better homes & gardens

A formal design may be perfectly symmetrical and make much use of straight lines, circles and other geometrical shapes, or it may not, though there will always be a sense of careful balance.

In a formal garden you will find immaculately trimmed lawn, carefully pruned shrubs and hedges, trees arranged in avenues or evenly spaced shrubs and flowers carefully grouped in matching colours.

The formal style is especially suited to the gardens of old houses, those planned for a lifestyle less casual than ours. Often if you find old pictures of the original garden, you'll find that it was very formal in layout and planting, especially if the house itself was symmetrical in design.

However, there's no need to re-create a Victorian design for a Victorian house. After all, a modern dinner party is no stiff, strait-laced affair; and a modern formal garden need not be artificial and pompous - soften its lines with flowers and abundant foliage.