Combine symmetry and simplicity for a formal garden look
Add some stately splendour to your garden with a classic garden style. This recreates the formal gardens of many of Britain’s stately homes and is all about symmetry and simplicity.
Although it's based on sprawling properties, the classic garden style works really well for average-sized outdoor spaces, and elements of it can be incorporated into gardens on the small side. And, despite its formality, it doesn’t have to be a high-maintenance choice. Simply plan well and pick plants carefully to create a traditional look.
Sound like the style for you? Read on to find out how you introduce some timeless elegance into your outdoor space.
Tools & materials required
Top tips to create a classic garden
Landscaping ideas for the classic garden
The essence of a classic garden is an orderly and geometric design. This favours straight lines, neat circles and symmetry. Of course, the layout of your garden may not be symmetrical, but achieving a sense of balance is key to the stately home look. It’s also worth remembering that symmetrical arrangements emphasise your boundaries more than informal designs (such as cottage gardens), so if your garden’s on the smaller side, your design may highlight, rather than hide this.
In the classic garden, landscaping centres around a well-tended lawn with sharp-edged borders. Go traditional with turf – kept neat with a grass trimmer and styled with stripes. Or opt for something low-maintenance with artificial grass. It offers the look of real grass without any of the upkeep.
Slab paving is the preferred hard landscaping option in the formal garden. Explore our traditional paving ranges in neutral colours for a classic style. We love the Ancestry range – available in three subtle shades and a circle pack (pictured) to help create your own paving focal point. This range also offers walling and edging to create a coordinated feel across the garden.
Planting ideas for the classic garden
Planting schemes in traditional gardens are simple, emphasising structure and creating a restful, relaxing space in which to sit.
Key to this is topiary, the artistic shaping of plants by training and clipping them to create new shapes. These can vary from simple clipped ball shapes through to spirals, pyramids, or even more unusual ones like birds and animals that add fun and character.
Two well-suited plants for this are the English Yew (Taxus baccata) or Box (Buxus sempervirens). Both these evergreens have glossy, dark green leaves that grow slowly, ensuring that your topiary designs will stay looking good for longer. And both are also ideal for hedging - another essential part of the classic garden.
Ornamental hedging is grown, not just to enclose or divide a garden, but as a decorative feature in its own right. Low-growing Box or Lavender (Lavendula) hedging used as an edging for beds and paths is a familiar sight in classic gardens, and the key to maintaining any topiary shape is to take your time and always use sharp pruning tools.
For tall, standard topiary forms, evergreens, such as Bay (Laurus nobilis) or Holly (Ilex aquifolium) will look good all year round with only one cut. Or for a truly low-maintenance approach, explore our selection of artificial topiary including miniature trees and topiary balls. We love the spiral trees – intricate-looking detail without the fuss of upkeep.
And when it comes to flowering plants, explore planting the daisy-like Marguerite (Argyranthemum), Roses (Rosa) or the fast-growing Geranium. These are all perennials, so they’ll come back year after year, and look great in bedding, borders and containers.
Extras for the classic garden
There are plenty of further ideas to add some stately home class to your garden.
Introduce height with an arch. These lead the eye through the space and can be draped with pretty climbers, such as Ivy (Hedera helix). Arches look great built between hedges, and wooden ones can be personalised with exterior paint. Opt for classic, subtle shades that won’t date, rather than anything too bright or modern.
Light up the space thanks to old-fashioned outdoor lighting with lantern styling. We love the Waterville range offering the same style in a wall light, post light and more to make a practical and stylish addition.
If you have the space, adding a fountain (pictured) or water feature is a great way to complete the look of your classic garden. They can soften the formality of all the straight, clean lines and often a sense of grandeur that transports you back in time. Create yours in the same (or similar) natural stone you’ve used for your paths and walls for a neat, uniform look.
Then sit back and enjoy the sounds of your garden on a sunny day. In smaller gardens, recline on a traditional garden bench in either wood (pictured) or metal. And in larger spaces, opt for an arbour and fill with soft cushions for extra comfort.