LANDSCAPE STYLES to Inform and Inspire your Dream Landscape

Regardless of your home’s architectural style or your personal tastes, you want your home to appear connected to the surrounding space.  By taking cues from the architecture of your home, its materials and the surroundings, your house can blend seamlessly with the landscape.  That is not to say that it must be a literal interpretation of a historic landscaping style but you can add aspects of those styles that are adapted for you.  Landscaping trends tend to overlap and merge more than architectural styles and, while garden styles may have originated in a specific location, they’ve migrated and can be readily adapted to any area.  This blog on different landscape styles will explore the following:

  • are they formal, informal or a combination of both
  • what is the overall sense and geometry
  • what are the design elements and material types for both hardscape and plants
  • what is the role of lawn
  • what furniture and décor is typical
  • what are the uses of form, line, color, and texture
  • what is the role of complementing versus contrasting elements to create harmony and/or tension and interest

Mediterranean Landscaping

Mediterranean LandscapingMediterranean LandscapingMediterranean Landscaping




Photos 1 & 2 from, Photo 3 from The Christian Science Monitor

Formal and Informal: This Mediterranean landscaping style combines formal design and accents with informal hardscape materials and plants.

Overall sense: Inspired by the coastal areas of Spain, Italy and France, this garden style has its roots in Greek and Roman architecture. Mediterranean gardens were adapted to the climate and terrain in which they were located and sought solutions that would produce coolness, shade and seclusion. They are best known for their casual elegance with a weathered look.

Geometry: The layout of the garden was geometric and had order often defined by masonry walls or hedges. The role of nature was secondary although the gardens were clearly adapted to the climate and terrain in which they were located.

Hardscape: Local materials such as stone, gravel, brick, terra cotta, and tile are used for hardscape. Any stone that is beige, buff, rusty-orange, brown or other warm earth tones will fit the theme. Warm tones of decomposed granite and pea gravel are also good choices. Other architectural features include the arch, one of the most recognizable elements, as well as patios, courtyards, low walls, overheads, and enclosures.

Plants:   Plants of the Mediterranean landscape are informal, low-maintenance and drought-tolerant. They provide structure, such as columnar evergreens and hedges, color and texture. Pale or pastel colors tones look washed-out under the hot midday sun. Brighter, bold flower colors like purple and yellow create a stronger contrast with the gray/green or deep green foliage of traditional Tuscan plants. Some of the iconic Mediterranean plantings include Italian Cypress or Juniper, ornamental grasses, succulents, lamb’s ear, bougainvillea, star jasmine, and edibles such as fragrant herbs (lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, santolina) as well as olives, grape vines, pomegranate, aloe or yucca.

Lawn:    There is minimal to no lawn with an emphasis on hardscape

Furniture & Décor: Water features are generally in the middle of a courtyard or on a wall and may be tiered. Good furniture choices are contemporary or rustic furniture with a weathered look. Earth tones are dominant but are punctuated by bright accent colors like blue, a natural choice with proximity to the sea, red, orange and purple. For pattern and decoration, use statues and pots in warm-colored, rustic limestone or terra-cotta.


Southwest or Spanish Landscaping

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Southwest or Spanish Landscaping

A combination of Formal and Informal

Overall sense: Southwest or Spanish Landscaping details contribute to this overall simple, functional and low maintenance landscape style. The southwest design includes native plants and incorporates bright, colorful building materials.

Geometry: The Southwest or Spanish landscaping geometry can be formal with straight lines such as in an enclosed courtyard with a fountain, reminiscent of the California Spanish-style missions, which provides a more human sense of scale against large, open landscapes. Plant design can make the space less formal and provide almost a cottage garden or naturalistic feel by softening the formal hardscape lines.

Hardscape: When it comes to hardscaping materials, use colors that are often seen in the sunset or natural landscapes of the southwest. Decomposed granite is available in many desert color options and is a great material choice for walkways in the Southwest or Spanish landscape. Materials commonly used include earth-colored stucco or stone walls, flagstone, terra cotta tile, red clay pavers, ironwork and metals like steel or tin, and rustic wood. Patios are an important element and a shaded area is crucial. A center courtyard with fountain is reminiscent of the California Spanish-style missions. Terracing is recommended in areas where topography is sloped using building materials like stone, boulders, or railroad ties.

