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11 Feb 2018

A journey into the basic concepts of garden design

A lot of garden owners tend to describe their gardens as modest in size.

This is because many of them compare their garden to the large, ornamental gardens that can be found in parks, public spaces, mansions and other places.

They do not realize that compared to some tiny, urban gardens, their gardens are in fact extensive.

In some crowded city spaces, one can only have a garden in a balcony, and the garden could be as small as 2 x 3 m.

These long, narrow garden projects are quite difficult to manage for landscape architects. Options are limited in a small garden design.

A journey into the basic concepts of garden design

Small gardens are inflexible and involve a lot of strategizing to maximize the limited space available.  

Usually, gardens are private spaces for relaxation and meditation. But in densely populated urban regions, gardens lack privacy as they are surrounded by other buildings.

Their surroundings also make them susceptible to air pollution. So, a landscape architect needs to be crafty to make the best of a small garden design.

It is possible to retain beauty and create a relaxing atmosphere in a small garden. There will need to be a lot of intense planning and modification.

As rural-urban migration increased and gardens became smaller, landscape architects had to come up with various creative garden designs to meet the need of clients that had small garden projects. They had to make a lot of redesigns and change a lot in gardening, different from the way things were previously done.

Thanks to their creative designs, modern landscape architects achieved a higher square meter rate than previously obtained for gardens.

They came up with intricate designs and introduced new elements that created more space in a confined garden and made the small gardens easy to navigate and tend.

These gardens might be small, but they can cost a lot more than you think.

Every small garden is limited in size. To make the small garden project a success, the most important skill a landscape architect can employ is space management.

All resources must be spent appropriately with space management the most important factor to be considered.

With proper planning and creative design, one can add design elements like little sculptures and others in a small garden.

The small garden design must also be flexible to accommodate as many elements as possible.

A landscape architect must be realistic and accept that some things found in a traditional garden can never fit in in a small garden no matter how well space is managed.

For example, a dining table to sit four people can’t work in a small garden. Some landscape architects try to make some garden elements smaller to fit them in a garden, but they end up creating a claustrophobic atmosphere. 

The best thing to do is to insert the unimportant elements after the major elements have been inserted.

A small garden design should not be planned to fit in a dining table or another large element. The large elements must be fitted in if possible after the design is complete.

Options must be limited, and chaos must be avoided as much as possible. Sculptures, materials used, furniture and other things must follow this principle.

Through this, some talented landscape architects have managed to insert some otherwise impossible elements into gardens.

To accommodate various elements, there must be a lot of flexibility as earlier explained. Also, a landscape architect must be as realistic as possible and do away with any element that won’t fit in.

Previously, the goal was to insert as many plants as possible in a garden. Then, landscape architects combined a few plants from almost all the species in a garden.

But now, a few species of plants are selected. The selected plants are then maximized as much as possible, creating a clear and well-defined structure.

This also creates a spacious feeling in the garden. By using as little plants as possible, the garden retains an elegant feel.

The landscape architect must take wise decisions and select the best plants for the garden. Consociation must be done wisely.

Consociation involves allowing various plants to grow together and efficiently in a garden in a way that they complement each other perfectly.

The right blend of plants must be selected and planted in a way that they don’t look suffocating.

A landscape architect can combine perennials like centaur, astronaut and sage together. Also, herbaceous plants can be combined with bulbous plants.

Homeowners want all-year gardens where plants are in bloom all through the year. This could be quite difficult to have in a small garden design.

To accomplish this, the limited number of species must be increased to accommodate plants that can grow in all four seasons. It could disrupt the simple, elegant plan originally in place before.

In a small garden, care must be taken to have at least one or two plants per species. The plants must all match each other visually.

One could make a compromise and plan for three seasons instead of four as the limited garden space may not be adequate for four seasons.

A landscape architect could plant perennials and then add flowerbeds and annual plants in containers.

The plants in these flowerpots could be changed seasonally making for a refreshing garden look every season.

The growth of the small gardens in urban areas has forced landscape architects to rethink their designs and come up with new innovative designs.

