19 Beautiful Garden Styles for Your Outdoor Landscape

Garden styles bring boundless inspiration, whether designing a new garden, reimagining an existing space, or daydreaming about adding a few new elements. Recognized styles show us what works to create dynamic spaces, with countless opportunities for adding our combinations and preferences. Garden designer Katherine Rowe explores prominent garden styles to inspire beautiful, functional landscapes.

View of English Cottage garden styles. Close-up of an old English cottage with old wooden doors, abundantly covered with climbing Clematis in bloom. Around the house there are flowering hydrangea bushes and an apple tree with ripe fruits. On the porch there are two flowerpots with African daisies in bloom and begonia in bloom. There is a wreath of fresh carnation flowers hanging on the door.

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Whether starting from scratch or reinventing an existing space, choosing a style is one of the first steps in making a garden. Style (or styles) inform design decisions; they help stay on course with the overall garden concept. Garden style guides the layout and organization of the space for a dynamic landscape that meets your aesthetic and functional goals.

Garden styles are personal, creative endeavors. They complement the style of the home, evoke mood, create functional spaces, beautify and enrich the site, or all of the above. Styles provide guiding principles, but more importantly, they work within site conditions. Plants suited to your garden’s sun and shade conditions, soil types, and water levels are essential to any style you choose.

Select a primary garden style or blend styles using different garden zones to organize themes cohesively. Contrast abundant wildflowers, for example, with sheared boxwood borders, or plant a kitchen garden in one area and a cutting garden in another. You probably already have a keen garden style — Here is how to embrace its overarching themes and get inspired to add your own embellishments.

Wild

View of the wild style garden. Plants such as lavender, yarrow, California poppies, irises and others grow in the garden. The flowers come in a variety of purple, white, orange, red, yellow and others.
Naturalistic gardens are loose, eco-friendly, and inspired by wild landscapes.
  • Rely on perennials
  • Incorporate native plants and their cultivars
  • Use plant groupings to organize and unify the space
  • Anchor naturalistic arrangements with tree and shrub specimens
  • Use borders to define naturalistic beds, whether curved and organic or straight and dynamic

The naturalistic garden is one of the loosest and most carefree styles. If designed correctly, it is among the prettiest and most ecologically-sound. While natural landscapes lend a wild aesthetic, it takes finesse to distinguish between naturalistic and unmaintained. Draw inspiration from prairies, meadows, and lush perennial plantings.

Wild gardens reflect a return to nature in style and function. They often incorporate native plants or cultivars and minimize turf areas, converting lawns to planting beds or alternate groundcovers. With a focus on perennials, naturalistic gardens involve plants with varying textures and colors.

Chaos gardening is a form of wildscaping where one scatters seeds and plants freely to see what thrives. This naturalized garden experiment is a fun way to learn which plants are the most successful in a specific garden situation.

Naturalistic garden beds create an informal look, though the overall style depends on the garden layout. With beds defined by their borders, create a lovely aesthetic by establishing a boundary between naturalized zones and those used for daily living. Borders of mown grassy areas, a low wall, ornamental fence, or hardscape path give order to naturalistic spaces.

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Trees

Common NameScientific Name
DogwoodCornus florida
RedbudCercis spp.
ServiceberryAmelanchier spp.

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
Inkberry hollyIlex glabra
Oakleaf hydrangeaHydrangea quercifolia
ButtonbushCephalanthus occidentalis

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
Ornamental grassesPennisetum spp.
SalviaSalvia spp.
YarrowAchillea millefolium

Contemporary

View of the contemporary garden. Wooden path to terrace in the garden with trendy garden furniture. Around the wooden terrace there are two well-kept flower beds with clear lines and a layer of mulch from stones on one side and from bark on the other side. In the flower beds grow ornamental grass in the form of clumps with silver-green foliage, Juniperus horizontalis, buxus. On the terrace, next to the furniture, there are large clay pots with flowering petunias, blooming azaleas and other evergreen trees and bushes.
Contemporary gardens focus on simplicity, efficiency, and sculptural plant design.
  • Favors crisp, clean lines
  • High organization through plant selection and repetition
  • Structure and balance through sculptural form, color, and texture
  • Variation of material for contrast

Contemporary landscapes embrace simplicity, efficiency, and functionality, often through linear planting beds, tiers, and hardscaping. Sculptural plants balance the design with color, form, and texture. Modern landscapes aren’t all about rigidity; they use soft textures to balance the high structure. Flowering perennials and ornamental grasses enliven contemporary spaces.