Plants: With Southwest or Spanish landscaping a natural or native garden is the obvious choice. Not only will the plants survive and thrive, but the garden will blend with the surrounding landscape. This style also works well with the predominant architectural styles, from adobe pueblos and Mission-inspired homes to Spanish-Mediterranean style to strictly contemporary. Plantings are sparse with rocky hardscapes and adapted to extreme temperatures. This style can be either informal with bold and intense colors or formal and minimalist with a more refined color palette. Native or well adapted grasses, perennials and succulents are commonly used along with flowering shrubs that attract birds and other wildlife. Mediterranean plants like rosemary and thyme also thrive under the hot sun with little water.

Lawn: Southwest or Spanish landscaping requires minimal to no lawn due to the scarcity of water and regional inappropriateness. 

Furniture & Décor: Southwest or Spanish landscaping decor is simple, sparing water features are most appropriate and make a big impact. The Kiva fireplace with a distinctive arched firebox door is typical of southwestern design and most often placed in a corner. The bold landscape calls for equally bold colors for both accessories and walls. This is the place for bright turquoises, chili-pepper reds and deep azure, whether on pots or on doors. Use unique, brightly colored décor like wall decorations, colorful accessories and plantings to make the landscape pop in areas and add character to your yard. Native American, Spanish, and natural details are also appropriate.

Natural Landscaping

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Natural Landscaping


Overall sense: Natural landscaping is a style inspired by nature and the surroundings. It has a strong regional identity and can be adapted to any region or ecosystem – prairies and meadows, mountain areas, and arid deserts.

Geometry: Both the hardscape and the plantings are generally natural and modeled after the natural features of the natural landscaping so that they appear undesigned. Another variation, however, could be a prairie garden of grasses with a more formal geometry. 

Hardscape: Hardscape elements of natural landscaping do not generally include walls, terraces, only a path and perhaps a bench. Gravel or wood mulch is commonly used for pathways. Hardscape materials, if any, are locally or regionally available and are in harmony with the surroundings. 

Plants: Plantings are free-form with soft edges. Plant more formal and non-native plants near the house and use the natives on the garden edges as a transition to the natural landscape beyond. Natural plantings often attract wildlife. If planting wildflowers, plant them in drifts the way they occur in nature. A prairie style planting would be denser than a mountainous planting which would occur between rocks and trees as in nature. 

Lawn: Minimal to no lawn care is required for Natural Landscaping.

Furniture & Décor: Furniture and décor should be representative of the region wherever possible.


Craftsman Landscaping

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Informal: A natural landscape style that is in harmony with nature and the simple, unpretentious architectural style of craftsman homes. The craftsman landscaping style is informal but not random.

Overall sense: The craftsman landscaping style originated in the late 19th century, experienced a revival in the 1930s, and has become popular again in the 21st century. It is characterized by an elegant simplicity of natural elements, artisan craftsmanship, and repetition of materials, colors, and motifs to strengthen the relationship between the house and its surroundings.

Geometry:  The craftsman landscaping structures are sturdy and well-defined with clean, prominent lines and exterior details. Natural materials are emphasized with horizontal proportions and a connection with the natural surroundings.

Hardscape:   Because the craftsman landscaping design prized architectural detail and a strong link between house and site, it makes sense that its hardscaping elements like handcrafted stone, wood or copper would define a Craftsman garden more than its plants. Craftsman-style homes often have low-pitched roofs with deep overhanging eaves and exposed decorative rafters and deep porches framed by tapered square columns. One recurring detail for these homes is the pergola.

Plants: Plants should complement the home as the home complements the craftsman landscape. Plantings were indigenous to the region just as the house was to be built using local materials. Many homeowners choose old-fashioned plants. Choose shrubs and flowers that complement each other, instead of contrasting. A vine trained to grow up the pergola makes something man-made more natural.   Natural shapes are more in keeping with the style than clipped hedges.

Lawn: Lawn or gravel paths can be used most with craftsman landscaping.

Furniture & Décor:   Within the craftsman landscaping the house exteriors were usually painted in earthy tones such as browns, red-browns, greens, soft blues and grays like the color of stone. These simple colors played up the architectural details such as columns. Paint for the wood should be some contrast between the brick so if the brick is light choose a darker hue for the wood. Trim should add a third color that complements both the brick and the wood. Bolder colors can be used on the front door. Other details can be brought in such as a lantern near the front door, door mats, bronze hardware and porch furniture like Craftsman or Arts and Crafts-style rocking chairs or planters.