Climate change is now a factor that landscape architects have to reckon with.

They must be forced to innovate to accommodate the changing climate.

A journey into the basic concepts of garden design

Landscape or gardening innovation must be continuous, and all landscape architects must innovate and change their styles to match new weather conditions.  

New habitats emerge, and landscape architects must plan for these new habitats accordingly.

Landscape architects must continually study climate change and how it applies to various habitats. New combinations must be formulated, and flexibility in garden designs must increase. There is no better period for innovation as a landscape architect than now.


For many owners of small gardens, even the most insignificant corner is an opportunity to gather, cultivate and observe as many plants as possible. In fact, for the garden-dependent, the golden rule is “a specimen of everything”.

We can understand this: the discovery of unusual or unknown treasures always has a remarkable charm.

The variety of plants that can be crammed even in the most cramped spaces is amazing, and can be a real challenge.

However, design is also a question of consistency, structure, organization and visual readability.

In this type of garden, therefore, the materials, the furnishings and the ornaments will respect this rule, so as to show off the vegetable cornucopia in the best possible way.

Using a single material for pots and containers can be a good start.

Even the use of a simple flooring, which uses no more than two materials, will create an excellent background to highlight the chromatic or morphological variety of flowers and leaves.

By choosing dark stones like slate, you will gain greater visibility to the green of the foliage.

Besides creating a much more evocative and interesting atmosphere, it will also be possible to create the illusion of a larger garden.

Walls or partition fences covered with vines will further contribute to the purpose. Without a clear perception of borders, in fact, it will be more difficult to understand where exactly the garden ends.

Moreover, dark materials introduce deeper and more interesting shadows, and the use of trellises, fences or panels in these shades will visually enhance the space. By placing the larger and more scenic foliage plants in the foreground and the smaller ones near the perimeter, you will achieve a greater depth effect, making the garden much more intriguing.

The space for relaxation and sociability, probably, will be a secondary requirement, subordinated to the “cult” of the plants, even if the introduction of seats or benches will allow the garden-employee to feel one with its environment, plunging in nature that loves so much.


For some garden owners, the plants are a necessary burden, which forces them to laborious maintenance work; what matters most to them is the pleasure of sharing life outdoors with friends and family.

The small garden then represents a social opportunity: a place to eat and drink, to watch the sunset and the lights of the city with a drink or a beer in hand.

While the garden-employee will work in its own green space, this second type will do it elsewhere: more than the realm of plants, the garden is a background for its recreational activities.

In this case, therefore, the focus will be on the floors, designed to accommodate tables and chairs, a barbecue and maybe a tent or a pergola for shade and privacy.

The water will be included to create sound and movement, balancing the noise of the city if necessary.

And while lighting will be essential to use the garden even after sunset, the plant will be simple and easy to maintain.

Some may even consider spaces totally devoid of vegetation, treating the garden as a sort of outdoor room and optimizing the use of space.


While the garden-employee masks the boundaries to create visual depth, the social gardener adores the architecture of space.

We will therefore need more attention to the materials used, the quality and finish of the floors and other structures. In a small space, all connections, joints and surfaces will be more visible, and the possibility of containing expenses or masking some particular inconvenience will be less.

Compared to the previous one, this type of garden is more expensive.

Plants are cheaper than floors and structures, and easier to manage even by amateurs; here, however, a skilled labor force will probably be needed.

Light surfaces such as limestone will be favored, creating a sense of space by simplifying and expanding paved areas, and wooden platforms, which take advantage of the long horizontal lines of the slats to enhance the depth.

As for the plant, clear and defined blocks of vegetation, such as herbaceous plants or bamboo, will be used to reflect or filter the light, while the creepers will be used to create green walls without occupying too much surface on the ground.


The designer must know how to capture these different traits in his clients, but must also understand the functional needs of the garden, be it gardening, leisure, children’s play or sun worship. If you are not a professional and want to take care of yourself, take the time to evaluate your needs and your lifestyle.

Be objective and meticulous, because the character and quality of the garden will depend on these first decisions.

