Formal gardens are for the perfectionists amongst us who like order, disciplined neatness and straight lines. Great planning goes into these styles with the use of crisp lines and regular shapes such as rectangles, squares and circles. Paving is often incorporated and features, beds and shapes often repeated. For marking out a square bed in a formal setting, place a square piece of cardboard or tile in position and stretch two strings diagonally across it and outward from a peg at each corner. For circles and circular shapes, tie two pegs to a piece of string, one peg gets planted in the centre of the circle and draw around with the other peg for half-moons, full circles etc.
Informal gardens allow for a more playful style, with flowing borders and wider use of foliage and flowers. The style does require careful planning to avoid ending up with a shapeless mass. Consider balance, continuity, harmony, unity, rhythm, and colour combinations. Do not think of informal gardens as low-maintenance gardens, for they require quite a bit of attention.
Cottage gardens are a mixture of annuals and perennials, bulbs and dwarf shrubs - sometimes even a fusion of formality and informality... Incorporate a small pathway or some stepping stones for the traffic areas to enable you to walk through a garden that is welcoming and friendly. Like informal gardens, cottage gardens are often more maintenance than expected.
Unconventional shapes could be the answer to a difficult shaped area. A combination of different shapes like circles and lines, triangles with squares etc. could be just the answer for small spaces.
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