; a focus on structure and evergreen foliage that will look good all year round. This usually formal, minimalist style is often favoured for a front garden or a small garden where there is not enough space to have different parts of the garden reaching their peak at different times of the year, and where there is often a good deal of shade. A Japanese style of planting is an extension of this structural, evergreen look, with plants such as Acers, bamboos, rhododendrons and phormiums playing a key role, often with water, boulders or stone features.
Alternatively, there is the Cottage Garden look, with lots of traditional plants such as roses and geraniums, with lots of colour and flowers in the summer but with a larger focus on herbaceous perennials and annuals, leaving barer beds in the winter. This style embraces climbers (on obelisks or walls/fences) and tends to be relaxed and good for wildlife.
A Mediterranean style suits a dry, sunny site, with boulders or pebbles incorporated into the scheme, and usually involves plants with glaucous foliage such as Cistus, Hebe, Sedums and Olive. A Naturalistic, Prairie style of planting incorporates lots of grasses and summer flowering perennials that blend well together and move in the wind and that are planted in swathes. There is also Woodland planting, ideal for a shady corner or under trees and shrubs, that tends to reach its peak in the spring before the trees come into leaf, with early flowering shrubs and bulbs, ferns and shade tolerant plants. An Exotic style would embrace tropical-looking plants, with large shiny leaves, such as Fatsias or Hostas, and with spiky foliage like Phormiums or Cordylines. Palms and Tree Ferns can be incorporated into such a scheme, and there is an emphasis on different coloured foliage and texture rather than flowers.
Of course all rules are there to be broken and it would be a rare garden that resolutely stuck to one style. Imposters have a habit of creeping in, because you received a gift or took a fancy to a plant in a garden centre or at a plant fair. But in general, it is good to have an underlying understanding of what look your garden is trying to achieve.
So does your garden have a style?
Anne Fraser and Caroline Streets
07729 835 988 and 07930 876 348
Next month we give advice on planting for summer: Summer Gardening