Although each garden is a separate case, there are common problems and concerns that can be solved with ease.

Unless a minimal space is desired, the green areas should be as large as possible, to create a good sense of depth, allow a good distribution of the plants and allow light to penetrate between the various forms.

If you choose large flower beds, with compact masses of vegetation, the plants will behave as one in the wind and in the light, creating a very different effect compared to mixed and variegated flower beds.

This approach, however, requires a good amount of space to be effective. A generous vegetation will also allow to mask the most unpleasant corners or borders.

A typical problem of small urban spaces is that often only one or two sides of the perimeter belong to a single owner.

A uniform choice for materials and finishes is therefore very difficult, unless the neighbors are not willing to agree.

Plants, especially creepers and wall shrubs, can serve to harmonize space or create a more coherent approach.

In this way, a square or rectangular lot can become a very different spatial experience. The taller plants and hedges will bring vertical emphasis to the garden, but could give rise to controversy with neighbors.

Ask about the laws in force. Level changes in the form of steps always create greater visual interest, but in tight spaces they can be difficult to incorporate and potentially dangerous.

As a rule, it is always better to foresee more than one, since only one step can easily go unnoticed, especially in summer, when the shadows are shorter.

Two or three steps will make the unevenness of the pavement more evident.

When space is limited, however, a similar drop (minimum 30 cm) may not be obtainable. It is therefore important to draw attention to the presence of steps in another way, for example by changing material for the entire ramp or for one of the levels.

Lighting is also useful for this purpose: lights embedded in the steps illuminate the pitch and solve the problem of safety, creating a pleasant scenographic effect.

Flowerbeds and raised containers are often associated with small gardens.

They confer architectural quality to the space and help keep the plants tidy, keeping the walkable surfaces clean.

Furthermore, if the container wall reaches 45 cm in height, it can also act as a seat. However, raised beds can create aridity problems because they dry out quickly due to wind and evaporation.

Even the materials used in the construction can absorb moisture from the ground, and the plants will suffer, never reaching the desired height or luxuriance.

Again, the solution lies in its dimensions. Increasing the surface of the containers as much as possible will allow a greater absorption of rainwater.

Irrigation is also useful, but we must remember to consider it among the extra costs in the design and construction phase.

It is always better to predict it in the original project than to add it later.

Some systems are based on rechargeable tanks embedded in the container, a preferable solution to the pipes, which require connections between one and the other bed.

Raised containers are particularly suitable for urban gardens, but it is important to pay attention to the walls against which they rest, because they risk creating infiltrations.

If the boundary wall is autonomous, usually the problem does not exist, but when it is part of a building, water can penetrate the waterproof protection and reach the structure.

It is important to remember that gardens are not islands, but are connected to everything around them.

The actions that take place in one’s own space can have consequences on that of others.

It is always good to remember that plants can also be chosen according to the height and shape they will reach; this means that sometimes you can give up the additional height given by the containers, thus also containing the expenses.

The cost per square meter of small urban gardens, in fact, will always be greater than similar spaces in the suburbs or in the countryside.

For the company you are addressing, ease of access and storage of materials and equipment are essential, because many urban gardens are far away and isolated from the road, and parking is non-existent.

In addition, many people deal with the needs of the house first and only later in the garden, which means that the transport of land and waste materials, as well as new ones, must take place through immaculate interiors. There are few landlords who start work from the garden.


What has just been said is more evident than ever in the creation of hanging gardens.

In these cases, in fact, access is generally via an elevator or a flight of stairs, and the materials are transported by hand from the ground floor.

The rent of a crane is possible, of course, but the costs will rise considerably. The roofs also have specific problems and needs, and safety is of paramount importance.

The opportunity to enjoy panoramic views should be balanced with the need for balustrades of the right height and adequate protection of plants from exposure to the wind, which can dry out the foliage and determine the death of most species, except for the most robust ones.

Often the best thing is to choose plants that thrive in maritime climates, precisely because they tolerate currents, aridity and temperature changes better.

