Garden styles and themes

The themes and styles of gardens are as diverse as the plants and flowers that grow in them. From lush English-style gardens to minimalist Japanese gardens; there are aesthetics to suit your style and particular growing climate.

Garden styles and themes have evolved over the years, but several standard features have remained constant such as patios, pathways, benches, seating areas, ponds, fountains, and birdbaths. No matter which design elements you choose for your outdoor spaces, let these garden styles and themes inspire you.


Garden style

A garden’s style is characterised by its layout, landscape architecture, types of plants and flowers, and how the garden foliage is pruned and maintained. There are countless garden styles, but many have branched off from the more traditional cottage, and stone garden styles.

Garden styles are often merged with the design and architecture of the home or perhaps in keeping with the general aesthetic and tradition of the neighbourhood.


Traditional garden style

Traditional garden style feels more formal and classic because it has symmetry, geometric shapes, and tightly pruned shrubbery. Traditional garden styles are often heavily inspired by a house’s architecture, and some design elements may be mirrored, such as a red brick pathway for a red brick colonial-style home.

Another characteristic of the traditional garden style is the emphasis on green spaces with expansive lawns, monochrome shades of green, and a muted colour palette.

Image: Pexels.


Cottage garden style

Cottage garden style feels like stepping into a fairy tale with climbing vines, dense wildflowers, and a sense of whimsy. With much softer lines and edges than a traditional garden style, cottage style is more casual and relaxed.

Although maintaining this garden style is just as challenging as more formal styles, cottage gardens tend to feel effortless because of the creeping underbrush, overflowing pots, and tall grasses. Other unique design elements of cottage style are the use of antique or repurposed ceramic pots, wrought iron gates, and stonework fences. 

Image: Pexels.


Stone garden style

Stone garden style, also known as rock garden style, is known for its clean lines and easy maintenance. Stone gardens use minimal foliage and focus more on architectural details and water features. In Japanese or desert-themed gardens, natural stone like slate or limestone is used on walls, pathways, and stairs. Milled stone like granite is often used as paving or along the perimeter of ponds and fountains. Smaller gravel, crush, and sand is used to create texture and uniformity in spaces that are usually occupied by lawns and greenery.

When plants are incorporated, they are often low-moisture succulents such as aloe, cactus, or echeveria. In stone garden styles, decorative garden elements like benches, lantern stands, and patios are also commonly made from stone.

Image: Unsplash.


Garden themes

Garden themes can be applied to any garden style and some gardens contain more than one theme. In addition to giving your garden character, garden themes can also create a more cohesive and harmonious outdoor space. 


Edible garden theme

Edible garden themes incorporate edible plants and flowers into their design. Popular elements of edible garden themes include greenery such as kale and cabbage and fruit trees such as apples, cherries, and figs. They can also include vines such as grapes, kiwis, and passionfruit plus a wide variety of edible herbs and peppers that can be a delicious addition to your garden space.


Wildlife garden theme

A wildlife garden is a nature-friendly space that attracts pollinators like bees and hummingbirds, as well as small woodland creatures like rabbits, chipmunks, and squirrels. Wildlife gardens are notable for their organic, natural styling with emphasis on arranging the space in as natural a way as possible while avoiding the use of pots or raised beds.

Pesticide use is limited and the trees, flowers, and shrubbery that are selected are often based on native plant life from the area. Decorative items like birdhouses are also added to provide shelter and to attract birds to the garden in the winter months.

Image: Pexels.


Mediterranean garden theme

Mediterranean-themed gardens bring the laid-back feeling of southern Europe to your own backyard. These gardens are focused on distinct scents, colourful décor, and relaxation.

Typical design elements of Mediterranean gardens are plants that fill the air with the aromas of the southern seas. Try incorporating lavender, basil, and rhododendron into your Mediterranean garden design. Bright, bold colours are another feature of this garden theme including brightly coloured pots, painted doors,fences, and decorative mosaics and tiles. These are all elements that give any garden that  Mediterranean feel.

Image: Pexels.


Whatever garden style or theme you choose; how you design your garden should reflect your personality, your interests, and your individual style. As your style and gardening skills evolve throughout the seasons, there are several garden themes that you may wish to combine to create an outdoor space that is uniquely yours.


Read more about gardening and garden design.


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Written by: Eduardo Rios

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