Formal and Informal Rose Gardens

One of the greatest virtues of roses is that they are equally at home in formal and informal settings. Whether arrayed in dignified beds on a country estate or allowed to ramble over the eaves of a bungalow, they add an enchantment that no other flower can match.

If you are creating a new rose garden, you must first decide whether you want a formal or an informal design. Although to some extent this is a matter of taste, the design also depends on the style of your house and the size of your garden.

Formal gardens, with their symmetrically shaped beds filled with rigid rows of plants, best complement classical styles of architecture, such as French provincial, Georgian, and federal. In keeping with their stately tone, formal gardens usually demand ample space. They also require meticulous grooming, since overgrown edgings and unkempt beds can easily spoil the effect.

The shape of a formal garden is up to you; it may be round, oval, square, rectangular, or even triangular. A small formal garden can be limited to a single bed; a large one can encompass several beds that carry out a grand geometric scheme. The simpler you keep each bed, the more dramatic it will be. Edge it with tidy plants such as germander, boxwood, begonias, or miniature roses, and use a statue, pottery, a garden pool, a fountain, a sundial, or a tree rose as a focal point at the center. Formal rose gardens may also be bordered with fences or evergreens to set them apart from the rest of the plants in the garden.

Informal gardens strive for a look that is free-flowing and spontaneous, even though they are often carefully planned. Today’s smaller gardens and modem styles of architecture are best enhanced by an informal design. In an informal garden, roses and other plants are arranged in asymmetrical groupings with wavy or indistinct edges, rather than planted in rows. These groupings may line a walkway, hug a wall or a fence, or stand alone in the middle of a lawn. They may feature roses alone, or may include roses and other plants. Their shape is limited only by your taste and ingenuity, and the space available to you.