Wind protection is also an important factor in the use of space: in some cases, in fact, it is better to sacrifice a good view in exchange for an adequate shelter.

As for the materials, glass is a popular choice, even if it requires regular cleaning, unless the self-cleaning type (more expensive) is used.

Load limits are another fundamental aspect in the design of a roof garden. In new buildings, the project usually indicates the weight that the roof can support.

In older properties, however, it is possible that the data should be updated or calculated, and before starting work or introducing any heavy plant or article, it is essential to contact a civil engineer.

In condominiums, moreover, it is probable that the roof or what is below you are not your property; careful therefore to avoid any kind of damage to third parties.
Even the hanging gardens provided since the design of the house may have considerable load limits, and you may have to settle for a turf or shrubs and rather low perennial plants.

The smaller plants in fact require less deep soil, and the meadows can thrive even at a depth of only 15 cm.

Drainage layers are also required to prevent the flower beds from getting too wet, and to make sure that excesses are stored and eliminated effectively.

Over the last few years, following the search for more sustainable urban systems, the use of pre-activated absorbent surfaces has spread.

Sedum mats come in the category and are now easy to find. Larger plants, important for their structure and size, need 60 cm to 1.2 m depth, subjecting the roof structure to a much greater load. The trees should generally be placed in specific positions, calculated on the basis of the load-bearing structure, and light materials such as polystyrene can be used to reduce the load.

Even the flooring must be light, or rest on the perimeter walls rather than on the roof. Precisely for these reasons, wood is a very popular choice, with platforms supported by joints similar to those of the floors.

In this case, drainage and waterproofing also remain fundamental: the platforms are excellent for masking the systems and the other structural elements, but it is essential to ensure that no accumulation of water is created in the underlying surface.

The frost could in fact cause invisible damage and allow moisture to penetrate the fabric of the building.



Some gardens are classified as small because, although they are long, they have a limited area. There are two fundamental approaches to this type of problem: dividing the garden into a series of smaller sectors or visually widening the width.

The first is based on the element of surprise: thanks to the succession of small and diversified spaces, the feeling is lost that the garden is cramped.

Even the link with the home is less moving from one space to another, to the benefit of privacy. The different “rooms” can be defined by walls or fences, which will occupy the smallest possible space.

The hedges will provide structural solidity and architectural quality, while preserving the softness of the vegetation, while less rigid yet structured plants, such as bamboo and shrubs, will create a more relaxed, jungle-like atmosphere.


It is also possible to use each type of subdivision in the same garden, perhaps increasing the level of informality as you move away from the house.

Widening the width means accenting it to the maximum with visual tricks, for example through horizontal paving lines or through steps that extend throughout the space. Small streams or canals, provided with the need for walkways, can be used in the same way.

Walls, hedges or other types of barrier are however possible, for example to mask the length, but the emphasis will always be placed on the horizontal width of the lot.

A third option is to clear the entire area of ​​the garden to use it as a single space, perhaps with a particular sculpture or plant to act as a focal point on the bottom.

With this scenario, the boundary of the boundaries, whether artificial or vegetal, must be very regular and designed for privacy and containment, so as to go almost unnoticed.

Many small gardens fall into the category of “difficult” spaces in almost every sense, configuring themselves as discontinuous and irregular lots, completely devoid of order and structure.

In these situations, many make the mistake of following the boundaries and reclaiming the form in the general scheme of the garden.

In reality, the most effective solution moves in the opposite direction, and consists in forgetting the perimeter of the lot by creating a totally new project within the available area.

Do not worry about wasting precious space: identifying the really usable and functional one and using the vegetation to fill the irregularities, the impact of the borders will decrease drastically, softening the garden.

Finally it should be remembered that it is much cheaper and more efficient to use plants for this purpose than to cut and insert expensive building materials into complex corners and shapes.

All the solutions described above are embodied in the projects presented in this book.

The designers have tried to clarify as much as possible the choices made in the introduction that accompanies the different plans.

Even if you do not find the mirror image of your garden, you can still get inspiration from reading the solutions they have devised.

