Thursday, 16 February 2012

Deciphering your garden style

Show me your garden 
and I shall tell you 
what you are.

~ Alfred Austin

My Mom was the gentlest of souls. She was quiet but creative, shy but powerful, and her touch spoke volumes.  She was a passionate gardener, though a little careful in her decisions. In her front gardens (the bit the public could see) she allowed only geraniums, begonias, dusty miller and sweet alyssum. But in our back gardens she adored a profusion of peonies, roses, tiger lilies, asters... soft pinks, punches of colour and summer fragrance. A true romantic. Often shy, my Mom was able to express herself with greater clarity and confidence in the garden.

Gardens are a reflection of who we are. For the new gardener it can all be very confusing and the biggest challenge is just trying to figure out where to begin. 

To that I would say, you must begin at the beginning. Before a shovel so much as touches the earth you have to make some decisions...many actually, but we are going to take this one step at a time.

You have to decide what makes you content, fulfilled, at one with your own universe.

A good place to start is your wardrobe. How do you like to dress: is your closet filled with simple lines, muted tones, the perfect black dress, a touch of silver, everything refined and polished. Or do you love prancing around in prairie skirts, ruffles and flip flops. Does vintage make you swoon or are you a jeans and t-shirt sort of gal (or guy). Now head out of the closet and take a look at the interior of your home - what is your style, do you like modern, classic, shabby chic? What are your favourite colours, textures, patterns?

These are all good places to look for clues that will help you blend your garden harmoniously with your house and your lifestyle. And, dear friends, that is our illustrious end goal.

Lets explore this a bit more with some pretty visuals:

If you love modern sensibilities and nothing pleases you more than simple, clean lines and a distinct lack of clutter then you might just like the modern style of gardening. This is characterized by strong geometrical shapes and straight lines in pathways, patios and gardens. The use of hard materials is used extensively and plant material is carefully selected to give maximum effect with limited selection. The planting scheme is often monochromatic. 




or maybe.....

Or maybe you are a girly-girl at heart and pinks, peaches and other pastels make you happy. Your interiors could have a touch of vintage, classical or french charm - floral patterns, sumptuous pillows and sparkling crystal bring daily joy. A bit of ruffle, a touch of cashmere, a beautiful brooch... you are a romantic. 

Romantics often find a kindred spirit in cottage, english and french garden styles. These approaches include carefully orchestrated colour palettes and colourful borders bursting with perennials and annuals. The style can range from the flamboyant to the charmingly controlled with pleached hedges, boxwood topiary and gorgeous urns to add structure and interest.
English style/ Cottage style/Romantic

or maybe like this.....

If you're like me, then you feel most at home in an old pair of jeans. Your casual style might be reflected in the use of natural materials in your home...distressed oak floors mixed with leather furniture mixed with wrought iron fixtures. If you tend to have a relaxed personality, find total bliss in sunsets, hiking, and just watching the butterflies float by then the Prairie style might appeal to you. This style of gardening is very much in tune with the rhythms of nature and also goes by the names "New Perennial Movement" and "sustainable". 

Your garden would consist of the perfect blend of ornamental grasses, native species, and drought tolerant perennials. These gardens mature later in the season, looking their best from July through until early winter and careful attention has to be paid to adding some spring interest. Gardens are densely planted in large drifts...mulch is not wanted or needed here.



Natural prairie style

This has been fun for me...and I could go on like this all day. I know its not always easy trying to figure out what you like, but it is a journey you must take. Edit the stuff out of your life that you've put up with, or inherited, or bought on sale...all the things that drive you nuts for whatever reason when you look at them. 

To find harmony, we must have honesty and bravery.

There are many official styles of gardening. We will not all fit into a box, and I am no exception. I also thank goodness for that, life would be pretty boring. Work through your collection of inspiration photos and see what is floating to the top and taking dominance...then look at what you like next and so on. 

For example, I simply adore many of the french characteristics, the peace I receive from straight lines, the shelter of perfectly spaced trees, (not to mention the little chateau in the south of France)...  I also like the gentle sway and movement of ornamental grasses and the serenity offered by a more monochromatic planting scheme. Styles can be combined, and maybe we should just all call ourselves eclectic and be done with it. There are ways to unite everything you love into a cohesive whole.

That is a lesson for another day.

Thank you so much for reading, I wish you all a very beautiful day.


  1. Thank goodness for Google - I accidentally deleted this and found it hiding in the Google cache after searching for it by name. That was a scary five minutes for me!

  2. When I was a floral designer, we used to ask the same questions about the recipient, this would give us a clue about what colours or style to design the bouquet in.
    Great to see you are near Kingston, many fond memories of it, lived there for 5 years and also worked at a downtown flower shop, miss it!

  3. What a small world it is! - you'll have to tell me the name of the flower shop - wouldn't be surprised if you knew my husband too, he used to wholesale to all the Kingston shops (his family owns VanBelle Flowers in Bowmanville). Your blog is beautiful by the way, I am making so wonderful discoveries this morning! Brenda

  4. Hi Brenda, I used to work at Trugs, however this was quite a few years ago, 98-03, then my husband got transferred to England. Thank you for the compliment about my blog, it is appreciated.

  5. Lucky girl - Trugs is beautiful, but so is England!

  6. Hi Brenda!

    Your blog is lovely, filled with beautiful inspiration!

    1. Mia thank you so much! Your blog is exquisite and your beautiful photographs and vignettes have been a great source of inspiration to me.

      Beautiful days!