Now that summer is here, many of us are headed outdoors, armed with shovels and gardening gloves, ready to start coaxing plants and flowers from the earth. If you don’t quite have a green thumb and need a few tips to turn your yard space around, why not take your advice from some of the most beautiful gardens in the world? You may not have the budget to re-create the Ciudad Jardin in Gran Canaria (which you can see here), the Alhambra Gardens in Spain or the Ethnobotanic Garden of Oaxaca in Mexico (photos of the garden are at this site), but you can still create an amazing outdoor space if you follow some of the advice that top gardeners use:
1) Be willing to break the rules.
Have you ever seen the profusion of tulips outside the Library of Congress? The trick there is that gardeners break the rules. Read any bulb instructions or ask any nursery, and they will tell you to space the bulbs apart. The gardeners at the Library of Congress, however, over-plant tulips, putting several bulbs where most gardeners would put one. The result? A lush field of color. Your garden should be a place to try new things and to break a few rules. Experiment a little and don’t worry about following a specific guide.
2) Pay attention to shapes and patterns.
Some of the most beautiful gardens in the world don’t even have a huge profusion of flowers and plants. What they do have is structure. The top gardeners in the world use hedges, bridges, and other structures to create shapes and create visual interest. The Het Loo garden in the Netherlands, for example, uses intricate hedges and garden paths to create geometric shapes. The garden of Powis Castle in Wales is considered one of the most beautiful in the world and it uses carefully trimmed and shaped plants as well as ornate statues and terraces to create a beautiful tableau. Zen gardens often use precise gravel paths to lend shape and visual interest to a space.
To recreate this same attention to structure in your own garden, start by taking photos of the space you have. Look for naturally occurring shapes and plants; consider ways you can incorporate them into a tidy whole. Use gardening software or a piece of paper and pen to make a plan for your garden.
3) Choose one idea.
The most beautiful gardens in the world include fairyland-like elaborate forests, zen gardens, and everything in between. Take a look at garden styles and choose one that appeals to you. That said, avoid trying lots of different styles in one small space. If you opt for a country-feel herb garden, stick with that style rather than also trying to have a Japanese-style minimalist space.
4) Pay attention to your house and surroundings.
They are part of your garden, too. Do you see the city in the distance from your yard? You need to consider how to make that view part of your garden (or how to shield it from view using a privacy screen). Is your house white or brick? If so, you can add vines or plenty of greenery by the house to play up the color.
5) Use color and light.
When you decorate the interior of your home, you can use lighting and color to transform a simple room into something really special, and the same is true of your outdoor space. Many of the most beautiful gardens in the world make use of beautiful color to contrast with the green of hedges and grasses. The Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park, for example, makes use of vivid reds and overhanging gnarled trees that provide shade. The result is an unearthly fairyland-like atmosphere. Central Park in New York City has overhanging trees along walking paths. In the autumn, these trees turn beautiful yellows and reds and visitors can sit under the trees to view the colors.
You can create some of the same effect in your own garden by choosing colorful plants. If you have a small garden, consider a modest palette of one or two colors – these can create a bigger and more dramatic impact than a confusion of colors. Don’t forget to consider autumn colors, as well. A tree that turns a vibrant shade in the fall will help you enjoy your outdoor space for an extra season.
For lighting, consider a shady tree or an umbrella to create some shadows. You can also buy some garden lights to make your space look beautiful in the evenings. HGTV has a handy guide to choosing the right garden lighting.
Are you inspired yet? If not, check out some of the most beautiful gardens in the world here or at this site. You may just find a few more ideas you can bring into your own green space.