Garden Design

A formal garden is distinguished by order, neatness, geometry, and symmetry. This style of garden design is one of the oldest in the world, tracing its origins back to the beginnings of recorded history. This is because formality is a common and honored tradition in all Western, Middle Eastern, and Eastern Cultures.

Everyone has heard of the gardens of the Greeks and Romans, and of how the Hanging Gardens of Ancient Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of the World. In the East, China and Japan have also perfected formal gardens as expressions of Taoist, Shinto, and Buddhist ideals.

In this sense, formality is a kind of artistic diplomacy. It collects what would otherwise be a divergent and conflicting array of individual forms, and it brings them together into a working relationship where every contributing element plays a part in making up a greater whole.

No matter what the cultural or anesthic nature of a formal garden is, it always somehow works to establish a sense of stability—something of an island of escape from the daily grind of life. Formality speaks of elegance, refinement, and that which is elevated above the mundane. Nothing mediocre ever enters into the garden, nor troubles the mind of the person experiencing it.

Many different types of formal garden plants can be used to build these ornate expressions of organic art.

Vegetation is selectively chosen so there will be something for everyone to enjoy. All manner of shrubs, trees, hedges, perennials, and annuals can be used to create an infinite array of cultural and historical motifs.

Keep in mind that this involves no so much a large amount of plant material, but the manner in which that plant material is arranged. Many gardens are very simple and consist of only boxwoods enclosing a flower bed. More formal designs integrate and interweave organic elements with inorganic elements. Every form must appear balanced and done to scale, be it a tree, a shrub, or a flower. Inorganic elements are used to center attention on the midpoint, or, in other cases, to draw attention to particular nuances of geometry.


There are many different types of formal gardens people can choose from. The most prominent types are deriving from historical and cultural traditions. Others are based upon the style or size of the garden. Just a few examples are as follows:

Formal French Garden

The French garden is intended to inspire awe and wonder in much the same way as a grand chateau on an Elite estate would inspire. This style uses carefully sculpted vegetation to create organic architecture. The disciplined symmetry of the French garden is deliberate, precise, and methodically planned around long axes whose linear runs inspire the viewer with a sense of sublime infinity.

Formal Italian Garden

Like the French garden, the Italian garden is also a controlled, linear, symmetrical form. However, unlike the French garden, its intention is to offer retreat and tranquility rather than awe and wonder. Italian gardens appeal to multiple senses as they invite the viewer to step into an alternate realm of contemplation, surprise, and a diverse realm of wonder, shape, and color.

Formal English Garden

The English garden offers the viewer an idealized view of nature. It was originally inspired by 18th Century landscape paintings that emphasized pastoral rolling hills, trees, and lakes. It is a geometrically balanced design that is centered on a central pathway and a mid focal point. Around these centers grows a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowering plants woven together in interrelated geometric shapes.

Formal Small Garden

This is an ideal design for small yards and townhome properties. It utilizes small squares or circles of yard in areas where larger landscape elements cannot be introduced. Its disciplined symmetry lends itself well to complimenting the architecture of surrounding homes and buildings, and the richness of floral and vegetation patterns can be just as elaborate as those in larger formal garden designs.

Formal Flower Garden

Formal flower gardens are created as elegant beds with straight lines. The secret to their success lies in the skillful intermingling of annuals and perennials together. This way, as some flowers seasonally die and come back, others are continuously blooming throughout the year. This maintains continual floral growth that gives color and vitality to the Houston landscape no matter what the weather here might be doing.

The best places for people to get formal garden ideas is by looking at pictures of gardens on the Internet, along with print media sources they may have available. Although many of these pictures may not depict formal gardens per se, it will be easy to find all sorts of plants, trees, shrubs, flowers, hardscapes, and decorative elements that can be individually introduced into a new, more formal design.

Such a formal garden design is best developed through consultative partnership with the homeowner and the landscape designer. The landscaper will review the homeowners’ ideas and pictures and discuss at length the client’s expectations. The designer will also take considerable time to study the home and yard in order to shape these desires into appropriate landscape elements that truly compliment the house and surrounding yard.

A preliminary plan is then sketched out and showed to the homeowner, who has the freedom to change or approve it at will. Upon final approval, a more sophisticated draft is then produced as part of the landscape master plan. Garden installation is carried out either directly by the design team or through specialists that are contracted and supervised under the guidance of the professional landscape company.