Cottage Garden Landscape

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Overall sense:   The English landscape style shifted cottage garden landscape style from formal and symmetrical to looser and less formal. One variation of the English style is the Cottage Garden which is less classic than other English garden styles and quainter with lots of country charm. Plants, color and character abound in the English cottage garden. The informal combination of materials provides a cozy, romantic atmosphere that draws visitors in, making them feel at home.

Geometry: The English style of cottage garden landscape uses geometric shapes like ovals, circles, rectangles or squares to organize the landscape. A free-flowing, curving border can make the tumbling English cottage garden plantings feel messy rather than exuberant. Instead, use formal materials with lively flowerbeds for a pleasing contrast of natural with man-made, flowing but also geometric.

Hardscape: Common hardscape elements of the cottage garden landscape include meandering paths with classic materials like limestone, bluestone, brick or cobblestone and gravel or stepping stones that are used to connect different garden areas. One or two of the materials in your home should be repeated in the garden for continuity. Other elements include picket fences, trellises and wooden arbors.

Plants: English cottage garden landscape are gardens of exuberance and abundance. To achieve this feel, plant romantic, old-fashioned blooming plants such as magnolia, roses, peonies, delphiniums, foxglove and hollyhock and use climbers such as clematis, honeysuckle or roses. For drier climates, grasses, perennials and native plants can be used to create a similar feel. Although these gardens seem informal and unplanned, there are a few rules to consider. First, plant large quantities of plants in the space to utilize every bit of growing space and spill over into walkways and climb up arbors. Second, you should plant in layers with taller plants at the back, medium plants in the middle, and shorter plants in the front. Lastly, since you typically see less mass plantings of one particular plant and the use of a lot of varieties of plants, you should pick a color palette such as warm (yellow, orange, red) or cool colors (white, purple, blue, pink and sometimes yellows) to help provide unity to the garden. If you choose the cottage garden style, you should be aware that it is high maintenance requiring staking, dividing and dead heading to avoid a messy look.

Lawn: If lawn is used, it is the plants not the grass that are the focal point. Lawn can sometimes be the path in the cottage garden landscape.

Furniture & Décor: Adirondack chairs and benches are common, constructed of materials such as wrought iron, wicker or bent willow and teak. Also common with the cottage garden landscape are vintage accessories like quaint birdhouses, weathered stone bird baths, old metal watering cans. Adding a potting station or shed to store gardening tools can also serve as a decorative element.

English Landscape

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English LandscapeEnglish Landscape





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A combination of Formal and Informal

Overall sense:  Around the turn of the 18th century, English landscape gardens shifted from formal, symmetrical gardens to a looser, rambling look that recreated the natural beauty of the English countryside but in a cultivated way.  This gracious style has evolved over the years to include a balance between traditional formality and organic flow and between natural and man-made.

Geometry:  The English landscape garden design style is a contrast between flowing and geometric but there is a strong sense of geometry underlying the overall space and of everything having its place.

Hardscape:  Hardscape elements of the English landscape include traditional, classic materials like brick and cobblestone with gravel paths within the English garden.  Beds are edged to provide a sense of order. Fences are classic in style and are made of wood or wrought iron.

Plants: Plants are traditional with lush foliage.  Examples include magnolia, boxwood, yew, hydrangea, roses and daylilies.  English landscape garden colors are pastel rather than bright and sometimes feature white gardens against a green background.

Lawn:  Large, lush, park-like lawns anchor the space and are often surrounded by stately trees.  Think of the yards along the historic parkways in central Denver.

Furniture & Décor: Water features include a fountain or birdbath in cast stone and other classic accents such as planters.  Teak is popular for furniture as is cast iron or cast aluminum.colorful accessories and plantings to make the English landscape pop in areas and add character to your yard. Native American, Spanish, and natural details are also appropriate.

French Landscape

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Formal or Informal: The French landscape can be created in a formal or informal way more reminiscent of French country gardens.

Overall sense: The French landscape adopted many principles from renaissance gardens but incorporated a style of their own that represented control over nature.

Geometry: The French landscape design is geometric with symmetry. The home should be the number one focal point with paths that provide axial views and lead to something significant such as a fountain or sculpture. The remaining space is then arranged into a series of usable garden areas.

Hardscape: Common elements within the French landscape include flagstone patios, columns, formal shapes, stone edging along paths and planting beds, and pea gravel. Modern stone pavers, cobblestones and concrete can create the same ambience.

