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Garden Styles

Course CodeBHT235
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to Create Different Garden Styles

  • Design different types of gardens: formal and informal
  • Learn to design oriental gardens, Mediterranean gardens, eclectic gardens, and other types of gardens
  • Expand your garden design skills, further your career as a landscape designer

"This is the first correspondence course I have done and I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU. I appreciate everyone's effort in such a professionally-run organisation with seamless administration. The office staff's happy can-do attitude, their fast responses to all queries, tutor Shane Gould's quick turnaround in assignment marking and his supportive and motivational feedback and last but not least, the sound subject guides. Most importantly I hope my thanks and appreciation can be communicated to all the staff who have supported me long the way of my learning! I work full time and study on the weekend but really don't stop thinking about what gardening solution I need in order to answer my assignments every day of the week. Thank you for such a great learning experience and I cant wait to start the second half of my course!!"
- Skye

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Creating the Mood
  2. Historic Gardens
  3. Formal Gardens
  4. Oriental Gardens
  5. Middle Eastern and Spanish Style
  6. Mediterranean Gardens
  7. Coastal Gardens
  8. Modern Gardens
  9. Eclectic Gardens
  10. Other Styles

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explain the use of colour, light, shade, temperature, water, foliage and other elements in establishing the mood of a garden.
  • Describe gardens from different places and periods in history; and in doing so explain how to renovate and/or recreate gardens that reflect the style of different historic periods.
  • Apply the principles, design features and elements that make up a formal garden.
  • Discuss cultural and historical traditions that contributed to the development and style of the oriental garden.
  • Discuss cultural and historical traditions that have contributed to the development and style of the Middle Eastern and Spanish garden.
  • Discuss the historic, climatic and cultural influences which have contributed to the style of Mediterranean gardens.
  • Discuss design styles of coastal gardens
  • Explain the limitations and potential of coastal sites when preparing a landscape design.
  • Discuss contemporary garden design styles and possible future trends in garden design.
  • Identify the range of diversity possible in garden design.
  • Identify characteristics of different garden styles including eclectic, dryland, permaculture, rainforest and tropical garden styles.
  • Design different styles of gardens.

What You Will Do

  • Visit different gardens to assess the mood of each garden. Take time to observe each garden and try to identify the different elements that contribute to the garden mood.
  • Observe how colour has been used in the three different gardens. Observe the colours of both plants and hard surfaces, and the way the colours have been combined.
  • Visit an historic garden in your area. Identify all the different features that make this an historic garden.
  • Visit a formal garden in your area. Identify all the different features that make this a formal garden.
  • Visit an oriental garden either in person or by research. Search for more information on gardens that reflect the styles.
  • Make notes of anything you find which is interesting and could be used in development of a Mediterranean style of garden in the locality in which you live.
  • Visit a coastal region near where you live and observe the type of plants that are growing near the seashore. Also observe the plants and design elements of nearby gardens. (If you are unable to visit a coastal region, use descriptions of coastal sites and gardens from books, magazines and the internet.)
  • Visit a modern courtyard garden (if there is no suitable garden in your area, use a garden described in a book, magazine or on the internet). Identify and describe the elements that make this a ‘modern’ garden. How has the designer overcome the restrictions of the site to create a feeling of spaciousness?
  • Search through telephone books, magazines and the internet to find suppliers of materials suitable for eclectic gardens such as pots, sundials, pebbles, statues, wrought iron, tiles, gazebos, seats, wind chimes, etc. Visit as many suppliers as possible and inspect these materials. Find out about their cost, availability and longevity.
  • Depending upon where you live, visit a dryland, permaculture, tropical, or rainforest garden in your area (if there is no suitable garden in your area, use a garden described in a book, magazine or on the internet). Identify and describe the elements that determine the style of this garden.

Garden Trends throughout History

Garden fashions have always changed throughout history. Old concepts and styles go in and out of fashion.; and keep getting recycled.

The first gardens, no doubt, were not built but rather discovered by man. They were natural areas which had a beauty such as to attract man to return to those places over and over again. The Greeks wrote of such places as the gardens of the gods. The bible refers to the Garden of Eden: a creation of God.

Ancient Mid-Eastern Gardens
There are records of man created gardens as early as Egyptian, Persian and the first Asian civilisations. These gardens usually reflected strongly the culture and civilisation to which they belonged. Egyptian gardens were formal, symmetrical and strictly functional providing food (date palms, vegetables etc) and herbs. A papyrus dating 2000BC lists 85 different herbs used by the Egyptians. Stone columns or palms were frequently used to create avenues. These early Egyptian gardens were found only amongst the wealthy classes.

Around 650 BC King Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for one of his wives. These gardens were simply plantings on each level of a tiered (stepped) temple. This was the standard form of construction for temples   the garden was simply an addition. In this garden, water drawn from a nearby river was used to create waterfalls and cascades.

