Garden Design: The Five Elements of Great Garden Design

Garden Design: The Five Elements of Great Garden Design

Last Updated on July 10, 2021 by Kimberly Crawford

Flagstone paths or gravel ones, stone containers or terra cotta pots – learn how to choose the right design elements for your garden style.

Whether it’s the ancient rock walls of an English country garden or the gravel paths and terra cotta pots of a classic Tuscan courtyard, the world’s great gardens are designed to welcome visitors with more than just plants.

Design elements, from pathways and benches to fountains and ornaments are key to great garden design. And knowing the right design elements for you and your garden style can make all the difference.

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Garden Design — Knowing the Garden-Style That’s Right For You

Garden Design -- Knowing the Garden-Style That's Right For You

Think about the garden style that most inspires you. Now list the design and decor elements used in that garden style. Do you love the classic French parterre with its square beds offset by broad gravel pathways?

Are you drawn to the water features and rocks of traditional Chinese garden design?

Or do you want your garden to be a “one of a kind” — one that uses quirky elements that tell the unique story of you? If it’s the latter, then take a look at Marcia Donahue’s “Our Own Stuff Gallery Garden,” in Berkeley, California.

Featuring “bone-boo” sculptures, found objects like bowling balls and a bottle-tree laden with blue glass, Donahue’s garden is a truly unique reflection of its owner.

But no matter what garden style you’re going for, make sure you read about it and look at as many pictures as you can to avoid those frustrating mistakes – like a rough, knotty-pine bench in your formal French garden!

The Right Bench for Your Design Style

The Right Bench for Your Garden Design Style

And speaking of benches – every garden needs a place to sit. And the right seating, in just the right spot, doesn’t just provide a place for you and your visitors to rest.

A bench or chair can create a mysterious, sheltered nook, a focal point or a lovely perch from which to view the broad expanse of your garden. But choosing the right bench or chair for your garden is key.

If it’s a formal garden you can’t go wrong with stone, cast concrete or wrought iron in a simple classic style. For a more informal cottage or woodland garden style, choose softer materials like wood, wicker or reed.

And if you really want to mix and match styles do it with confidence and panache, because all mistakes can be undone…or at least resold!

Design Style for Garden Walls and Pathways

Design Style for Garden Walls and Pathways

Pathways and walls are key design elements in any garden: they determine where the visitor walks, what can and can’t be seen at any given moment, and can be used to create an element of surprise.

You can’t go wrong with stone in the garden, whether using it to create low walls for raised beds in a woodland space, high walls to separate garden rooms or in crushed gravel form to line the pathways of a formal parterre.

But once again, choose the materials for your walls and pathways carefully, based on the garden style you’re going for.

The Best Pots and Ornaments for Your Garden Design

The Best Pots and Ornaments for Your Garden Design

Garden pots, statuary and fountains can be beautiful décor elements in any garden, providing both focal points and hidden surprises.

But use them sparingly. You don’t want a garden littered with randomly placed gewgaws! And choose based on the garden tradition you’re after – stone or cast concrete pots and ornaments to add formal elements, wood for a less formal design and terra cotta for any styles!

A single mirror, whether a mirror ball or the flat, framed variety, can also be used to great effect in the garden, creating lovely garden reflections and bursts of light.

Buildings Add Interest to Garden Design (Potting Shed & Miniature)

Buildings Add Interest to Garden Design (Potting Shed & Miniature)

Few of us can afford the grandeur of a full-sized garden folly, but you might be able to build a miniature one.

And in the right garden, a rustic potting shed can also provide great visual interest, a key focal point and a practical space for any gardener.

Design your shed to open up onto your garden then hang a mirror over the potting bench so you can look up from your work and see the reflection of your beautifully designed garden spreading out behind you!

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Garden Design: The Five Elements of Great Garden Design