Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful garden, right? Almost as if programmed into our DNA, most of us are drawn to the beauty of a garden filled with green calm-inducing plants and sweetly perfumed flowers. Whether you’re ideal escape includes the form and structure of a classic rose garden, the romance of a quaint country cottage garden, or the serene simplicity of a Japanese-inspired garden, drawing inspiration from your dream space will help you design your own amazing garden to relax and rejuvenate your spirit.
Traditional Rose Garden - Recreating the Classics
The classic English rose garden works with a combination of geometry and physics. Tea roses and other hybrids are planted grouped together within structured geometric shaped beds, while assorted climbing roses meander across trellises and along garden walls. Incorporating a variety of rose types requires a bit of planning and maintenance; however, you will be rewarded with bouquets of sweet-smelling blooms to fill your home with fragrance and color. In planning your garden, you first want to determine the number of plants you will need for your space. Depending on the type of roses you choose, be sure to allow enough space for each of the plants to grow and spread. If you choose to use climbing roses along a garden wall, you will want to plant them about three feet apart. Rose shrubs should be spaced at a distance equal to their final full-grown height. For miniatures, keep them between 12 and 15 inches apart.
One other important consideration to keep in mind when designing your rose garden is whether you plan to include other complimentary plants. Choose your companion plants for their complimentary color, shape and texture, as well as similar growing requirements. Some experts even suggest selecting plants that bring added benefits, such as discouraging certain types of pests that might harm your roses. Some possible options are herbs like thyme and sage, which are thought to ward off Japanese beetles and aphids, while yarrow attracts beneficial ladybugs. Some other plants that work well alongside roses are lantana, lavender and marigolds.
When selecting the ideal spot for your roses, keep in mind they need no less than six hours of direct sunlight each day, but a full-sun location is even better. Also, nutrient-rich, well-drained soil will ensure they reach their full potential. If you live in an area where the soil is very acidic, adding lime can help balance it out. Alkaline-heavy soil can benefit from mixing in a bit of powdered sulfur before planting. The best time to plant roses is during early spring or early fall. Early spring planting allows a little extra time for roses to become well established before winter’s chill hits.
Once you’ve picked a location and prepared the soil, it’s time to have some fun designing your garden. Whether you’re seeking to create a very formal rose garden, something a little more laid-back, or a combination of the two, will determine where and what type of roses you use. If space allows, you could even divide the area into areas of formal and not-so-formal gardens, or group them according to flower colors. In a classic rose garden, you will want to arrange your rose plantings in an organized, geometric pattern and include climbing, tree and rose bushes. Accents like white picket fencing, latticed archways and garden sculptures are other popular features. Although a traditional rose garden can be quite formal and devoted exclusively to cultivating roses, yours doesn’t have to be. After all, this is your vision. Feel free to put your own spin on it to lend a more casual feel to your garden. With so many sizes, shapes and hues of flowers available, it’s easy to bring your own, rose-colored dreams to life.
Japanese Gardens – A Serene Refuge
In the early days of Japanese gardening, gardens were created to serve one of two purposes: provide a peaceful place for Buddhist monks to spend time in quiet reflection and second, lend an attractive design element to the palaces of emperors and other nobility.
There is evidence that Japanese garden design began as early as the 5th century; however, it was during the 6th and 7th centuries, as trade with China increased, that brought about major changes as Japanese emperors adapted Chinese design to constructing grand gardens on palace grounds. There were several types of styles that developed during this time, including the paradise garden with beautiful koi ponds and islands of land connected by elaborate curved bridges. It was believed these gardens represented a type of heaven reached prior to enlightenment. Also popular with royalty during the 9th century were Shinden gardens that featured several water elements like waterfalls and brooks trickling into large ponds.
The next several centuries saw the influence of Buddhism with the introduction of the Zen style, which placed a heavy importance on creating areas of quiet meditation. Natural elements like rocks, water and evergreen plants feature prominently in this style, and it still remains visible in the many tea gardens of Japan.
Fortunately, you no longer have to be a monk or Japanese emperor to enjoy the simplicity of this ancient garden aesthetic. Creating your own Japanese-influenced garden is all about sticking with natural elements and a simple, uncluttered approach. Here are a few guidelines to consider when designing:
- Choose the type of garden you want to create. Whether you go for the minimalist Zen style or the green and water infused paradise garden, the basic principles are the same.
- Make sure your design reflects the clean lines of nature. In other words, your garden shouldn’t appear overly busy or forced. It should feel as if the plants and other components were always there, a part of the natural landscape.
- Include natural elements like plants, rocks, stone lanterns or small pagodas, water features like ponds and fountains, and animals like koi fish to represent the various principles of symbolization. One example of this is called Shakkei or "borrowed scenery." This refers to the practice of incorporating the existing landscape as a backdrop for the new garden, creating a timeless qualtiy and a sense that the garden has simply always been there.
- Keep it green. The majority of plants in a Japanese garden are evergreens, with contrast provided by varying the shades of green in the plants you choose. If you choose to add a few flowering plants, choose diffused shades so as to not detract from the sense of simplicity you’re trying to create.
- And finally, design with asymmetry in mind. Japanese culture favors odd numbers, especially in their design aesthetic. Triangles are one of the most popular shapes. Positioning plants in groups of three or five helps maintain the natural feeling in garden.
Cottage Garden – Taking Inspiration from Nature
As much as the Japanese garden style reflects clean lines and a clear, organized structure, the cottage garden also has its own design structure. The cottage garden began during the English Tudor period. At that time pure ornamental gardens were a luxury of the wealthy class. Subsistence farmers began cultivating inexpensive ornamental flowers along with their food crops. Flowers such a hollyhocks, daisies and foxgloves were interspersed among herbs, vegetable plants, vines and small fruit trees. These gardens were a way to combine beauty and color with function. The goal behind this design is to make it feel as organic as possible, as if the plants simply grew up naturally.
Don’t think that the cottage garden’s bohemian approach means there aren’t a few loosely applied principles. Creating the ideal vision requires just the right balance of chaos and control. Its structure should give the appearance that there is no structure, yet never feel overwhelming.
Some of the most common flowers choices for this type of garden are roses. From miniature, tree, bush or climbing, roses often take center stage. Other popular choices are foxglove, carnations, peonies, lavender and daisies. Again, herbs are another element often found in traditional cottage gardens. Mix in varieties of thyme, sage and rosemary to make your garden as functional as it is beautiful. When planning your design be sure you’ve included multiple layers to your garden with ow, medium and tall plants, along with a few climbing plants like honeysuckle or sweet peas.
Creating whimsical vignettes with vintage aged watering cans, patina pots, bird baths and sun dials lend charm and texture to your gardenscape. Add a bench or a small bistro table and chairs to encourage folks to linger and take in the canvas of sweetly scented blooms. White picket fencing, gates, gravel paths and stone edging invoke a gentle sense of form and inspire leisurely afternoon strolls.
These are just three of the nearly endless options for creating the incredible oasis of your dreams. Even if yours will never rival the gardens of Luxembourg, Giverny (believed to be the inspiration behind some of Monet’s most iconic paintings) or Japan’s Kyoto Gardens, with a little planning and a few strategically placed flowers and plants, soon you will have your own little slice of heaven where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the day. and help draw the eye, while encouraging visitors to linger just a bit longer.
- Yvette De La Garza