Friday, 3 June 2016

Garden Design - Create your own classic formal garden - you only need two things!

If you enjoy the neatly clipped hedges and geometric shapes you see in the classic gardens and at many stately homes, then why not create a formal garden of your own at home? Whether it's your whole garden or a small part of it, it's really easy to do, and can be adapted to whatever size space you have. You only need 2 things.

The first is: low hedging. The low, neatly clipped hedge is the quintessential ingredient of a formal garden, dating from the renaissance gardens of Italy and the parterres of palaces in 18th century France. It provides formal structure, and acts as a framework for the garden. 

Box (Buxus sempervirens) is the ideal plant for your formal hedges. It grows slowly and can be clipped tightly into smart shapes with tidy edges. It's evergreen, so maintains its attractive structural form in winter. In spring and summer it serves as a plain, but bright counterpart to whatever is planted around it. And it is easy to look after.

All you need to do is buy small box plants for £2-3 each and plant them in lines about 12-18 inches apart and they will knit together to form a hedge within 2 growing seasons. They need time to fill out to achieve the desired look completely. Just leave the sides to grow outwards whilst pruning the top each year to keep them low.

GREEN FINGERS TIP: Traditionally box is clipped after Derby Day (first week in June) but wait for a dry overcast day to avoid moisture getting into the cut leaves or sun scorching the freshly cut edges. Clip too early in the year and the fresh young re-growth will be damaged. Provided you choose a suitable day, you can keep clipping them from June to September to keep them tidy.

The second thing you need for your formal garden is...something else! It doesn't really matter what. You just need a counterpoint to the low horizontal box hedging. Unless it will be viewed from above it needs to be something vertical to give your formal garden a third dimension, but you can choose according to your taste and budget. And you can include several different ones to ensure it looks great at different times of the year. Here are some good options:
A statue - adds to the classical design and provides a focal point at end of a path or in the centre of a parterre. Even a small statue can lend a sophisticated air to a part of your garden. Or it could be something practical like a bird bath.

A specimen plant - such as a standard trained small tree or shrub, or a piece of topiary. The picture at the top of this post shows box and yew pruned into pyramids and standard lollipops, at Abbey House Gardens in Malmesbury. Topiary doesn't need to be difficult or expensive, it could just be a simple pyramid or cone shape.

Roses - the combination of roses and box hedges is hundreds of years old and remains inviting, with an air of the mansion house about it. This gives a great classical look all summer.
Tulips - Look great in spring with their richly coloured flowers contrasting nicely with the bright green of the box and their upright stems complement the low, flat topped hedges. 

So if you want a simple, classical, low maintenance garden, have a go at making your own box parterre. It sounds posh, but it's easy to do. 

Is there something else you think looks good as a feature in a formal garden. Please share your ideas using the comments box.    

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad I found this site. It's full of helpful tips and inspirational advice. Love the enthusiasm too!