Exploring Garden Styles for Spring Inspiration

Photo by Fort Collins Nursery

Indigo Deany | Fort Collins Nursery

It’s spring: we creak our gazes upwards towards the sun like a crocus through the snow and begin to itch for life again. Every year, the same question reverberates through each gardener’s mind: where to begin? Often, the pressure of the technical information that we ought to know stymies action, especially for new gardeners. What’s your soil like? How will you be watering? What is the zenith of the sun at 14:32 MST, each month? Each week? Do you have a dog? Does she help you plant your bulbs?

The most important question, and the one that we should always begin with, is: what do you like? Ultimately, your garden should make you happy. So this spring, if you’re planting a new garden— or simply a new bed— and don’t know where to start, peruse examples of different garden styles to get armed with the most powerful garden tool of all: preference. Once you’re inspired, your gardener friends, extension agents, and local nursery professionals can help you find plants that suit your aesthetic desires and your growing conditions.

Photo by Fort Collins Nursery

One of the most iconic garden styles is the cottage garden. This garden is about soft, casual exuberance, achieved by a high diversity of shapes, sizes, and dreamy washes of color. In this garden, you’ll want an abundance of flowers, making it the perfect style for the gardener who can’t resist bringing home a new plant every time a northwest wind blows. Start by selecting spires, such as foxglove or Liatris. Clumping habits abound, so consider yarrow, catmint, and coral bells. No cottage garden is complete without a charming trail of flowers spilling onto the path, such as creeping veronica, evening primrose, or Prairie Winecups.

Photo by Fort Collins Nursery

Perhaps your garden will be a retreat for your overstimulated mind and body. The modern garden may be what you take cues from, as it is characterized by articulated lines, calming palettes, and a minimalist ethos. This garden is graceful in its simplicity but still warm and inviting. Start with a limited color scheme, such as flowers that all bloom white or blue. This style celebrates architectural form, making it a good option for the gardener who can’t shake the impulse to enclose their garden with a tidy hedge. Look for shrubs such as Cheyenne Privet or yew to do the trick. Ornamental grasses like Shenandoah Switchgrass, little bluestem, or Black Mondo stun in this garden when used in repetition, providing mesmerizing movement and sound year-round. A well-placed, multi-stemmed tree-like New Mexico Privet, serviceberry, or Magnolia creates a sculptural focal point to keep things from feeling overly manicured.

These two styles only scratch the surface of design inspiration for the garden. Other styles, such as naturalistic, moon, steppe, cloister, or even sensory gardens, are well worth investigating. Use these examples as offerings, not rules, and tap into your emotional responses to each. Remember that your garden should, at the beginning and end of the day, make you feel like you’re home.

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