Landscaping III (Landscaping Styles)

Learn to design different styles of garden from formal to oriental, eclectic, Mediterranean and more. In this course. Learn how to use colour, texture and water to influence ambience. Understand how history and culture influence design.

Course Code: BHT235
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Choose the Right Style for the Right Garden

Gardens come in all sorts of styles. They can reflect a sense of formality or informality; a warmth or a coolness, or a particular culture or environment.

This course explores the many styles of garden that can be found across the globe; and the ways in which a garden designer can recreate gardens that reflect a particular style.

The art of gardening is diverse, and gardens around the world will reflect respective cultures from the countries they originate in. The Chinese and Japanese have developed their own traditional style, as have the Europeans and Middle Eastern cultures.

Over more recent times; new and different styles of gardening have developed in Australia, America and even South America, to reflect the influences of culture, climate, art and fashion.

Be creative in your approach to design

Take this comprehensive course to learn about a broad range of garden styles. Find out how to use colour and texture to create different ambiences, the role of water in garden design, how history has influenced design, and what makes formal gardens, oriental gardens, Mediterranean gardens, and other styles.

Discover how to create modern gardens or how to incorporate different elements into an eclectic garden. Learn how to choose a style to suit the location.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Creating the Mood
    • Active vs Passive
    • Simple vs. complex
    • Movement vs. Static
    • Light vs. Shade
    • Managing Light and Shade
    • Increasing or Reducing Light
    • Plants that Thrive in Shade
    • Garden Lighting
    • Other Factors that Affect Mood
    • What Do You Want in a Garden
    • Personality in the Garden
    • Keeping it in Scale
    • Colour and the Garden
    • Using Coloured Statuary
    • Other Coloured Surfaces
    • Psychological Effects of Colours
    • Water in the Garden
    • Hot Plants
    • Making a Garden Appear Cooler
    • Site Analysis
    • Macro Design
    • Designing a Garden Room
  2. Historic Gardens
    • Introduction
    • Roman Gardens
    • Chinese Gardens
    • Landscape Designers
    • Historic Considerations
    • Other Types of Gardens; formal, informal, natural, resort, permaculture, herb, rose, cottage
    • Cottage Garden Design
    • Cottage Garden Features
    • Plants in a Cottage Garden
    • Federation Gardens
    • Edwardian Gardens
  3. Formal Gardens
    • Introduction
    • Design Elements of Formal Gardens
    • Types of Formal Garden; Avenue, hedged beds, etc
    • Planting in Formal Gardens
    • Traditional Ornamentation; Sundials, Weather vanes, Bird Baths
    • Traditional Furniture; seats, pots, arbors, arches, gazebos
    • Formal Courtyards
  4. Oriental Gardens
    • Introduction
    • Chinese Gardens
    • Japanese Gardens
    • Types of Japanese Gardens: Hill and Pond, Dry Landscape, Tea Garden, Stroll Garden, Courtyard, Classic Rock Garden
    • Japanese Garden Features; Tori, Shishi-odishi, Moss Garden, Bamboo Fence, Bridges
    • Bonsai
    • Ornamental Grasses
  5. Middle Eastern and Spanish Style
    • Introduction
    • Features of Moorish Gardens
    • Sense of Enclosure
    • Mexican Style
    • Mexican Planting Schemes
    • Use of Coloured Gravel
  6. Mediterranean Gardens
    • Introduction
    • Features of Mediterranean Gardens
    • Regional Differences
    • Colours
    • Built Landscape
    • Plant Material
    • Use of Paint
    • Veranda Gardens
    • Making the Most of Small Spaces
    • Microclimates
  7. Coastal Gardens
    • Coastal Garden Features
    • Temperature, Humidity and Wind
    • Windbreaks
    • Salt and Soil Conditions
    • Coastal Plants
  8. Modern Gardens
    • Introduction
    • Technology in the garden; screens, lights, water features, music
    • Maintenance
    • Architecture; shapes and angles, colour, sculpture
    • Courtyards
    • Inner City Gardens
    • Types of Inner City Gardens
    • Future Trends
  9. Eclectic Gardens
    • Creating an Eclectic Garden
    • Using Garden Ornaments in an Eclectic Garden
    • Plants
    • Living Art
    • Topiary
    • Hedges
    • Pleaching
    • Miniature Gardens
    • Trough Gardens
    • Pebble Gardens
    • Art Gardens
    • Public Gardens
  10. Other Styles
    • Dryland Gardens
    • The Desert Landscape
    • Xeriscapes
    • Australian Bush Garden
    • Cacti and Succulent Gardens
    • Minimalist Landscapes
    • Permaculture
    • Rainforest Gardens
    • Tropical Style Gardens
    • Bird Attracting Gardens
    • Bulb Gardens

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 different features that make this an historic garden.
  • Visit a formal garden in your area. Identify 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 (make a virtual or real visit) a coastal region near where you live (coast of a lake or sea) 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.

Increase the Scope of What You Can Create

Being a landscaper is like anything else in today's world - the more different things you can do, the more sustainable your business or career is.

The landscaper who only works with "traditional" gardens, will have a limited experience and knowledge to draw upon when advising clients. This may be all you need when dealing with "ordinary people" wanting "ordinary gardens".

People are not as "mainstream" as they used to be in everything today. Everyone is looking out for a different phone or piece of clothing to everyone else. Landscape clients also, increasingly want a garden that is different.

If you only know how to deliver a few styles; you just won't be able to compete with another landscaper who can deliver lots of options to the customers.


