Depending on your aesthetic preferences and your tolerance for ongoing maintenance, the style of your garden will not only determine how it will look, but how much work it will need to keep up its beautiful appearance.
Comparing several garden types, let’s start with formal gardens, those typically found in Europe. Formal gardens impose an artificial shape on plants. Think of hedges sculpted into animals. This style of garden requires a great deal of continual maintenance and skill to preserve those impressive shapes.
Asian gardens have a very different look and feel. While I’ve discovered similarities between natural gardens and Asian gardens – both have simplicity, tranquility and cultural expression – Asian gardens look a bit sparse to Americans, who tend to admire full-blooming plantings. But they do require less maintenance.
A naturalistic garden design relies on the inherent, though less recognized architectural structure of our desert plants and is much more self-sustaining. Green design is all about selecting the right plants and building a supporting environment for them, in terms of climate, soil and water availability. These are plants that evolved from those that survived in their natural habitats. Despite these plant forms requiring less water, they can display interesting leaf shapes, and variations in foliage color, textures, and surfaces, while providing spiky blossoms of bright blue, yellow and orange.
I choose plants by the type of forms they display and place them as sculptures with similarly endowed companions. I then create three-dimensional bouquets to bring depth, height, massing, texture and seasonal change to the garden. These native and companion plants then cooperate for a low maintenance composition. So a naturalistic garden will require much less care and skill to keep those plants healthy and thriving.