Unique and Unexpected Landscape Design Styles

Plants are just plants…or are they?  It might be surprising to learn that landscapes can be designed in a variety of styles, not unlike architecture, clothing, or even art.  Of course everyone has heard of the English cottage garden, which conjures images of small outdoor spaces overflowing with colorful flowers and soft foliage.  But are there really that many others?  And, more importantly, can a landscape reflect the style and tastes of its property owner?  (82)

One important distinction to make before delving into some of the possibilities is understanding that a style or type of landscape doesn’t always mean “part of the world from which it derives.”  Rather, a landscape design can reflect a time period, an art form, or even a mood or state of being. (53)


It makes sense to first explore the most basic of styles, the one against which all others are compared.  “Traditional” in a sense can mean many different things, but to most homeowners a traditional landscape will refer to one that is neat and tidy, employing the right mix of evergreen hedges and flowering shrubs along the front foundation.  A larger shrub or small ornamental tree may grace the corner of the house while two formal plants often flank the doorway or steps. (~87)

This is not to disparage the traditional style because, for many homes, this style is an apt choice to complement the architecture and the tastes of the owner.  Simple to maintain yet ample in color and texture, the formal, traditional landscape is a magazine-worthy look that can be accomplished by almost anyone.  (~60)



When it comes to creating a landscape, homeowners generally fall into two categories:  those who itch to start putting plants into the ground themselves and those who recognize a need to hire out the work. Just as it wouldn’t be wise to  …


Environmentally conscious homeowners might want to take stewardship of their slice of land to the next level by developing a landscape that is responsible, employing native materials and finding ways to give back to regional wildlife.  For properties that are under homeowners association or other local jurisdictions, an sustainable landscape is still achievable without having to let plants take on a wild and unkept look.  Lawns might be forgone for a drought tolerant, native ground cover while flowering perennials and shrubs will attract butterflies and pollinators as well as add to the aesthetic.  Rain barrels that supply water to a no-irrigation landscape can be designed to match the look of the house or serve as an interesting focal point in the garden. (130)


Loose and flowing, this more “natural” look in landscape does not equate to unkempt or ignored.  While maintenance of this landscape’s larger shrubs and soft ornamental grasses might be more forgiving, the rustic landscape still holds a lot of potential for the avid gardener’s keen eye for design.  Here, non-living elements become essential to the overall fabric; from careful placement of wood fences to the selection of large boulders that represent local geology, these pieces are key complements to the textures created with a backdrop of plant material.

These are only a few examples of a wide array of landscape styles can be developed on properties of almost any size.  The best and most important, of course, is the one that speaks to the homeowner’s own tastes, maintenance abilities, and architectural style.  And if figuring out which one to go with is still difficult, start by looking around.  What is appealing?  What looks easy to keep up with?  Or, consider hiring a landscape professional who might be able to give suggestions for what would work best.