The Persians were hunters, and as such preferred a lot of trees in their gardens to attract game. This idea rubbed off on the Assyrians who encouraged extensive plantings after contact with Persia. When the Persians conquered Egypt around 500 BC, they adopted the idea of enclosing the gardens with a high wall. All of these ideas combined together to give us the eastern style of landscaping (ie. a symmetrical garden, with tall trees and enclosed by a high wall).

Chinese gardens
Chinese gardening began long before the time of Christ. There is a strong underlying pre occupation with ethics and philosophy influenced by Taoism in Chinese gardening. This involves concentration on the unity of creation, harmony and order being developed to highlight nature through symbolic representation in a way that is not very common in western gardening.

The principles of Feng Shui are often applied in Chinese garden design. Elements of the garden are positioned to bring good luck and provide the balance represented by the principles of yin and yang.

Pure Chinese gardens lack lawns, symmetrical design, and artificial manipulation of water. These things however are common in Western gardens.  European gardeners tend to appreciate and select plants for their function or beauty; but Chinese gardeners will often choose to use a plant for the same reason that they choose to use any other component – for its symbolism.

For example, the Chinese see bamboo as representing an honourable man, because it bends in the wind, and does not break. The peony represents wealth and elegance. The peach represents immortality. 

The chrysanthemum, a symbol of autumn, was amongst the earliest commonly grown plants in China. Because it flowers in autumn and winter, it came to symbolise longevity. Records from the 12th century AD list 35 varieties of chrysanthemum being cultivated.

In China, water rather than lawn is used to provide the peaceful surface for a large open area in the garden. A European garden might be built to surround a lawn; but a Chinese garden is more likely to be built to surround a lake or large pond. The shape of the water feature is determined by how it interacts with the other components of the design. 
The symbolism of the various elements in the Chinese garden is an important part of the design. Rocks are an important component because they symbolise permanency. Aged trees reveal qualities of strength, lengthy contemplation and grandeur.  As Confucius said, “the wise find pleasure in water; the virtuous find pleasure in hills”.

Roman Gardens
A great deal of evidence exists from Roman times to show that ornamental horticulture was highly developed there. Roman writers (eg. Pliny the Younger) mention a wide variety of flowering plants as being grown by Romans (including Buxus, Hedera, Rosmarinus, Chrysanthemum, Rosa, Lilum, Iris, Laurus, etc). Roman gardens incorporated elements from other civilizations (Egyptian, Persian, Greek, etc), and may be seen as a natural synthesis of these various contributors.

Roman gardens utilised walls heavily and were commonly courtyards in the centre of a house. Murals, mosaics and paving were common. There are records of fish ponds, small trees and stone columns also being used in Roman courtyards.

Japanese Gardens
Japanese gardens may have been influenced strongly by the Chinese style, but they also developed their own style, based on Japanese naturalistic philosophies. Japanese gardens are meant to be representative of scenery in the countryside. Often, a favourite location from real life can be a model for the design, though it may be in miniature. Compared with Chinese gardens, a Japanese garden can sometimes be more contrived, with greater attention given to ornamentation. It may require a higher level of maintenance, even to the point of being finely manicured.

On the other hand, some appear very natural and informal though the effect may require careful and continuous maintenance. The work of gardening is considered as important and meaningful, in its own way, as the achieved result.

Spanish Gardens
There were many Roman villas and attached gardens throughout Spain, but the influence of that gardening style waned when Spain was largely conquered by the Moors in AD 711-14. This Muslims were actually more scientifically advanced than the previous regime; and brought with them horticultural and artistic knowledge (and expertise). There was diversity in the way the “Islamic” garden was interpreted over that period. Some were large and used water as a dominant feature. Others were small and might not have used water features at all.

Monastery Gardens
From 500   1500 AD there was little progress in the development of gardening in Europe. The only real gardening in these times took place in monasteries. A framework was commonly built over at least part of the garden on which grapes would be grown both for the fruit and for the shade and atmosphere they created. This area would be called an arbour and was often used as a place of meditation. Often cloisters (similar to a veranda) would be built as places for meditation. The remainder of these monastery gardens would be developed on a symmetrical grid system with fruit trees, vegetables and herbs providing produce for the monks.

Elizabethan Gardens
Throughout the 1500's gardens began to change. Crop plants were gradually replaced by ornamental plants. Coloured gravels began to be used for pathways. In Elizabethan England such features as mounts, mazes and labyrinths were used.
Labyrinth   an enclosed tunnel way.
Maze   a tunnel way open to the sky.
Mount   a variation in ground level where a person can get higher than the surrounding level ground.

More Recent Influences

Le Notre (Andre) 1613-1700
Le Notre was a French landscaper from a family of well known gardeners; perhaps the first notable landscape architect. Le Notre's style was on a huge scale and extremely expensive, catering to the nobility and wealthy classes. Much of his work was for King Louis X1V   perhaps the most notable Le Notre landscape was for King Louis at his palace at Versailles, just outside of Paris. The gardens there are still preserved basically as originally laid out by Le Notre. Close to the palace more complex ornamental gardens were created on a smaller scale while further away from the palace the gardens were on a much larger scale, with large areas of trees over a ground cover of ivy. Everything in this garden, as with most of Le Notre's work, was both grand and symmetrical. He used tricks of perspective to give a feeling of grandness. The idea of a long vista (long stretch or axis through the centre of the garden) was common in his work, as were labyrinths.

