By their very nature, luxury gardens lend a sense of order and system to a property. They are distinguished by a clear sense of formality and symmetry and work to create a zone of refined outdoor living space in a yard. Plants have to be continually tended to in order to maintain appropriate size and form. A landscape maintenance contract is necessary to keep these very special gardens in top condition.
The size of the luxury garden depends on the acreage of the backyard and the size and architecture of the home. Typically such gardens are more commonly built on those parts of the Houston landscape where large trees abound, such as the Memorial Area and River Oaks. However, any home that adds stately vertical impact to the Houston landscape can be complimented by a luxury garden built to scale and scope on the property.
Themes are definitively European in this style and convey a sense of the aristocratic or Classical in presentation. Common designs include English, French, Italian, and Mediterranean. Historical preference is typically given to the Classical Age, The Renaissance, The Age of Enlightenment, and The Victorian Period. One can readily see how luxury gardens, though adhering in one sense to very strict rules of design, offer a great deal of creative freedom when it comes to expressing the homeowner’s personal tastes.
Once a historical or cultural theme is determined, décor is selected that supports that particular style. There is no such thing as a universal catalogue of luxury garden decorations in spite of what some websites and publications claim. Choices for decorations should be made by the homeowner and professional landscape designer partnering in consultation to create a three-dimensional representation of an inner, subjective reality unique to the homeowner’s likes and dislikes.
Most Houston landscaping clients show a strong preference for pottery as outdoor decoration. Because pottery has been used by man for thousands of years, it is never difficult to find urns, flower pots, and planters that match a particular era in history or represent a particular culture. Plant life is also chosen to create a very strong sense of visual impact through the presentation of very controlled and symmetrical plantings.
Fountains and statuary are almost universal in luxury gardening. Statues help clearly identify the period or culture from which a form originates. Fountains offer a tremendous freedom of customization and can be key pieces to linking the garden itself to the home and any resident outdoor buildings. Fountains are always built with remote, silent pumps so that all you hear is the sound of the water itself. Lights are installed so the fountain can be enjoyed at night, and outdoor furniture is arranged in locations that allow visitors to take in everything from a prime vantage point.
Plants and flowers are either grown in containers, or they are arranged in beds. Non-flowering green plants are never one shade of green. Multiple shades are used to create a layering effect. Flowering plants are also arranged so that their colors layer and compliment rather than bleeding into one another. One popular technique often used to add drama to formality is to make each bed of flowers a single color, so that when you look at the luxury garden in its entirety, you see spectrum of distinguishable colors arranged in a controlled, definitive pattern.
All luxury gardens use special hardscapes and masonry to give themselves structure and a sense of controlled design. Patios are often built at varying levels to break up the flatness of the Houston landscape. Special planter walls can stretch along a special grade leveled at one end of the garden, or small walls can be built at key angles to support decorations or help divide groupings of plants. Materials used here are very high-end. Typically, cut stone that is hand-laid is the preferred building material because it can be ordered custom-shaped and used to support the cultural or historical significance of the garden very well.
Topiaries are excellent shrubs that can be used to create these purely organic barriers. Topiaries can be shaped to any desired form and can be illuminated at night by up lights. This is a very popular way to build a garden with a French design theme, because parterre gardens rely on shrubbery for their structure and the motif easily transfers to a luxury garden aiming to generate the same aesthetic impact as an 18th Century French estate.