So you can put your ideas into practice, or contact an expert designer to help you solve any specific problems.


Each project is accompanied by a plan that shows the scheme of the garden, faithfully reduced to scale.

Designers use different colors or sections of varying thickness to give them depth and atmosphere and make them more accessible to the lay reader.

Sometimes other visual supports, such as the elevations, are used to indicate heights; the axonometries, to have a three-dimensional vision; or the perspectives, to show the effect that one tries to find inside the garden.

The elevations or axonometries respect an accurate scale, but the perspectives, however measurable in relative terms, often appear in the form of freehand sketches, precisely because they want to convey a feeling rather than an accurate reproduction.

The common goal is to show the shape that the garden will take at the end.

The computer is increasingly gaining ground in this field, and although in some cases the images created in this way may be somewhat mechanical, there are many techniques, such as photomontage and photo-realistic collage, which produce convincing and dynamic perspectives.

There is a wide range of design approaches, and the graphic techniques, often selected in harmony with the project, vary accordingly, going from the most elaborate style to the simple sketch, from the care for every detail to the minimal taste.

Also read: Playground areas and risk.

07 Feb 2018

Playground areas and risk

When we look at this title, there is a word that is not there. Everyday there are constant discourses on risk during children’s play time. Is it okay for a child to have some risk around the playground instead of a completely insulated environment? Should children even be exposed to risk in the first place? What happens to me if a child gets injured under my watch? These are the questions that parents and decision makers are faced with.

In all these conversations, we should ask ourselves why children need risk during play. We try to protect them but do they suffer when they are overprotected? Children should be given the chance to explore their playgrounds. Play time is a great opportunity to have fun and learn at the same time.

So the word that is missing from the title is ‘benefit’. It would be possible to protect children against exposure to risk, but they would lose out in at least two stark ways: deny exposure to risk and you deny the child a play opportunity; deny exposure to a risk and you deny the child a chance to learn how to manage risk themselves. To deny at least access to acceptable levels of risk is to deny children the opportunity to engage with and learn from risks.

Playground areas and risk

The risks that children encounter in life are the sorts of risks that life tends to throw up on a daily basis, and these risks are not limited to the risk of physical harm. Children will expose themselves to emotional and psychological risks as they engage with their friends and other children.

We all make judgements as we progress through life, and as adults we make such judgements when we consider what sorts of risks are appropriate for children to encounter. To a Large extent, the physical and emotional risks to which children are exposed through their interactions with their environment and peers are obvious or apparent to the child, and become more obvious as they grow older and more accustomed to the world around them. As parents and policy makers, it is incumbent upon us to consider

the risks, but also, importantly, to consider the wider implications of our decision making— upon what basis are we making judgements? If we set reasonable policy objectives in terms of benefits to children, then the judgements that we make can be set against that policy, such that our reputations will be intact and our children will benefit from excellent play opportunities.

By way of example, if I stop my child from climbing a tree on the basis that he might fail and hurt himself, then I can be sure that he will not be harmed by falling from a tree. However, what about the missing bits to which I referred earlier? What benefit is there in climbing trees? What are the consequences of stopping my child from climbing the tree? He will not learn to climb trees so he will be denied the fun that comes from it, he will be denied the freedom of choice and he will be denied the ability to learn how to climb a tree! The next time he climbs a tree with his friends, he has one less learning experience upon which to draw, and there is more likelihood that he will fall! The more experienced he becomes at climbing trees, the higher he will climb, and potentially the more risk he will expose himself to. However, he will have an awareness of the risk that he is letting himself in for and will tend to self-limit. The higher he goes, the more careful he becomes and the more exciting the experience becomes.

So when considering what judgements to make on children’s behalf, we should consider the benefits of allowing exposure to risk and the consequences of our choices.

Also read: TYPES OF GARDENS: Modernist Gardens. | What to Expect as a Landscape Architect  | Hiring a landscape architect for your new garden


05 Feb 2018

Garden project on a sloping terrain

Many believe it is more difficult to design a garden on a sloping terrain.