Fewer plant varieties yield a more significant impact in modernist gardens. Repeat plants to achieve patterns in layout, form, and texture. 

Keep the color palette streamlined but recurrent, relying on green, white, and silver foliage as the base and punctuating with additional seasonal interest. Contemporary and futuristic gardens often use metallic hues and unusual colors.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
CypressCupressus spp.
Japanese mapleAcer palmatum
BirchBetula spp.

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
YewTaxus baccata
PodocarpusPodocarpus macrophyllus
BoxwoodBuxus sempervirens

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
Ornamental grassesPennisetum spp.
StonecropSedum spp.
AgapanthusAgapanthus africanus

Tropical

Tropical Landscaping. Close-up of a sunny garden with various tropical plants such as Stonecrop, Alcantarea imperialis, Tradescantia Spathacea, Bromeliads, Alocasia, Dracaena reflexa, Raffers Palm, and Gingers. In the background there is a small grove of tall palm trees.
Create a tropical paradise with suitable plants for your climate.
  • Invite bold colors into the garden through plants and accessories
  • Select plants with broad leaves, exotic blooms, and exciting forms
  • Incorporate containers and hanging baskets for added vertical lushness
  • Add a water feature

You don’t have to live in the tropics to evoke the energy, vibrancy, and relaxing warmth of paradise. Many plants give a tropically inspired feel to fit your climate zone and sun/shade conditions.

Tropical gardens transport us with their distinct plant features like broad leaves, upright or trailing forms, wild blooms, and rich foliage colors. From lime green to dark purple, tropical hues enhance the experience.

If you live in a colder climate, plant true tropicals like palms, bromeliad, bird’s nest ferns, orchids, and bird of paradise in containers to enjoy indoors during winter months. Return them to the garden as temperatures warm. Embellish with blooms like bougainvillea, tropical hibiscus, and ginger.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
Sabal palmSabal palmetto
PawpawAsimina triloba
Crape myrtleLagerstroemia indica

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
FatsiaFatsia japonica
HibiscusHibiscus moscheutos
Pineapple guavaAcca sellowiana

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
Cast iron plantAspidistra elatior
Elephant earColocasia spp.
Canna lilyCanna spp.

Formal

Close-up of a formal garden with trimmed Buxus bushes of different shapes: oval, square and pyramidal. Among these bushes there are also flowering azalea bushes with purple flowers.
Create timeless formality with structured layouts and repeated plantings.
  • Use symmetry to achieve balance
  • Structural hedges create definition and organize spaces
  • Choose a limited palette of evergreens to anchor the garden
  • Use clean lines for a dynamic layout

Gardens with a formal tone are timeless. They evoke a clean, peaceful quality through organized linear spaces and repetition. Evergreen hedges, often sheared, create natural borders for planting beds and walkways. A low boxwood hedge filled with roses or hydrangeas balances lushness with order. 

White is a natural color choice for formal gardens, but color isn’t limited as long as you stick to a scheme. Select a single color to repeat in the garden, or incorporate a few complementary or contrasting hues. Simplifying color arrangements creates an inviting space while minimizing overly busy ones. Repeat plant forms and colors consistently for formal unity.

Embellish the formal garden with containers and traditional hardscape materials like stone and brickwork. Play with loose plantings among the stylized evergreen structural plants.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
Italian cypressCupressus sempervirens
MapleAcer spp.
LindenTilia spp.

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
BoxwoodBuxus spp.
RosesRosa spp.
HydrangeaHydrangea spp.

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
FoxgloveDigitalis purpurea
HeucheraHeuchera
HostaHosta spp.

