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Garden Design: Thematic Elements


Ancient Savannah forest (woodland) garden at Alaafin of Oyo’s palace. It is an idyllic garden providing personal retreat from the hustle and bustle of palace life.

Ancient Savannah forest (woodland) garden at Alaafin of Oyo’s palace. It is an idyllic garden providing personal retreat from the hustle and bustle of palace life.

‘‘If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need’’ – Marcus Tullius Cicero 106BC – 43 BC
GARDENING is not only a hobby; it’s an art form. While most gardens are a result of a particular climate or landscape, many are simply an extension of the gardener’s imagination and passion.

Designing a garden often goes beyond deciding which plants you want to grow and the type of function you want your garden to have? Care should be taken to choose appropriate themes for your garden based on the architecture of the house and that your garden fits its surroundings, which is referred to as ‘‘sense of place.’’

Two things will influence your garden design the form and style. Every garden must have a form theme, but not all gardens have a style theme. All gardens should have a form theme to create spaces for activities. In a form theme, the organisation and shape of the spaces in the garden is based either on the shape of the house, the shape of the areas between the house and the property boundaries, or a favourite shape of the homeowner. The form theme determines the shape and organisation (the layout) of the spaces and the links between them.

Common themes include geometric; such as circle, square and rectangle; or naturalistic such as irregular (organic edge) or curvilinear (meandering lines). Form themes are sometimes combined; geometric shapes are used for the hardscape and naturalistic shapes for the plantings. For example, plant bedlines are often curvinilear while the hardscape is square in form.
Style themes are mostly related to the architecture and they often simplify the design of the residential garden because materials and form are to some extent predetermined. Architecture is usually the primary source of a theme, because architectural styles typically fall in a formal or informal category, the landscape themes tend to be either formal or informal.

Here are some popular style elements to help in clarifying what you want:
Formal gardens: Keep formal gardens simple. Aim for balance and symmetry so the garden has an air of calm elegance: use strong lines and boundaries, such as groomed hedges, walkways, perhaps even a reflecting pool. Use single-color paintings, aiming to match or complement your house color, or other elements.

Add stylish pots, urns, gazing balls, or statuary. Everything should be kept in moderation.
Informal Garden: (Cottage Gardens or wild Gardens)

Small indoor garden a tropical paradise with geometric motif.

Small indoor garden a tropical paradise with geometric motif.

Do you have a soft spot for the old-fashioned cottage-styled garden overflowing with colourful blooms? So plant your informal garden with a generous hand. Include lots of annuals, roses and other fragrant plants (including herbs). Keep the plants well tended (removes pent flowers and stems) but allow them to express their natural exuberance, some spilling over their boundaries. Finally, add some charming touches – a picket fence, an arbour, whimsical birdhouses or wind climes.

Asian (Japanese Zen Gardens): Asian gardens are usually based on a broad area of raked sand or stone. Choose fine-texture traditional plants, in pots or in the ground. Try bamboo, ornamental grasses and small flowering fruit trees. Include accessories such as stone lanterns, bamboo fencing, a water basin, or even a small ‘‘tea house’’ in your Asian garden.

Tropical Gardens: Tropical gardens emphasize lots of big bold, leafy plants (such as cannas, hibiscus, coleus marigold, taro, allamanda, bougainvillea) in the ground or in large containers. Use bright flowers in hot colors: yellow, red, orange as well as bicolors. Then include a water feature, such as a pool, fountain, or stream. You can add drama with extras: birdhouses or cages, colourful pots, gazing balls, and playful or handcrafted decor and statuary.

Dry Climate (desertscape) gardens If your area is a little on the parched side or have frequent water shortage, you may want to opt for a dry climate garden. Employ a naturalistic layout, perhaps with a dry stream bed or stone pathways, and choose plants that thrive in the hot sun, including but not limited to cacti and succulents, which can withstand long spells of no water or very little and no worse for it. Then strategically place accents of colourful or more water – needing plants in pots in groups.
Forest/Woodland Gardens: Forest land/woodland gardens are often in shade, include ground covers that flower as well as bulbs.

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