The differences in level allow us to arrange the plants on different levels, making the whole of the cultivable areas more lively.

Of course I do not mean sites with an excessive difference in height: in that case, in fact, the budget tends to rise rapidly and much of the usable space will be occupied by steps and balustrades.

As for me, not only do I like challenges, but I also believe that a garden with a slight difference in height can be more fascinating than a flat space.


It is easy and inexpensive to draw a line on a piece of paper and mark the point where a wall will have to be built; but moving large amounts of land is another matter!

Moving a retaining wall of even half a meter greatly influences the budget: evaluate the benefits you can draw and do not make hasty decisions.


I think well-designed steps can become an interesting element in a garden and benefit from the general structure, suggesting a certain directionality.

If you can, build steps that are as large and comfortable as possible, so you do not have to queue up before going to them!

The risers must be smooth and not exceed 20 cm; the treads should be at least 30 cm deep.


Of course, the water flows in one direction only and the differences in height influence the flow.

Fill the area behind the retaining walls with gravel and create drain holes so that the water can not accumulate.

Give the right slope to the steps to prevent water from stagnating, making them dangerous.


The walls with a height of more than 60 cm must be built by a professional, especially if they serve to hold the ground.

If you intend to make steps, remember that side walls will also be needed.

In case of considerable difference in height, consider the possibility of creating a terracing. The different areas can be paved or cultivated and will allow you to make the most of the space.


In many countries, the law states that the height differences of more than 60 cm are protected by 1,2 m high balustrades, which could interrupt a view or do not match the architecture of the garden.

To overcome this problem, you can create your terraces with a difference in height that does not exceed 60 cm or build the very wide steps, in order to avoid altogether or minimize the use of balustrades.


A wooden floor can be the ideal solution in a sloping garden, because it allows the water to flow without difficulty and does not require serious foundation work.

A simple steel structure, complete with steps, can instead be used for larger gradients.

You can use something like that to create, for example, a balcony on the first floor, accessible from the garden with a few steps.

Wooden railway sleepers are perhaps the cheapest way to build a small wall or some steps.

Use it to build a framework to be filled with loose and draining material, such as pebbles or gravel, or to grow plants so as to soften the slopes.

Walls and solid steps in stone, brick or masonry give a feeling of stability, but require complicated foundation work.

Many gardens have the advantage of being structured on different levels, with comfortable areas used as lawn or patio where you can move freely.

Usually the gardens with slight slopes correspond to these requirements or adapt easily to the purpose; if instead the natural slope is significant, it will be necessary to modify it to make the garden more livable in everyday life.


The division of the garden into three parts, through two low retaining walls, allows the leveling of the ground. The three spaces are connected by paved paths and comfortable steps.

The plant design means that every single part of the garden forms a separate, autonomous and complete space. The design not only solves the slope problem, but is also an ideal solution for long and narrow gardens.

Each space can be made safe for children by adding low fences, grates and stair access gates.

Garden project on a sloping terrain landscape plan
1 Patio and Table 2 –  3 – Stone floor Outdoor living room 4 Vegetation –   5 Wall – 6 – Gravel  7 – Playground space   8 – Grass 9- Areas of vegetable garden and aromatic herbs 10 – Deposit  11 –   Tree 12 – Hedge

Huts and deposits for your garden project

Unless you are lucky enough to have plenty of free space elsewhere, for example in a garage, you will need a storage room to store gardening tools and equipment. You will discover that, whatever size you choose, it will never be big enough!

The important thing, however, is how to harmonize it with the project: it must be useful and accessible but not cumbersome.

If the garden is large, you can contemplate an area in which to fix not only the tool shed but also other elements that usually prefer to hide, such as the compost bin, the basin for collecting water and the greenhouse.

You can then create a shielding by combining vegetation and partitions. The narrow and long gardens are particularly suitable for this solution.

If the garden is small, you may be forced to place the deposit in a more or less visible place, trying to soften it with the help of plants.

If space is limited, arrange different vines on the walls of the shed, avoiding those with adventitious roots like ivy, which would make maintenance difficult.