Woodland

View of woodland garden. The garden reflects the magical appearance of the forest with its thickets of unusual textures and shades. Plants such as fern, hosta, Pinus, Physocarpus opulifolius 'Midnight' and others grow in the garden. The garden is separated by a high wooden fence.
Create serene woodland retreats with layered plantings and natural materials.
  • Use organic shapes for bedlines and planting arrangements
  • Plant in masses for impact and variety
  • Rely on attractive foliage and form
  • Let plants colonize and naturalize

Woodland gardens provide tranquil immersion into nature. A woodland is a layered landscape showcasing different plant heights and features, from vertical elements of tall trees with attractive bark and branching down to soft groundcovers for infill and seasonal interest. 

In planning a woodland retreat, focus on trees as the specimens and work around them by adding shrubs and groundcovers in groupings.

Use color to brighten up the shade through blooms and foliage. Incorporate natural materials like wood and stone for hardscaping and outdoor seating. 

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
OakQuercus spp.
ElmUlmus spp.
PinePinus spp.

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
AzaleaRhododendron spp.
SweetboxSarcococca spp.
ViburnumViburnum spp.

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
HelleboreHelleborus spp.
AstilbeAstilbe spp.
Japanese painted fernAthyrium niponicum var. pictum

English Cottage

View of English Cottage among flowering plants. This small cottage has panoramic windows with wooden frames. Plants such as roses, Clematis, peonies and others grow around the cottage.
Create charming English cottage gardens with informal designs and varied colors.
  • Embrace informal arrangements
  • Use flowering plants in abundance
  • Rely on classic English garden selections
  • Let plants reseed naturally

English cottage gardens imbue charm through classic flowering plants in loose arrangements. There is no need to overdesign the cottage garden – leave room for whimsy and nature to set the stage. A range of pastels and spring colors with pops of bright colors add to this romantic style, as do varying plant textures.

Use curved bed lines and pathways for informal circulation and let plants trail and overflow. Rustic, natural structures like picket fences and arbors bring a fitting vertical element for climbing vines and roses.

Cottage gardens feel exuberant and spontaneous. As your garden matures, cultivate the star performers and weed out unwanted volunteers to maintain a bounty of blooms.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
FigFicus carica
SilverbellHalesia carolina
Chaste treeVitex agnus-castus

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
Climbing RosesRosa spp.
HydrangeaHydrangea spp.
CamelliaCamellia spp.

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
HeucheraHeuchera
DelphiniumDelphinium
PeoniesPaeonia

Kitchen

Close-up of a Blueberry bush in a sunny garden. The leaves are oval-shaped, alternately arranged along the stems. Blueberry bush produces clusters of round, plump berries that ripen to shades of blue and purple. The berries are covered with a silvery bloom that gives them a powdery appearance.
Create beautiful and functional edible landscapes with diverse designs and plantings.
  • Plant for accessibility
  • Use companion plants
  • Plant for the season
  • Add lasting structure with perennials and evergreens

Edible landscapes provide unique opportunities for beauty, pollinator resources, and, of course, growing fresh food. The potager is a French-inspired kitchen garden where vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers grow together. It’s the romantic cottage garden style in food-producing form. Aside from the potager, edible landscapes range from container gardens to homesteads and everything in between.

Since kitchen gardens provide a function, they must be accessible for tending crops and seasonal turnover. Artfully arranged raised beds and planted rows cushioned with beneficial companion plantings create aesthetically pleasing and diverse gardens. Companion plants attract beneficial insects and promote healthy food crops.

Perennials and structural plants provide multi-season appeal and unify the edible garden. In keeping the potager’s loose style, incorporate climbing vines, wildflower borders, and rustic elements like trellises and gates.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
Citrus (lemon, lime, orange, mandarin)Varies
Stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries)Varies
AppleMalus spp.

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
BlueberryVaccinium corymbosum
Tea camelliaCamellia sinensis
Pineapple guavaAcca sellowiana

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
LavenderLavendula spp.
SalviaSalvia spp.
RosemarySalvia rosmarinus

Sensory

Small sensory garden. The garden contains plants such as Rudbeckia, Zinnia, Cosmos, Viola × wittrockiana, Thymus hyemalis, Echinacea and Senecio cineraria.
Create sensory gardens with diverse plants, colors, and fragrances for well-being.
  • Plant to invigorate the five senses
  • Pick color schemes to calm or energize
  • Add a water feature for soothing sound
  • Some plants, like lavender, fulfill multiple sensory qualities
  • Plant for pollinators to add sensory interest

Sensory gardens delight the senses through plants and features that engage sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Our senses awaken when we experience nature in a variety of ways, with therapeutic contributions to our overall well-being.

