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English Garden Design and Residential Engish Landscape Designers in Houston Texas

You know one when you see it. The English garden design is all about curved beds, winding paths, riotous color. The gardener’s hand is light. There-but just barely. It lets nature do its own thing. You might even say that the English garden design is controlled chaos.

The history of English garden design began with the revolt against the constraints of formal landscape design and classic landscape design. These two forms, with their appreciation of balance, symmetry and geometry, sit on the opposing end of the spectrum from English garden design. Where formal gardens find beauty in linearity, English gardens use undulating lines. Where formal gardens seek right angles, English gardens use few, if any, angles. The words of the English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744)-the “amiable simplicity of unadorned nature”-describe this style.

Impressionist painters were key influencers in the continuing development of the English garden design. Claude Monet (1840-1926) claimed that painting and gardening were his only two interests in life. When he first moved to Giverny, where he would build his famous water gardens, his first concern was to arrange the garden in a rampant, naturalistic explosion of color.

The residential English garden design has since become hugely popular in the United States. Houston’s semi-tropical climate is well suited for vine-covered pergolas, sunny rose gardens, dazzling azalea beds and bursts of seasonal color-all plant materials that fit well within the English garden’s concept of abundance.

A Quick Study of English Gardens

The English garden design is the essence of an informal garden. The different colors and textures of the plant materials-the profuse wildness-draw the viewer in, creating a feast for the mind’s eye. However, while it has elements of a naturalistic garden, it is not considered of this style. Instead, flowering plants are arranged in a seemingly haphazard arrangement that merely recalls a natural landscape.

The general characteristics of an English garden design fall along these lines:

• Plants are chosen out of personal preference or connection. It is common to find cuttings from the gardens of family and friends.

• Regional plants have prominence because they enhance the naturalistic feel.

• Plants, especially flowering ones, are grouped into smaller clumps-not drifts. The desired effect is for the garden to appear somewhat random, but not messy.

• Many different kinds of plants are used-annuals, bulbs, herbs, perennials, shrubs and vines.

• Scent is very important in an English garden design. Hence, the prevalence of roses and herbs.

• Often the garden is enclosed by a picket fence or hedge to help bring some additional order.

• Strong mix of colors.

Colors of an English Garden: Evoking the Emotions

English garden design uses plants to reach the viewer emotionally rather than intellectually. Primarily, it is done with color.

Different colors affect people differently, but generally each color has its own psychological appeal. Green is the most restful color. Pale greens and yellow-greens are perfect for an English garden design because they feel lighter, brighter and more informal. White creates a sense of space in a garden. Red calls attention to itself or what it surrounds, making it perfect for planting near focal points. Apricot, salmon and peach tints are friendly and welcoming.

Space and Elements of the English Garden Design

The arrangement of elements within the English garden space is very important. Whereas the modern garden design uses a philosophy of “less is more”, the English garden simply says “more.”

Some elements to consider for an English garden:

Gates. The garden entryway can become an important element of an English garden design. Plants can soften the garden gate, making it even more inviting.

Hardscapes. Hardscapes are non-plant material features of landscape design. Popular residential hardscape structures made of wood that work well in an English garden design include arbors, pergolas and gazebos. In an English garden, walkways meander through the landscape while providing easy access to your home and other structures. Perhaps a retaining wall, a short wall used to hold the soil in place, is needed as part of a proper landscape drainage system. If so, good landscape designers and landscape architects will construct it so that it fits the design.

Material choices. Just as flagstone and travertine work well in a Mediterranean garden design, brick and gravel complement an English garden design.

The Ever After of an English Garden

While English gardens are lower in maintenance than a formal landscape design, a landscape maintenance program is still required. Especially it will involve the systematic feeding of flowers, bushes and trees. Since trees are a vital part of the English garden, make sure proper tree preservation methods are used during installation. “A temporary irrigation system and hand-digging to minimize damage to trees and their root systems are a very important part of tree preservation,” explains Jeff Halper with Exterior Worlds. For the longer term, a permanent irrigation system is also a plus for the entire landscape since it will increase the ease of the required regular watering.

Classic Landscape Design and Traditional Landscape Design in Houston Texas

In the first millennium, a wealthy Roman family would most likely have had a garden surrounding their home. In it, you might find an open-air palazzo, pergola-style structures dripping with vines and blooming flowers, a dining area with couches for relaxation, water features such as an outdoor water fountain or wall fountain, and walkways that led out into the garden proper, perhaps to a prized rosebush or into an olive grove. These are some of the elements characterizing what is now called classical landscape design, also known as traditional landscape design.