For better performance, fix metal cables or trellises to the building and cultivate twining vines, such as clematis or honeysuckle, which tolerate well pruning every two or three years, when the shed needs your care.

With a little extra space, you can install trellises or metal cables on stakes placed a short distance from the shed.

Future maintenance will be easier; and if the grid becomes a characterizing element of the project, what is shielded will take second place.

If there is enough space, create a border of evergreens and deciduous species that completely surrounds the service area.

By connecting it to the rest of the vegetation, it will remain totally hidden.

Alternatively, consider the deposit as a positive element of the project, treating it or painting it with colors matching the style of the garden or decorating it with vases and other ornaments.

A paved area around it will transform it into a place of relaxation.

The ideal plants for this garden project

Trees, shrubs, perennial and annual choices for this garden are all easy to maintain and reasonable, and we also took into account their aesthetic appearance during the course of the year and safety for the family.

The highest ones are placed in such a way as to accentuate the division of the garden.

Garden project on a sloping terrain landscape plan plantation landscape plan


Legend of plants used in this garden project: Ag – Agapanthus ‘Blue Giant’ | As – Astilbe chinense ‘Finale’ At – Astrantia major | Br – Brachyglottis Gruppo Dunedin ‘Sunshine’ | Bu – Buddleja ‘Pink Delight’ | Cj – Camellia japonica ‘Adolphe Audusson’ | Ca – Campanula persicifolia var. alba | Cr – Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ | Ce – Ceanothus ‘Delight’Cistus x hybridus | Cl – Clematis ‘Rouge Cardinal’ | Co – Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’ | Cy – Cytisus ‘Windlesham Ruby’  | Es – Escallonia rubra ‘Crimson Spire’ | Eu – Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Cascade’ | Ge – Geranium darkei’Kashmir Purple’ | Gr – Geranium wallichianum ‘Buxton’s Variety’ | Hp – Hemerocallis ‘Pink Damask’ | He – Hemerocallis ‘Stafford’ | Hi – Hibiscus syriacus’Oiseau Bleu’ | Ir – Iris ‘Frost and Flame’ (var. alta barbata) | Ii – Iris sibirica ‘Tropic Night’ | Ja – Jasminum officinale ‘Argenteovariegatum’ | Ju – Juniperus horizontalis ‘Emerald Spreader’ | La  – Lavandula angustifolia ‘Folgate’ | Le – Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Aglaia’ | Lo – Lonicera fragrantissimaMalus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’ | Mi – Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ | Mo – Monarda ‘Snow Queen’ | Ne – Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ | Oe – Oenothera macrocarpa | Pa – Panicum virgatum ‘Rubrum’ | Pe – Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’ | Ph – Phlox paniculata ‘Sandringham’ | Po – Potentilla fruticosa ‘Tilford Cream’ | Rh –  Rhododendron ‘Avalanche’ | Rp – Rhododendron ‘Purple Splendour’ Ribes sanguineum ‘Tydeman’s White’ | Ro – Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ Schizostylis ‘Sunrise’ | Sk – Skimmia japonica (1 male, 2 females) | Sj – Spiraea japonica ‘Anthony Waterer’| Sp – Spiraea nipponica ‘Snowmound’ | Ve – Veronica gentianoides ‘Variegata’ | Vi – Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ | Vr- Viburnum rhytidophyllum | Vt – Vitis vinifera ‘Ciotat’ | We – Weigela florida ‘Foliis Purpureis’


Also read: TYPES OF GARDENS: Modernist Gardens.

Garden Projects: A garden project for the family


02 Feb 2018

A formal garden project

In the right format, a simple formal garden, even a small one, can be of great impact.

The dimensions do not count: the best gardens are a happy combination of geometry and symmetry, in which the plants architecturally create clear and well-structured forms, exalting the straight lines, the corners and the rigorous curves of floors, walls and fountains.

On this type of background there is also a limited range of colors.