Engage the sense of sight through plant colors and textures, using high-contrast tones and leaf types. Blues, purples, and whites evoke a sense of calm, while hot colors in reds, yellows, and oranges energize a space. An upright bloom spike against feathery foliage draws the eye. The fine blades of ornamental grasses add rich texture and movement, rustling in the breeze for an element of sound.

Incorporate fragrant plants for additional sensory delight and rely on herbs like lavender and rosemary for smell, touch, and taste. Pluck edible flowers, fruits, and veggies to engage the taste buds. Enjoy the buzz of bees and songbirds with pollinator-attracting plants.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
WillowSalix spp.
AspenPopulus tremuloides
Strawberry treeArbutus unedo

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
Witch hazelHamamelis virginiana
Soft touch hollyIlex crenata ‘Soft Touch’
Banana shrubMagnolia figo

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
LavenderLavendula spp.
RosemarySalvia rosmarinus
Lamb’s earStachys byzantina

Courtyard

View of the courtyard garden. This garden is small, located on a stone foundation filled with various potted plants and has a small flower bed with various flowering plants. There is also a wooden arch in the garden, under which there is garden furniture - a table and chairs for hanging out.
Create intimate garden spaces with potted plants for style and versatility.
  • Plant a range of container sizes for variation
  • Cluster pots in groups, and go vertical
  • Create unique style through container color and site decor

Courtyards and balconies bring wonderful opportunities for intimate garden spaces. Employ potted specimens and accents to add overall style.

Containers are mobile architectural elements that enliven gardens of any size. Use potted arrangements to feature plants for color, fragrance, and form – all adding seasonal interest to the beholder. Showcase trees, shrubs, and perennials, and move them around at will to vary your aesthetic. Play with planting designs to keep them exciting.

Consider container placement, creating a single focal point or a clustered grouping of varying sizes. Hanging baskets and trellises introduce a vertical element for a sense of enclosure.

To vary the seasonal displays, use annuals, anchoring evergreens, and perennials. Containers are valuable, too, in quiet times like winter. Use them for specialty interests.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
Japanese mapleAcer palmatum
‘Bonfire’ patio peachPrunus persica ‘Bonfire’
Kousa dogwoodCornus kousa

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
Climbing rosesRosa spp.
GardeniaGardenia jasminoides
‘Little Ollie’ Dwarf oliveOlea Europaea ‘Montra’

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
LavendarLavendula spp.
AgastacheAgastache foeniculum
PeonyPaeonia spp.

Mediterranean

Close-up of several plants in the Mediterranean garden. Marguerite daisy blooms and Agave grow in the flowerbed. Marguerite daisies are charming perennial plants with a delightful appearance characterized by their abundant clusters of daisy-like flowers atop slender, wiry stems. Agave plants are striking succulents known for their dramatic appearance, featuring rosettes of thick, fleshy leaves that radiate outward from a central point.
Embrace Mediterranean gardening with drought-tolerant plants, natural hues, and gravel.
  • Select drought-tolerant plants to conserve water
  • Go for a variety of foliage interest and blooms
  • Embellish with planters

I recently moved to a Mediterranean climate in California, and it’s so much fun seeing what blooms and thrives year-round. With warm, arid summers and cool, wet winters, plants bridge the tropics and the desert. There are five true Mediterranean climate zones worldwide, but with the proper plant selection, this laid-back, sun-soaked garden style adapts anywhere.

Mediterranean plants are often drought-tolerant, going for long seasons without rain and with low maintenance requirements. Drought-tolerant plants suit a variety of landscape needs these days, making the Mediterranean a fitting style. Incorporate succulents and cacti, drought-adapted perennials, and specimens like fruit, olive, and palm trees.

