Classic Garden Design

Classical gardens were as popular in the first millennium, with the Ancient Romans, as they are today. Then, as now, trees, hedges and structure were used to create disciplined patterns among which less formal planting would develop more naturally. The Romans used box or myrtle for their hedging and indulged in such fragrant ground cover as sweet violets or lavender. The also had a love for formal statuary, which can be still seen replicated today in many gardens throughout Ireland. The Romans would have used ivy and other creeping plants to relieve the hardness of the brick work or stone.

Even with today's bewildering choice of planting and hard landscaping products, it is still easy to create a garden with the same timeless qualities.

When beginning any landscaping project the key thing to note is forward thinking. All to often DIYers undertake the task without suitable planning. Subsequent alterations to layout and design could be expensive and difficult. Since most of the soft landscaping will be in the form of growing shrubs or trees, there will be a time factor involved with the growth of these.

Here are some design tips:

Always begin your task on paper or bring in a qualified landscape designer to help. Take careful measurements of the entire site and make a scale drawing. Using graph paper can help you with more exact measurement of areas.

Try several different arrangements of pathways and key features. Bear in mind the importance of symmetry, and above all keep your design simple. Often the cleanest looking are the result of very simplistic garden designs, which avoid clutter. If you have a large enough area include screens which separate areas off into sections. These can be created with trees, hedges or fences, and help to give the area more structure and intrigue.

Decide on the materials you wish to use, and try to keep these as uniform as possible, the key is to strike a balance between variety in materials, textures and colours whilst not having too much contrast. Hedges, for example could vary considerably in size or shape, and in choice of hedging material, but should be part of an overall cohesive pattern.

With the advances in technology in recent years a number of Landscape design software packages are on the market to assist in this task. There are also full fledged garden design packages available.


Whether consisting of living plants or hard landscaping products such as paving, should be symmetrical and formal.

Hedges will be straight sided, evenly clipped and appear solid. Shrubs, placed in key locations in the design, can be clipped to specific shapes and sizes and, more importantly kept to these proportions year after year.

If you have differing levels in your garden why not make a feature with paving steps? This will add interest since the view will change at different levels.

In smaller gardens it is important to create visual features to add variety and areas of interest. Additional features you may want to consider to add are paving circles or granite millstone, granite spheres or granite benches.


It is not difficult to develop a series of interesting plant shapes – whether incorporated into a hedge, or free-standing – but it does require time and patience! As soon as you have decided on a final outline of your garden, get your long term planting carried out as soon as possible.

Free standing shrubs

These must be symmetrical enough to fit into your design without spoiling the clean lines in your garden, it is therefore important to select plants that will retain their formal shape, and if at all possible ones which require little maintenance throughout the year.

Hard landscaping

Classic garden design calls for a different approach from other gardens. Formality is the key, and it will help if you can develop a sense of continuity throughout the garden.

Paving should be as symmetrical as possible, so avoid informal patterns. A classic garden lends itself to classic materials, with an aged appearance, we particularly recommend TerraPave® Country Cobble for a classic garden.

Decorative gravel can be used to give colour and texture to certain areas of the garden, as well as providing less hardy shrubs some protection from crawling weeds. It is important to keep it formal and should be contained within its allocated space in the garden, normally done with the use of paving kerbs.


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