Classical landscape design is a subset of formal landscape design that uses linear, clean lines to develop an uncluttered look. These lines can be drawn with rows of trees and well-trimmed hedges, perfect plantings for the classical landscape design. Or perhaps a seat wall made of regimented terra cotta tiles can do double-duty. Here and there, vines, such as ivy or wisteria, can soften any harshness. In this regard, this style is similar to the Mediterranean landscape design with its Roman and Greek influences.

The History of Classical Landscape Design

Borrowing influences from previous civilizations, classical landscape design solidified in Rome and the surrounding countryside. Villas were built with comfortable courtyards, sparkling with the sound of water, shaded by large trees, fragrant with rosemary and citrus fruits. It was from this setting that we got the term “pleasure garden.”

In England of the late 1700s, property owners started looking backwards, past the Baroque period and the Renaissance, to the beginnings of western civilization. There, they found classical landscapes making use of woods, water, indigenous plants and small temples. These elements were incorporated into the gardens of that day, further defining the principles of traditional landscape design.

By the way, when Rome fell to the barbarians, the gardens had become so exquisite that the barbarians chose not to ransack them. Instead they kept them up and learned from them. This development is one of the early examples of how we, as humans, learned that beauty can change the world: it can stop violence. This principle is now being used to good effect in gardens started as rehabilitation projects in prisons, inner cities and ghettos.

Choices in Classical Landscape Design

As with all landscape design, the architecture of the house needs to be considered when using a traditional landscape design. For this style, the home and landscape can be tied together through the subtle placement of a hardscape feature, such as the use of tumbled travertine for the courtyard flooring.

Because of the formal principles inherent in this style, you want to strike a balance when choosing materials between boring blandness and baroque lavishness. Think instead in terms of interesting variety. For instance, well-contained decorative gravel can provide color and texture. Courtyards, pool decking and patios should use materials that are symmetrical, in keeping with the formal style. Stone, terra cotta tiles and flagstone are appropriate choices. Granite benches, concrete grottoes and marble urns add sturdiness and reference antiquities.

Your preference for classical landscape design can also be demonstrated in the plants you choose. Your residential garden will be enhanced by fruit trees and other dwarf trees-or perhaps a stand of cypress, mulberry or fig trees. The cheery colors of marigolds, hyacinths and roses are well suited for the classical landscape design. Herbs planted in terra cotta pots scent the air and provide fresh flavor in your outdoor kitchen cooking.

Hardscapes in Classical Landscape Design

Color, form, line, scale, and texture are your means of expressing classical landscape design preferences just as they are with modern landscape design.

Hardscapes to include:
• Outdoor rooms for outdoor living. These living areas, in effect, make your home bigger. They also serve to create transition areas that connect the indoor and outdoor spaces. Plus, they further the notion that a garden is a place of rejuvenation. In particular, outdoor kitchens are important to the traditional landscape design.

• Outdoor water fountains. If you remember your ancient world history classes, you know that the Romans perfected the aqueduct. So water is prized within classical landscape design and nothing showcases it like a picture-perfect outdoor water fountain. Look for fountains in formal, Romanesque, Italianate, Mediterranean and rustic styles. Those made of tile, cast stone, cast iron and concrete work particularly well with this style.

• Swimming pools. When placed within a classical landscape design, the shape of your swimming pool should tend towards basic geometric shapes like rectangles and ovals. Thus, the shape of the pool frames the water and turns it into a classical design element of the landscape. It is often efficient to combine the pool with an outdoor water fountain to eliminate some maintenance redundancies.

• Landscape lighting. Landscape lighting is another important element of traditional landscape design as it creates ambiance and lets you enjoy the outdoors, night and day.

Classical Landscape Design: A Houston Setting

”We implemented a classical landscape design for one of our Houston clients, whose home was French Country. For the garden, we chose a design that closely resembles a famous garden in Florence,” says Jeff Halper with Exterior Worlds. “The landscape design makes good use of gravel and limestone, which looks very natural in a Houston garden. And we planted boxwoods, which we trim and shape regularly as part of a well-thought-out residential landscape maintenance plan. It is a lovely and relaxing space.”