Extractions of natural hues dominate the Mediterranean style, from the azure blues of the seaside to deep red, earthen tones. Use terracotta and ceramic planters to embellish and overwinter tender plants in protected areas. Invite color through vibrant plantings and accessories like tiled pieces or a painted wall. Gravel makes a prime surface for outdoor seating areas and minimizes lawns.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
CypressCupressus spp.
EucalyptusEucalyptus spp.
OliveOlea europaea

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
BottlebrushCallistemon citrinus
BougainvilleaBougainvillea spp.
OleanderNerium oleander

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
AgaveAgave americana
Mexican bush sageSalvia leucantha
EcheveriaEcheveria elegans

Desert

View of a desert garden with various cacti. Cacti such as Echinocactus grusonii, Euphorbia polyacantha, Pediocactus spinosior, Mammillaria Elongata Cuctus and others grow there.
Create desert-style gardens with drought-adapted plants, structures for shade, and desert tones.
  • Feature specimen plants with attractive foliage and form
  • Use simple compositions of materials like stone and gravel for interest
  • Celebrate native plants and natural elements

Like the Mediterranean style, the desert garden style is relevant for water-conscious landscapes (and for many of us, the need for naturally drought-adapted plants is increasing). Desert gardens teem with life despite their rugged durability to withstand temperature and water extremes. If you don’t live in a desert but want an xeric garden, consider incorporating elements of the sun-drenched desert style through native plants adapted to your climate zone and nature-based features.

Desert gardens combine structure and plantings to organize the space. Walls and arbors provide needed shade; use rich, earthy colors and materials to blend them with the landscape. Use boulders and gravel surfaces as accents. Extract desert tones like red, sienna, deep purple, mustard, and copper to bring in vivid color through paint and accessories. 

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
Palo verdeParkinsonia florida
IronwoodOlneya tesota
CedarCedrus spp.

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
Desert roseAdenium arabicum
YuccaYucca spp.
Pencil cactusEuphorbia tirucalli

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
AgaveAgave americana
Ornamental grassesPennisetum spp.
BougainvilleaBougainvillea spp.

Coastal

Pretty coastal holiday cottages. These cottages are white with brown roofs and have a small garden in front of them. Plants such as Cinquefoil shrub Gold Star, Geranium sanguineum, Eschscholzia californica, Delosperma cooperi, Veronica prostrata, hydrangea and others grow in the garden.
These stunning coastal gardens thrive with low-maintenance plants, muted hues, and seaside features.
  • Plant for movement in the garden
  • Incorporate light, natural materials and vibrant color
  • Use containers to house tender plants

Coastal gardens inspire leisurely evenings watching the summer sunset. These low-maintenance gardens must withstand varying soil types, water levels, salt spray, sun, and winds. The hardy, adaptable plants for coastal regions also make a splash in the landlocked garden, bringing seaside tranquility inland.

Use plants that sway and move in the garden, like ornamental grasses and palms. For interest, rely on muted hues of blues and peach with pops of brighter color. 

Incorporate light-colored pebbles or gravel and stonework for a seaside feel. Consider oyster shell hardscapes (tabby) for natural authenticity.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
OakQuercus spp.
Crape myrtleLagerstroemia indica
Sabal palmSabal palmetto

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
CamelliaCamellia spp.
GardeniaGardenia jasminoides
AzaleaRhododendron spp.

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
Muhly grassMuhlenbergia capillaris
AgapanthusAgapanthus africanus
Multiflora rosesRosa multiflora

Asian-Inspired

View of Asian style garden. The garden has a small wooden bridge with red railings in Asian style, surrounded by flowering plants: Merianthera calyptrata, Cherry tree, Magnolia and others.
These Asian-inspired gardens embody spiritual harmony through rocks, water, and art.
  • Highlight the garden entrance with a gate
  • Frame views and create focal points
  • Use elements of water, stone, and wood
  • Plan for all seasons with foliage color, texture, and interest

Asian-inspired gardens create contemplative, peaceful places seeking balance in nature and the man-made. The landscape is an extension of the home or the surrounding landscape. With roots in Shintoism, Buddhism, and Daoism, these gardens reflect a blended experience in the spiritual, aesthetic, and natural. Rocks, water, plants, and art unify the style.

