A formal garden can add a sense of tradition to your landscape and can be achieved by adding some basic components: symmetry, well-planned walkways, dramatic end points, repeating features, statues and fountains. This segment shows how to use these components to achieve a neat, orderly look.

Produced by the Department of Communications at Kansas State University. For more information, visit our website at: http://www.kansasgreenyards.org

Designing a Formal Garden

The entrance to these gardens is actually an alleyway or an “alee”. And what it means is, it’s a place to move people through. If you’ll notice, it’s very straight; the plants are identical on both sides. Again, we’re talking about a formal garden here. And they’re using plants like the beautiful hydrangeas, the color, and it’s repetitive, all the way down. So there’s no reason in particular to stop. Just keep moving – that’s how they move people through.

And then you’ll see, about halfway down, there’s some squares that are concrete colored. It means that there is a reason to stop there. When you get there, you’ll see this fountain or statuary that is just wonderful. It gives you a chance to pause, and then move on.

You’ll see at the very end of this alley is a tree. There is a blue spruce planted at the very end as a focal point to draw your eye clear to the end and keep you moving. So, when a lot of people are trying to go through an area, this is how you do it. You make it beautiful. But it’s all very much the same pattern, so that people can continue to see it as they move through a space.

The textures and things you see here - between the pavement and those plant materials - are interesting. We have the nice, large headed hydrangeas in the beautiful blue colors. There are deep pink petunias, and lamb’s ear, and other textures and colors. But the pattern is set in sections, making it a very formalized garden. It’s not mixed up like a wildflower bed would be. That just helps you enjoy a large bunch of color all at once, but again, drawing you through this space.

Anytime you have a walkway, you’re trying to help people see that they’re in a different place than they were earlier. So changing what they walk on, from cobblestones to brick pavers is one way to do that. In the brick pavers, you’ll find patterns. There are concrete blocks put into the patterns that tell you you’re in a different space. That’s what draws your eye – the character and textures will bring a lot of interest to a garden. Along with the colors you’ll add, and you’ll have a great formal garden to look at.

This feature story prepared with Jamie Hancock, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Shawnee County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.

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