Understanding European Garden Styles – High Prairie Outdoors

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    According to Tom Turner’s book, “European Gardens: History, Philosophy, and Design,” the first known aesthetically created garden originated in Egypt between 1000 and 2000 BC. The book also states that the first European gardens were found in what is modern day Italy, Greece and Crete. From this point, the Romans were the ones largely responsible for spreading the concept of garden design across the European continent. Prior to that point, gardens were strictly for feeding people and animals, not for enjoyment.

    As garden styles and functions evolve throughout history, there are certain styles that tend to be considered “classic”, their appeal is timeless. Therefore, they never go out of style. Many European Garden Styles are the foundation of classic garden design. If you’re considering a European Style Garden in your Kansas City Landscape, read below to learn about the different European styles.

    Italian Gardens

    Since Italy was the main source of spreading ornamental gardens throughout Europe, it is no shock that the Italian style of gardens influenced the French and English garden styles. This means it was from Italy that the other two, modern gardening styles emerged.

    In Italian style gardens, formality is a defining descriptor. In these gardens, you’ll find an abundance of elegance and a formal design featuring statues, fountains, symmetry, geometric shapes and clipped hedges. Italian gardens often includes strong, upright feature plants such as Italian Cypress intermixed in the formal gardens and hedges. We don’t successfully grow Italian Cypress in Kansas City, so many Kansas City designers utilize Taylor Juniper due to the similar shape and size.

    French Gardens

    Also formal in design, the French gardens were inspired from the earlier Italian Baroque design. Modern French garden style is heavily dependent on clipped hedges, geographic shapes and lines and symmetry. This is not to be confused with French Country which blends the formality of Italian/French Gardens with the casual addition of English perennials and flowering shrubs.

    The ultimate example of a French style garden is the Garden of Versailles. The clipped hedges and symmetry are beautiful, but be prepared for a large amount of time invested in maintenance.

    English Gardens

    Compared to the Italian and French style of gardens, English gardens are more informal in style. Potager Gardens and Cottage Gardens are two of the most popular types of English gardens. This informal, naturalized style resulted from garden designers trying to utilize England’s natural rolling hills, streams, and ponds.

    The modern English garden style has evolved, eliminating the harsher, geometric hedges found in French and Italian gardens, replacing them with softer, flowing beds that are full of texture and color. The rolling lawns feature naturalistic beds that are accented with streams and ponds, taking advantage of the existing landscape of England.

    These gardens often feature border plantings, which help to soften the edge between the lawn and bed with shrubs and flowers that billow outward. English Gardens often also utilize turf to draw the eye, create paths between billowy gardens, and delineate a space. Two of the most notorious English garden designers include Gertrude Jekyll and “Capability Brown.” These landscapes are lower maintenance than Italian or French Gardens.

    Dutch Wave Gardens

    Dutch Wave gardens offer a more naturalistic style that is often related to perennials, grasses, and a prairie setting. Quite a few of the ornamental grasses and perennials used today actually originate the Dutch Wave style of gardens. “Karl Forester” Feather Reed Grass originated in this style. Dutch Wave Gardens often feature large beds filled with masses and “waves” of color and texture with pathways through the beds intended to encourage people to explore the gardens. They’re informal and low maintenance.

    Two well-known designers of Dutch Wave gardens are Karl Forester and Piet Oudolf. Today, many refer to the Dutch Wave style of gardens as the “New Perennial Movement.” Quite a bit of the prairie style seen in American gardens has drawn inspiration from the Dutch Wave Garden style.

    If you are searching for a unique style of garden, then considering one of the styles listed here may be a smart option. If you are unfamiliar with how to create this look yourself, then using the services of the professionals is the best course of action. They can help create a custom garden space in your outdoor area, allowing you to enjoy the garden style that best suits your wants and available space.

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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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