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Every garden reflects the unique style of the person who tends it. But most gardens can be characterized by an overall style that's either formal or informal. Whether you want to create a cottage garden, rock garden, Asian-inspired garden, or a garden with an eclectic mix of styles, the concepts of formal and informal design can help you create a garden that is right for you.


Formal gardens are characterized crisp edges and clean lines. The design may be symmetrical and often incorporates geometric shapes, such as circles, triangles and rectangles. Trees and shrubs are used to define spaces and guide the eye. Herbaceous plants are selected to create specific texture or color combinations, and are confined to neat beds and borders. Pathways are typically brick, stone or concrete. Pots, outdoor structures and furniture are classic in design and carefully placed.

Informal gardens are characterized by irregular shapes, blurred lines and asymmetrical plantings. Pathways are curved and may not be level. Edges are broken by cascading plants. Different species of trees and shrubs are grouped together, and their branches create a tapestry of textures and colors.

The placement of garden art and structures is often unexpected. Planters and outdoors furniture may be rustic, traditional or modern, or an eclectic combination of them all. These gardens often evolve organically. They may respect the rules of garden design, but are also responding to the character of the site, the plants, and the personality and creativity of the gardener.