With gardens as distillations of the larger natural landscape, water represents rivers and lakes. Add a water feature for soothing sound and reflection. Rocks are the mountains that punctuate the garden. Incorporate smooth stones for touch and a pleasing aesthetic (even better if the water runs over the stones).

Plants reflect the forest. Revere specimen trees and layer plantings down to detailed ferns and mosses. Plan for multi-season color and transition. The artful details of the garden control its natural feel.

Asian-inspired gardens often incorporate artful ornaments like carved woodwork, ceramics, and walls. A bamboo fence or trellis gives texture and verticality and frames a view. Create focal points with pops of red, a pergola, well-placed containers, or structural bonsai.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
PinePinus spp.
Flowering cherryPrunus serrulata
Japanese mapleAcer palmatum

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
YewTaxus baccata
AzaleaRhododendron spp.
PierisPieris japonica

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
AstilbeAstilbe spp.
Japanese painted fernAthyrium niponicum var. pictum
Japanese forest grassHakonechloa macra

Cutting

Close-up of blooming salmon rose Lady of Shalott in a cutting garden. The Orange Salmon Rose "Lady of Shalott" is a captivating rose variety renowned for its stunning appearance, characterized by large, cupped blooms with a delightful blend of orange, salmon, and apricot hues. These fragrant flowers feature multiple layers of petals that gracefully unfurl to reveal a central cluster of golden stamens, creating a mesmerizing and romantic display.
Cut flower gardens provide beauty and bounty, enhancing biodiversity and aesthetics.
  • Mix perennials and annuals for nonstop blooms
  • Plant for varying bloom times
  • Incorporate trees and flowering shrubs

Like kitchen gardens, cut flower gardens serve a production role. Beauty meets bounty with a ready harvest at hand. Creating a designated cutting garden allows us to snip and plunder freely without distracting from garden aesthetics or valuable visitors (i.e., pollinators). Cutting gardens increase biodiversity by attracting beneficial garden insects and birds.

Whether you’re a professional gardener or growing for personal enjoyment, cutting gardens work well at any scale. Planting in rows — crop-style — allows easy access and organization, whether by species, height, mass planting; whatever works best for you. Mix textures and heights for variety,

Perennials bring reliable beauty to the cutting garden, including seed heads that persist into winter. Combine them with seasonal annuals for a constant source of display-ready blooms. Don’t forget flowering shrubs and trees to add interest to floral arrangements. 

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
Flowering cherryPrunus serrulata
EucalyptusEucalyptus spp.
MagonoliaMagnolia grandiflora

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
HydrangeaHydrangea spp.
ViburnumViburnum spp.
RosesRosa spp.

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
LilyLillium spp.
PeonyPaeonia spp.
YarrowAchillea millefolium

Rock

View of a rock garden with flowering plants. In this garden there are many stones of various shapes and colors, among which grow plants such as Siskiyou lewisia, dianthus, Armeria, Gold Drop Potentilla and others. White smooth pebbles are used as mulch.
Rocky gardens solve landscape challenges with diverse plant options and aesthetics.
  • Use rocks as sculptural elements and focal points
  • Incorporate a variety of scales
  • Layer plantings for a naturalistic look

Whether you’re looking to support a slope, utilize existing boulders, go xeric, or showcase the stately geologic elements of your area, rock gardens create dynamic solutions to problem areas and provide high visual interest as landscape features. Many plants thrive in rock gardens; look to those well-suited to your zone and rock garden theme (high altitude, dry basin, slope, desert, Asian-inspired, etc.).

