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A formal garden design is built around balance, symmetry, straight lines and geometric shapes. There are certainly some plants that fit this style, but it can be more a matter of how you use them
Clipped hedges provide structure, especially if evergreen. They act as boundaries for borders. They also introduce the possibility of architectural topiary. Box is the classic option, but currently box blight disease and the spread of box tree caterpillar may encourage gardeners into making more innovative choices.
Indicative of order, pleached trees play on the historic theme of man ruling over nature. They provide height, but allow views beneath. Small leaved lime, Tilia cordata, is the usual choice.
Viburnums lend themselves to a formal setting. Evergreen types can provide underplanting or hedges while some white-flowered deciduous cultivars offer structural form or timeless romanticism.
A limited colour palette is usually better for formal gardens, especially whites, silvers and pastels. Agapanthus can be grown in long ribbons through borders or in blocks. They also suit repeated containers.
Hydrangeas provide sterling additions to the formal garden in borders or pots, providing bountiful volume and long-lasting summer colour.
Garden design resources
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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.