Strengths in all formal garden projects

  • Various spaces, distinct yet connected to each other.
  • Strong symmetry, both in the different structural elements of the garden – trees, walls, pergola – and in vegetation, especially in the continuity of climbing plants.
  • A series of focal points, from the pergola to the urn, up to the bench, emphasizing the dense background of ivy.
  • Simple and regular shapes, straight lines and soft curves.
  • Yew hedges, lavender and boxwood well pruned and uniform – the yew hedge ends at the ends with two topiary sculptures pruned in a particularly precise manner.
  • Soft pastel hues for flowers, applied in repeated patterns or in monochromatic spots.

    A formal garden project landscape plan project formal garden layout
    1 Climbers 2 – Rose borders 3 – Lavender hedge 4 topiary sculpture –   5 – Fountain 6 – Paved in natural stone 7 – Brick floor 8 – Statue 9- Hedge  10 – Bench 11 – Grass 12 – Table 13 – Mosaic


Bench Carefully evaluate the way the furniture fits into your garden. Traditional lines and materials, such as oak and wrought iron, go well in classic or equally traditionalist gardens.

Modern styles and materials, on the other hand, like stainless steel and plastic, work wonders in contemporary or architectural projects.

Glicine With its long racemes of fragrant flowers, similar to those of the sweet pea, the wisteria is a splendid creeper.

To use it to the best try to reduce the root area leaving the largest possible extension upwards. A beautiful pergola is ideal for enhancing it to the full.

Lavender hedge In all its varieties, lavender is perfect for creating low and fragrant hedges, in formal and informal schemes.

Place it in the sun and on well-drained soil, and prune it lightly after flowering, and with a firmer hand at the beginning of spring, to keep it clean and tidy and to favor abundant blooms.

Do not forget to cut and dry the flower heads dry.

Topiary art in formal garden projects

You will find commercially pruned plants in every possible shape and size, ready and with a certain effect. Personal intervention, however, even if it takes more time, can give a lot of satisfaction.

  1. Select the plant. Some deciduous species may be used, but evergreens are optimal for topiary art, and they give less problems.
  2. Decide whether to grow your plant in a pot by planting it when it has reached the desired size, whether to put it away from the beginning or whether to leave it in a container forever.
  3. Choose a shape. Avoid those too complicated until you have reached an expert dinner. Cones, cylinders, pyramids and spheres are the easiest forms to start.
  4. Before implanting your specimen, prepare the soil well, because topiary requires strong and healthy plants. If you intend to use a container proceed to repotting, using a container only slightly larger than the one from which you take it; if instead it is not ready to transplant, leave it for a while in the original one.
  5. Prune at least a third the side branches, if necessary also to the older wood, to produce a greater number of shoots. For a good result the plants must be very thick. Keep in mind the form you are aiming for even in these very early stages. For a cone, for example, you will cut the branches near the top with more vigor than those at the base, so as to already partially set the final appearance.
  6. Water and nourish the plant well during growth.
  7. Prune back to midsummer, halving the new branches. Then let the plant grow until spring and favor the development of a strong root system.
  8. Prune still in the advanced winter, without exceeding the base of the previous year’s growth.
  9. Keep pruning at regular intervals throughout the season, but only the new branches will appear. The last pruning should be done in late summer, to allow the subsequent limited growth and avoid the ‘fresh cut’ effect, allowing the plant to recover well before winter.

Topiary art in formal garden projects

The ideal plants in this formal garden project

Unless you plan a very formal scheme, based only on the profiles, textures and colors of the foliage to highlight the architectural elements, you will also have to provide shades and shapes that mitigate the rigidity.

This project includes the pale climbing roses and bush, the tender violet of the lavender hedge and the wisteria of the pergola.

Formal project plan For the family landscape plan garden project plantation plan
B – Buxus sempervirens’ SuffruticosaL – Laurocerosa LA – Lavandola angustifolia ‘Munstead’ R – Rosa’ Cécile Briinner  T – Taxus baccata ‘Elegantissima’ W – Wisteria flonbunda

Also read: TYPES OF GARDENS: Modernist Gardens.

Garden Projects: A garden project for the family