Features of a Formal English Landscape Design
If you’re unsure what formal landscape architecture looks like, look at the gardens at the palace of Versailles. This showcases formal landscaping at its finest. The most prominent characteristics of this style include:
- Clean geometric designs: Lines of hedgerows, pristinely trimmed foliage, and straight or uniformly curved pathways are mainstays of English landscapes.
- Traditional materials and accents: You’ll find cobblestone pavers, brick walls, clay planters, concrete finials, stone bird fountains, and wood archways and pergolas. Ornate old-world designs from the days of the Greeks and Romans often adorn the accents in a formal garden, which transport your senses back to a simpler time.
- Topiaries: Dense evergreen shrubs, hedges, and trees lend themselves to precise trimming. The topiaries in an English garden range from strict geometric forms to fanciful shapes, including animals and people. Yearly pruning is required to maintain the appearance of the topiaries in your yard.
- Repetition and symmetry: Once you find a plant shape or color you like, repeat it throughout the yard to create an organized appearance. For instance, you might alternate round topiaries with triangular ones along each side of a brick path. Then, the path splits symmetrically to the left and the right where the pattern continues around in a circle.
- Containers set on hard surfaces: Wide pathways or patios are often adorned with planters featuring spiral or spherical topiaries. Several pots arranged in a straight line promote the pattern seen elsewhere in the garden.
Planting a Formal English Garden in San Diego
Though it can be tough to rein yourself in, try to select only a handful of different plants for your formal landscape. This is an important part of making the entire yard appear coherent and balanced. The most popular plants for a formal English garden in San Diego include:
- Boxwood shrubs: These traditional English hedges are densely packed with evergreen leaves and provide the rounded, compact growth habit necessary for shaping topiaries. Boxwoods come in different sizes, with the dwarf varieties providing the smallest growth. They grow best in hardiness zones 6 through 9, and since San Diego is zone 10, your boxwoods may require more water and TLC than usual to thrive in our Mediterranean climate.
- Annabelle hydrangeas: The versatile Annabelle hydrangea produces beautiful flowers in colder regions as well as hot ones like ours here in San Diego. These shrubs, with their tufts of white flowers, are the perfect addition to a traditional English landscape. They grow three to five feet tall and spread four to six feet wide. They prefer full sun to partial shade and bloom in all their glory from June to September.
- Hosta: Also called a plantain lily, hosta plants come in many varieties, all of which possess broad, striated leaves. Most types of hosta prefer shaded conditions, and while they’re drought tolerant, one inch of water per week is necessary to keep them in pristine condition.
- Morning glory: Heirloom plants such as the blue morning glory provide an ageless charm to your formal garden. Plus, they look right at home with more stately hydrangeas and boxwoods.
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