Rock gardens allow the incorporation of plants of varying scales, from tall shrubs and perennials to low-growing groundcovers and miniature varieties. Include plants to nestle between rocks and to soften edges. Layer plants for a naturalistic look, or opt for high structure with clean lines and strong plant forms (agave, cacti, ornamental grasses) that highlight the rocks.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
SprucePicea spp.
CedarCedrus spp.
Strawberry treeArbutus unedo

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
Creeping juniperJuniperus horizontalis
Rock roseCistus spp.
ManzanitaArctostaphylos manzanita

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
SedumSedum spp.
SempervivumSempervivum tectorum
Creeping phloxPhlox subulata

Gothic

Close-up of Smoke bush in a Gothic garden. The Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) is a striking deciduous shrub known for its unique and captivating appearance, characterized by its billowy clusters of feathery, pinkish-purple or smoky gray flowers that resemble puffs of smoke. The Smoke bush's foliage is deeply lobed and has a velvety texture, a rich purple-burgundy hue.
Gothic gardens evoke mystery with dark plants and antique relics.
  • Create mystery by concealing views and focal points
  • Juxtapose manicured plantings with lush, informal arrangments
  • Use color to convey mood

The gothic style conjures a garden of relics; a Victorian-era theme imbuing mystery and drama around every turn. Dark and moody plantings frame gargoyles, antique statues, and sculptures. Repurposed materials (think antique iron gates, brickwork, and stone) find new use in this reimagined style.

Arranging a gothic garden is like designing a delightful, nostalgic set. Indulge in the delight of dark plants, from blooms to foliage. Look for trees with exciting leaves or unique bark, and shrubs with dramatic foliage or flowers (like black roses). Unleash the world of purple-black perennials and annuals. 

Create focal points of whimsy and incorporate a water feature: a small reflective pool or bog garden is perfect, with carnivorous plants and accompanying fish and frogs. The overall effect is tranquility with a flair for the eerily beautiful.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
Smoke treeCotinus coggygria
CryptomeriaCryptomeria japonica
CrabappleMalus sylvestris

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
WeigelaWeigela florida
Witch hazelHamamelis virginiana
YewTaxus baccata

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
Black mondo grassOphiopogon planiscapus
HeucheraHeuchera spp.
Dahlia ‘Dark Angel Dracula’Dahlia ‘Dark Angel Dracula’

Insectary

Close-up of bees pollinating New England Asters in the garden. Its appearance is characterized by its tall, upright stems adorned with clusters of daisy-like flowers. These flowers feature vibrant pink petals surrounding a prominent yellow center, creating a striking contrast against the plant's deep green foliage.
These insectary gardens attract pollinators and beneficial insects with native plants.
  • Use a variety of trees, shrubs, and perennials to attract insects
  • Rely on nectar and pollen-producing species
  • Avoid pesticides and chemical applications

Insectary gardens attract an array of pollinators and beneficial insects. Beneficial insects include ladybugs, lacewings, dragonflies, and others that prey on garden pests, improving the overall health of the garden system. Beneficial insects improve plant vigor without chemical treatments.

Rely on native plants to provide pollen, nectar, and shelter to pollinators and beneficial insects. Many plants host caterpillars and larvae of the insects we want to attract to the garden, so let them nibble away on this informal planting theme.

Plant a variety of plant forms for diversity, including heights, textures, and bloom types. Use leaf litter as natural mulch – it enriches the soil and provides shelter and overwintering habitat for bees and other insects. Incorporate a pebble-and-sand-lined water dish or birdbath to mimic a natural puddling pool for drinking and mineral absorption.

The insectary garden is a beautiful way to enrich the overall ecosystem of your garden at large. Enjoy the energy of the buzzing birds, butterflies, and bees, the movement and sway of the plants, and all the other sensory goodness the insectary invites.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
BirchBetula spp.
Tulip treeLiriodendron tulipifera
ThujaThuja occidentalis

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
Pussy willowSalix discolor
BeautyberryCallicarpa americana
SpicebushCalycanthus floridus

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
New England asterSymphyotrichum novae-angliae
GoldenrodSolidago spp.
Butterfly milkweedAsclepias spp.

Color-Inspired

Close-up of a colorful flower in the garden. There is a four-level flowerbed on which plants such as Astilbe Japonica Red Sentinel, Spider flower (Cleome spinosa), Tagetes erecta, Cosmos, Petunias and others bloom. Flowers come in different colors from soft pink to deep red to yellow and orange.
Consider color-themed gardens that focus on specific harmonious hues.
  • Choose colors to evoke garden mood
  • Select plants with varying heights, textures, and habits
  • Use green, silver, and dark foliage foundations

Color is one of the most exciting parts of garden-making. It’s also the first component to draw the eye. Victorian-era inspirations, color-themed gardens revolve around hues of a particular color arrangement. The Gilded Age revived this concept and never went out of style. Blues, pinks, and whites became central themes of a single planting arrangement. 