Plants: Different garden spaces are often created using a border of clipped boxwood, an allee of trees or topiary shrubs in containers. Fastigiate European Hornbeam or Columnar English Oak would achieve this feel. Plant material examples include boxwood, lavender, climbers & edibles in cool colors like purple, blue, white & green. Grapevine can be used on overhead structures.

Lawn: The principal axis is composed of lawn or gravel paths for the French landscape design.

Furniture & Décor: Water is the most important element and water features are in circular, oval and rectangular shapes. The furniture is simple and elegant, such as cast iron seating. Other elements include planters made of cast iron, wood, or glazed ceramic and statuary, urns, trellises and birdbaths.

Asian Landscaping

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Photos 1 & 2 from, Photo 3 from

A combination of formal and informal: Balance and symmetry are combined with imperfection and man-made is combined with natural when focusing on Asian landscaping.

Overall Sense: Meditative is the overall sense with Asian landscaping.

Geometry: Free-form, organic shapes with meandering paths or, for a more modern take, concrete squares or rectangles with grass or moss in the spaces between.

Hardscape: Paving should be simple and natural. Examples in regards to Asian landscaping include natural stone, pea gravel, exposed aggregate, and concrete for a modern approach. Dark granite rocks and boulders are also used in naturally occurring, varied shapes and sizes but consistent color and texture. Do odd-numbered groupings. A sense of enclosure is provided by fences & gates made from bamboo or wood with a grid pattern.

Plants: Examples of plants with Asian landscaping include Japanese maple, weeping flowering cherry, ginko, mugho pine, bamboo, boxwood, grasses, hosta, and sweet flag. The space should not be filled completely and should have some voids.

Lawn: no lawns are usually part of the Asian landscaping

Furniture & Décor: There should be minimal décor since the emphasis is on nature, however, simply designed furniture in bamboo, teak or stone works best. Water features are integral and should be simple in design and made of stone. Stone lanterns, rain chains, and wind chimes are also used.

Minimalist Landscape

Minimalist Landscape

Minimalist Landscape
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Minimalist Landscape






Overall sense: The minimalist landscape style is a streamlined aesthetic with sleek, sophisticated style that is distinguished by refined forms, pure materials and the achievement of balance. Typically, the focus is more on hardscape and structures than it is on plants. This style includes mid-century modern and works with a contemporary or ranch style home. It has its roots in the 1950s and ’60s but draws on the simplicity of Asian design principles. One of the main goals is to create contrast, however, it is important to do so selectively. Limit it to two or three areas and focus on one contrasting element for each area.

Geometry: Bold, linear lines with straight edges and ninety degree angles are found in the minimalist landscape style. Curved lines should be avoided.

Hardscape: Hardscaping has a restricted palette with limited material types. Paving is simple and clean with geometric shapes in repeated grid patterns. The materials of choice for minimalist landscape styles are concrete and wood decking used to create geometric patterns and straight lines. Gravel with rocks/ boulders is used in place of wood mulch. A feeling of enclosure is important and achieved with boundaries such as fences, blank walls and patio covers. Materials commonly used for fences, screens and walls include poured concrete, stucco, Ipe Brazilian hardwood, and steel sheet metals. Wood panels or fences should have horizontal versus vertical slats with hidden fence posts. Patio covers should emphasize geometric patterns and have an industrial appearance. Wire mesh and cable rail are also used.

Plants: Plantings are designed with order and a simplified, restricted palette. Plants are selected for architectural interest that have interesting form, line, and texture but minimal color, mostly in shades of green. Examples include spiky plants like ornamental grasses and yucca, rounded or columnar shapes like boxwood and evergreens, soft-textured weeping plants, succulents and anything with a strong visual punch. Use a single specimen of the architectural plant and a contrasting form around its base such as soft, fine textured plants. Plants should be planted in straight lines and grouped in odd numbers, preferably threes or fives. The spaces between pavers can be filled with gravel, rock, or grass. Enclosure can also be provided with the use of hedges.

Lawn:  Minimalist landscape styles have little to no lawn.

Furniture & Décor: Water features are formal, geometric shapes with simplistic materials.   Furniture should be sleek, refined and made of sculpted metal, wood or plastic. Pops of bold color can be added with furniture cushions, planters or a painted wall. Containers should be selected for texture, color and be geometric in shape. Contrast the shape of the pot with that of the plant. Sculpture and spheres are commonly used. Mid-century modern gardens feature vintage furniture and decor.