The 5 Garden Styles: Which One is Right For You?

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    When you walk through a garden you really like, you might find you have a tough time describing it; you just know you like it.

    In fact, if you had to put a name on it, you might have some trouble. First, there are so many garden styles out there. Next, while there are a few key garden styles to choose from, some people also tend to mix in some elements of other garden styles with their main look. So knowing what you really like about their garden takes breaking down some of the elements and feelings you get to determine which style is really right for you.

    Does this sound confusing? It might. We understand that. You just want a garden that works for you, makes you feel comfortable and cozy, and fits your unique home architecture and lifestyle.

    But to reach that outcome requires embracing a style. Let’s start from the beginning of looking at garden styles and how you can figure out which one would fit you best.

    Your Garden Style Defined

    Landscaping has this huge impact on the overall look and feel of your home. And this also enables it to amplify your curb appeal.

    Having a garden style is a way to have an organized and unique look that fits your home and your personality. You might be wondering what the right garden style is. A garden style refers to a distinct landscape design genre that is rooted in visually different methods of design.

    Knowing your garden style empowers you and your landscape designer to create a plan for your space. A landscape with timeless style and unique preferences is one that looks cohesive and connected. It’s a look that others envy. The alternative is a mish-mash of plants with no design direction that becomes unforgettable.

    Now that you know what garden style is, let’s review the top 5 garden styles in Kansas City, so you can figure out which one suits you best.

    The Top 5 Garden Design Styles

    There are really 5 main garden styles we like to review with Kansas City homeowners. These are rooted in the history of landscape design, so we feel confident in their positive, aesthetic results.

    Each of these 5 styles evolved throughout history as planting became more that just farming and food. While other sub-styles have evolved over the years, they all tie back to these 5 major garden styles.

    1. Naturalized Gardens

    Naturalized gardens, also known as prairie gardens, are full of tall grasses and flowering perennials with flowing bed lines.

    Ornamental grasses have subtle textures, colors, and outlines. They move in the wind, which adds life and movement to your yard. They attract wildlife adding an additional visual and auditory element.

    They are also generally low-maintenance, which makes them a great choice if you don’t want a lot of fuss. They require limited mulching as plants mature.

    Naturalized gardens do take 3 to 4 years to fill in and become nice and full. If you’re not fussy about structure or straight lines, and enjoy birds, bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, as well as relaxed and flowing plant movement, then this is the right garden style for you.

    2. Country Gardens

    Feeling more romantic? Then the country garden style, which includes English and French Country styles, may be what you’re after. This design flows with the natural topography and curves of your landscape and boasts classic blooming plants that are favorites of cut-flower enthusiasts. Think peonies, hydrangeas, roses, and lavender, among others.

    Imagine the pathways through these soft flowers — maybe stepping stones, brick, or a natural stone path that has an intimate feel, appearing aged like it’s been there forever.

    Another popular type of country garden includes the potager garden. This is France’s answer to the kitchen garden where vegetables, herbs, fruits, berries, and cutting flowers are planted in repetitive geometric patterns. This charming garden offers both food and beauty in your yard. It makes the perfect addition near your outdoor kitchen.

    Those who love country gardens don’t mind full beds that need less mulch. While maintenance can be lower, it can also be confusing to maintain with the abundance of different types of blooms.

    3. Formal Gardens

    A formal garden is a great choice for a traditional home. This is especially true if the space is symmetrical.

    Manicured and controlled, this garden style looks good all year long with minor seasonal variations in background plantings or containers full of spring bulbs or summer annuals. It involves hedges that invoke geometrical, neat shapes. Surrounding plants are contrasting and organized.

    While this is an attractive garden all year long, presenting a classic style, it can be very high maintenance.

    But for those who love timeless European style and don’t mind the maintenance necessary to keep it looking great, this is a great option that invokes Italian and French gardens.

    4. Oriental Gardens

    Looking for a space for peaceful contemplation? Then maybe the right garden style for you is a Japanese or Chinese garden.

    Drawing on Buddhist, Shinto, Taoist, and Hindo philosophies, these gardens invoke spiritual havens with 4 key elements: rocks, water, plants, and ornaments. Using these features includes design elements like balance, symbolism, and asymmetry to truly represent an oriental garden.

    Koi ponds, waterfalls, and stone basins are typical water features in these gardens, as is sometimes the addition of a small bridge. Each design element can boast a deeper meaning and the spaces you create here invite lingering and meditation.

    Because this style is so focused and unique, it can be hard to change this style later. Weed control can also be an issue with the use of so much rock and open spaces.

    5. Modern Gardens

    If you like super clean, straight lines with a simple plant palette, you might be a fan of the modern or contemporary garden. This garden design style relies just as much on the hardscapes of the space as much as on the plant life.

    Modern gardens tend to have limited blooms; instead color comes from stone, steel, and greenery.

    This trendy design style can be easy to maintain as long as you manage weeds. But the style doesn’t work with all types of architecture. To be true to the style, crisp lines need to be maintained throughout the property.

    Those who love modern gardens tend to also have modern architecture and appreciate details and a refined plant palette.

    Can I Mix Garden Styles?

    Sure, it is possible to mix garden styles if you find yourself torn between two of your favorites, but this is tough to do without diluting the impact of both styles.

    Also, some garden styles are more compatible than others. For instance, a naturalized garden filled with soft curves and blooming perennials is not very complementary to the hard lines and limited plant palette of the modern garden. The two would not mix very well.

    To pull off a mix, the garden styles should be somewhat similar.

    French country is an example of a garden style that is a combination of country and formal gardens. Not only does it work well with various architectural types, but it is also a bit less maintenance than a full formal garden.

    What Isn’t a Garden Style?

    A lot of times, popular garden trends tend to be confused with actual garden styles. The garden styles above are all distinct and have been around for years. In each style, there have been specific offshoots that still fit within those larger categories — for example, Japanese and Chinese garden styles may have some small nuances, but they are still oriental garden styles.

    Something like an edible garden, however, is considered a plant preference and not its own garden style. A talented landscape designer can incorporate edible plants into any style.

    Similar examples are pollinator-friendly plants, butterfly gardens, gardens with low deer/rabbit-browsing risks, color schemes, and low allergy-inducing spaces. These plant types can all be incorporated into any of the garden styles above.

    What’s Your Garden Style?

    Now that you’ve reviewed some popular garden styles, you’re probably trying to figure out which one fits you best.

    Maybe you like clean lines, but you also like lots of flowers to cut for fresh bouquets. This can be confusing, since the two may seem very separate.

    We understand your dilemma. That’s why we created this simple garden-style quiz you can take to help you narrow your options. The quiz takes less than 10 minutes to complete and can give you some guidance on how to describe your style and what elements it entails, so you can better understand it and then be able to describe it to your landscape designer as you’re planning out your landscape.

    We love talking about garden styles with our clients, so feel free to reach out if you want to learn more about a certain style or how to incorporate some of your favorite elements of these styles into your yard.

    Ready to see how High Prairie can transform your Kansas City home landscape with your preferred garden style? We’d love to share our design and installation expertise with you. Get started today with a free consultation. Together, we can prepare a design that you will love and your neighbors will envy.

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    About The Author

    Robyn is a 2009 Graduate of the Kansas State University Department of Horticulture. She grew up in South East Kansas where she graduated from Humboldt High School. She was a Kansas State University Leadership Scholar and President of the Horticulture Club. She married Bret in 2009 and they have a daughter Ellie, born in 2021. Their family is completed by three adopted dogs.

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