Creating Small Formal Gardens
by Roy Strong
I've had this book for a long time, and it was a pleasure to pull it off the shelf and look through it again. I love formal style, and although I love it best when mixed with an abundance of loose plantings, its the geometry, the symmetry, and the neatness of formal gardens that appeal to me. As the author explains, a garden can be as formal as you like, or have just a touch of formality to "give both order and style to what is otherwise a random planting".
One of the appeals of a formal garden is the fact that are as beautiful in winter as in summer. He also explains that formal gardening does not mean high maintenance, instead many formal gardens only need "seasonal mowing and an annual trim and prune." In fact, he believes that formal gardens actually offer "ease of maintenance with maximum effect". He also says that the layout of many formal gardens would fit easily into the area of many lots today. If you have a large garden, you may incorporate several designs to give a feel of different rooms connected through vistas and pathways.
Included in the book are many photographs and examples of formal gardens. Just thumbing through the pages of this book is a visual delight, and gets my creative juices flowing. But don't just stop at the photographs! He explains the difference between "old" formal gardens and newly planted formal gardens. In fact, a large majority of the photos in this book are from gardens that were planted in the 15 years prior to this book.
What I liked best was the fact that he would give options, and advise which options would need more maintenance. He also advises how long it would take for a garden, planted in the examples shown, to mature. And he points out potential problems that may arise! The entire book allows you to determine what would be best for your own space, with the time you have for gardening, and a realistic time frame for completing the garden.
Whether you love gardens with straight lines overflowing with abundant flowers, want to plant a potager, imagine yourself walking along evergreen pathways in the winter, or just want a touch of the formal to compliment your garden, this book will give you lots of ideas.
Photos are of the Annie duPont Formal Garden taken last October.
Now it's your turn! Please join us on the 20th of each month with your own garden book review. Any book with a gardening influence qualifies. And as always, please take the time to visit the other participants.