Eclectic means 'a mixture of styles'. 
An eclectic garden is one that has elements of two or more different styles in the same garden.
It is a way to have a very unique garden. The opportunity to mix styles gives an eclectic designer great freedom of expression - but with that freedom comes a huge risk. When you create an eclectic garden, you are largely working outside the ‘normal’ rules that govern the way a garden might be created. For example, when you design a formal garden you are attempting to keep lines clean and to create a symmetrical balance between the features in the garden.
With a natural garden, you are aiming to do the opposite – that is, you are avoiding symmetrical balance and hard, clean lines in favour of a more natural appearance. In an eclectic garden however, you are attempting to mix styles and to avoid any one particular style from becoming dominant. Emergence of the Eclectic Garden Most styles of garden can be traced back to specific eras in history, to particular countries or regions, or can be associated with specific cultures. The origin of the eclectic garden is harder to pinpoint. At various points in the history of gardening different cultures have 'borrowed' elements of another country's garden style and included it in their own. The Romans adopted elements of Greek architecture, Britain included aspects of French formality, the Japanese refined the Chinese style, and the south of Spain was greatly influenced by Middle Eastern traditions. Nevertheless, at each of these times when elements of another style have been embedded within an existing framework, it has lead to the emergence of a new style recognised for its own merits. With globalisation, we are now more than ever able to appreciate and adopt elements of other cultures and styles. Therefore, the modern eclectic garden is perhaps a more global garden and one which is unlikely to re-emerge as another separate style.
The eclectic garden might be regarded as the ultimate garden style by some because of its truly multi-cultural nature. Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder At the end of the day, visitors come and go but you are the one who lives with your garden. You should realise that no matter what type of garden you create, some visitors will love it but for others it will simply not be their style. You should create an environment that excites and stimulates you, and the way to do this is to include all of those things that you love to look at and be around. If that involves being eclectic, then don’t hesitate – be eclectic and have fun. Just try not to create an eyesore.
Beware A Lack of Contrast
Diversity is everywhere in an eclectic garden because there are no limitations as to what can be included. For example, classical Greek statues and oriental Chinese lanterns can both be used in the one area. There is, however, a danger that with excessive diversity, nothing will stand out and some things will look out of place. In order to create a feature in any garden, you must have an object (living or non living) that contrasts with its surroundings. If everything is spectacular, then there may be nothing for the spectacular features to contrast with. Cottage Garden Meets Junk Yard in Denver The owners of this small home garden in Denver, Colorado, have created garden features from things that most people would throw away. With imagination and artistic flair, amidst a mass of plants they have combined a wide variety of materials to create features that are unique and intriguing. This garden is an inspiration for any aspiring eclectic gardener.
The following are some suggestions to consider when designing an eclectic garden:
  • An eclectic garden does not have to have a mixture of styles in the one area - try dividing the garden up into separate 'rooms' each having their own style. For instance, an archway towards the rear of a formal garden area might lead into a Chinese style contemplative garden which could be adjacent to a Spanish style garden, and so forth.
  • If using features from different styled gardens alongside one another you may have to give more thought to positioning. For instance, if you were to use the aforementioned Greek statue and Chinese lantern together, then positioning the lantern where it hangs among the foliage of an overhanging tree bough and is slightly obscured would work better than hanging it directly over the statue where the contrasting cultural styles would be more blatant. • Don't push the boundaries of taste too far - it may be momentarily amusing to place a plastic garden gnome next to a stone replica of the Venus de Milo, but to leave it there would be quite vulgar. Likewise, don't plant red and white roses together - for some it symbolises blood and bandages and emanated from the First World War. Just give a little thought to where you place your garden components and you won't go too far wrong.
  • If you want to stay on the safe side - try mixing styles that have some similarities. For instance, you could stick with elements from Greek, Roman, French and formal styles, or might like to mix rainforest, natural, and cottage garden aspects. Similarly, Spanish, Mexican and Middle Eastern styles would blend together well.
  • Experiment - if at first something seems right, but then after several days or weeks it just doesn't look good anymore - remove it or change its position. A small statue of a woman alongside a cascade might look overwhelmed and lost, but if you were to reposition it under a tree at the back of the garden it might now look perfectly in perspective, drawing the eye towards the boundary and beyond - providing a sense of depth.
  • Be careful with colour - the eclectic garden knows no bounds when it comes to colour but try not to overdo it. In a cottage garden the mixed colours of flowers works well because they are generally fairly subtle colours set against predominantly green foliage. However, if you were to mix lots of different coloured pots, for instance, then the clash of colours could become too overwhelming. Instead, you can mix styles by choosing colours that work well together. For example, traditional style dull grey faux lead planters will work alongside unpainted Greek style stone urns, and also with Mediterranean style earthy coloured terracotta pots.
  • Don't overcrowd - the same principles of overcrowding apply to the eclectic garden as to other garden styles. Just because you are not imposing limits on what aspects of different garden styles you can include, it does not mean that you should overfill your garden. Try to limit the number of features you have so that the garden does not take on the feeling of a junkyard.

Where Might This Course Lead You?

If you already work in landscaping; it will expand your awareness of what is possible; and in that way it may be the best professional development you ever undertake.

For amateur gardeners, it will expand your vision of what is possible in your own garden; and for new property owners, it can help you make better decisions, and more effective plans for developing your property.

This is a course that can benefit anyone who already works in landscaping; or anyone new to garden design.

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).
ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

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.

Diana Cole

B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C.
In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild construction qualifications and an NPTC pesticide spraying licence (PA1/PA6). Diana runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens). Active in many organisations including the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.

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