Rose (John) 1629-1677)
Rose was perhaps the first important English landscape designer. After studying under Le Notre at Versailles he went to England were he worked for Charles 1st as Keeper” at St James Park. Records of his work are limited.

Kent (William) 1685-1748
Originally a coach painter, later an interior decorator and primarily an architect turned to landscaping, Kent was responsible for eliminating much of the formality which had dominated gardens up till his time. Living from 1685   1745, Kent introduced long winding walks and utilised such things as urns and decorated bridges, developing something closer to what we in Australia know as traditional gardens.

Brown (Lancelot) 1716   1783
Known as Capability Brown, regarded as a student of Kent's, he had no formal training. He worked for some time as head gardener at Hampton Court. Adopting the idea that straight lines were not natural he uprooted many old formal gardens and replaced them with his own natural style. He didn't like small places (he had no cosy corners) and this tended to make his gardens a little impersonal. Brown's emphasis on the natural things in garden design made him perhaps one of the greatest influences on modern gardens.
Many of Brown’s gardens survive in England today, where he is regarded as a significant historical figure, beyond gardening, and perhaps beyond any other individual in landscape history.

Loudon  (John Claudius) 1783   1843
Loudon developed the Gardenesque style, which was a fusion of the natural and formal styles which preceded him. Gardenesque style advocates design that displays each plant at it’s best. This style shows off the decorative nature of the plants through the use of lawns and footpaths. He believed gardens should be different to nature.

Repton (Humphrey)1752   1818
Repton was primarily an agriculturalist with a leaning towards horticulture. He was the first to separate the ornamental garden from the kitchen garden. He believed in contrast rather than harmony. In general he followed Brown's ideas such as sloping lawns, flower beds cut in the centre of lawns, and curved paths.

Robinson (William) 1838-1935)
During the latter part of the nineteenth century Robinson, an Irishman, was one of the greatest landscapers both in England and abroad. He was influenced by both Repton and Loudon. He favoured a return to a more natural style, condemned bedding styles, botanic gardens and conservatories and promoted the woodland garden with masses of bulbs and creepers under a canopy of trees.

Olmstead (Frederick Law) 1822-1902
Olmstead was a farmer and journalist who became a landscape architect, and he designed Central Park in New York. His dominant influence was to create a park that was part of large scale town planning, and to achieve this, incorporating a system of traversing roads. In this respect he was a landscape architect rather than a garden designer

Jeckyll (Gertrude) 1843-1932
Jeckyll studied art and became skilled in the use of colour before moving to garden design. She wrote a great many books and popularized the “cottage garden” concept. Her influence extended well beyond the UK, and continues today, encouraging gardeners to think of and use colour as an artist would, as they conceive their garden designs.

Burle Marx (Roberto (1909-1994)
A Brazilian Landscape Architect who was one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. Before Burle Marx, Brazil’s gardens had more of a Portuguese and French influence, but Marx developed a style identified by the use of Brazilian native plants with informal sculptural forms. Characteristics of Burle Marx gardens are typically free flowing patterns, water, ground covers.


Meet some of our academics

Rosemary Davies Leading horticultural expert in Australia. Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer. She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe. In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has completed her 6th book this year and is working on concepts for several others. Rosemary has a B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.

Check out our eBooks

Landscaping with Australian PlantsLandscaping with Australian Plants gives you a new perspective on how to use Australian Plants when designing a garden. This ebook is perfect for gardening students, landscapers and keen gardeners.
Garden Design Part 1This stunning full colour Garden Design ebook is full of useful tips, information and inspiration. It contains around 300 colour illustrations! It is comprised of three parts: Design, How a Garden Functions, and Aesthetics (making it look good). Let your inner designer out (outside). A great introductory text for garden designers. 299 high quality inspirational colour photos. 106 pages
Garden Design Part 2Part 2 of the Garden Design series is an inspiring accompaniment to the first book, but works equally well in its own right. It's brimming with ideas and practical advice for designing a wide variety of different gardens. You will learn about different styles of gardens and how to create a style to suit a particular site or client. It contains around 300 colour photos! Knowledge gained by John Mason over several decades of visiting and photographing gardens, writing, teaching and creating gardens. This ebook deals mostly with different types of gardens from water gardens to Mediterranean, formal and oriental. 287 high quality inspirational photos. 104 pages
Landscaping & Gardening in the ShadeThe ‘Landscaping and Gardening in the Shade’ ebook explain what you need to know about designing a shaded garden. It will go through specific plants you could use, how to care for them and different plant varieties that will give you a great shaded area.