Formal gardens like those in front of the mansion at Sonnenberg and other Victorian estates were created to be perfect, or as perfect as possible. While formal gardens are beautiful, even spectacular, they are not natural because nature isn’t that perfect. Rather, nature, while ordered, is really not formal or perfect.
When left unattended, landscapes ebb and flow with the seasons. This is what makes nature so comforting because that is the way most of us live. Today, more and more people are planning their landscapes to make the most of what nature provides. They are relaxing, and this is what the slow gardening that I’ve written about several times, is all about.
A formal garden is planned so that beds are perfectly cut and all plants are in bloom at the same time. When they finish blooming, plants may be swapped out for new varieties that are just coming into bloom. This assures continual blooms throughout the season. That’s not how nature works when left to her own devices.
Plants bloom at the appointed time. Depending on your design, one bed may be fully engulfed in color for a week or two in spring. Then the blooms fade and it’s back to green for the rest of the year. In other beds, you may have some color throughout the season, but that color is the result of different plants blooming in sequence.
Annual beds also have a finite blooming period. Many gardeners extend the blooming period by changing out annuals when they have finished blooming. These are expendable plants.
When all of the flowers have completed their annual shows, our desire for color is then satisfied with autumn leaves. Some people actually look forward to this colorful season, fully cognizant that the drab winter will follow. We relish the annual, leafy exhibition in our yards, knowing full well the price we’ll pay for this show – having to rake leaves. In fact, some of us can’t get enough fall color; we actually drive through mountain areas to see the colored leaves on the hillsides.
When winter comes, our outdoor color is limited to ornamental grasses. A few seedheads can also be seen poking their heads up to give us a brief respite from endless white.
Does this sound formal? Not to me. Rather, it sounds natural. Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. Our designers have the talent and experience to design a landscape for you that is just as natural…or formal…as you desire.