Blue gardens appeal to sight and smell and attract butterflies and bees. White gardens provide cooling respite and peace, a break from more colorful and frivolous garden areas. White gardens highlight silver, gray, white, and green shades, brightening summer evenings. Pink and pastel shades create a romantic look to soothe the senses. Reds bring in hummingbirds.

Color-themed gardens fit any overarching garden style. They can be:

  • Monochromatic (single-color shades)
  • Analogous (blended shades in the same color range)
  • Complementary (opposite shades for contrast) 

Choose a hue that appeals to you and your garden mood for a color garden, and build plant selection around it. For high contrast, choose two opposite shades on the color wheel. Use a variety of plant forms and textures that you would in any other garden arrangement – with so many plant varieties available, designing for color is limitless.

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
MagnoliaMagnolia grandiflora
Crape myrtleLagerstroemia indica
RedbudCercis spp.

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
HydrangeaHydrangea spp.
CamelliaCamellia spp.
LilacSyringa spp.

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
‘Powis Castle’ ArtemesiaArtemesia ‘Powis Castle’
HeucheraHeuchera spp.
Russian sagePerovskia atriplicifolia

Eco-Conscious

View of blooming echinacea and salvia in a sunny garden. Echinacea, also known as coneflowers, are herbaceous perennials distinguished by their bold and showy daisy-like flowers with prominent raised centers, or cones, surrounded by colorful petals in shades of pink. These flowers rise above sturdy stems adorned with lance-shaped leaves, creating a striking and long-lasting display in garden landscapes. Salvia, commonly known as sage, are aromatic perennials prized for their ornamental and culinary value. They feature tall, spiky flower spikes adorned with small tubular flowers in hues of blue, complemented by aromatic, gray-green foliage.
These gardens prioritize water management, biodiversity, and local materials for sustainability.
  • Select plants that thrive in your climate
  • Rework existing sites and materials
  • Manage water on site

Eco-conscious elements suit any garden style. As gardeners, we often work to balance nature and aesthetics and to enrich site conditions. Ecological methods adapt and evolve:  here are a few to frame an ecologically friendly garden.

A key factor in eco-conscious gardens is water management. Rainwater is critical – capturing it, recirculating it, working with it through natural diversions and rain gardens, and with appropriate plant selection. Incorporate permeable hardscapes like gravel and decomposed granite to reduce runoff.

Foster biodiversity and create habitat with native plants and others that produce nectar and pollen. Use companion plantings to support beneficial insects and overall plant vigor. Leave seeds as blooms fade for wildlife forage, and let fall leaves become mulch.

Use local materials and plants, especially those that can grow without neonicotinoids (affecting pollinators at bloom time) or other pesticides. Minimize lawns, equipment-intensive zones, and plants reliant on chemical applications. 

Trees

Common NameScientific Name
River birchBetula nigra
OakQuercus spp.
HawthornCrataegus spp.

Shrubs

Common NameScientific Name
Star aniseIllicium floridanum
Inkberry hollyIlex glabra
SweetspireItea virginica

Perennials

Common NameScientific Name
Black-eyed SusanRudbeckia hirta
EchinaceaEchinacea purpurea
BlanketflowerGaillardia spp.

Final Thoughts

Garden styles help shape new spaces and reimagine existing ones. Recognized garden styles offer guiding design principles with numerous themes to complement them. Executing a garden style is personal and unique to the individual, with limitless creativity.

Use site conditions as the driving component behind the garden style, and let your garden goals be your guide. How do you want to use the space? What purpose should it serve? Is it for relaxation, entertaining, or playing? Choosing a style to meet your goals leads to a remarkable outdoor oasis.

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A mother and son kneel by a raised garden bed, tending to abundant veggies and flowers.

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