One of the delights when visiting a stately home or historic house is visiting the gardens. Often these residences from a bygone era have beautiful outside spaces which beg you to enjoy them. You can create something similar in your own home no matter what size your garden is. Here are some tips on creating a formal garden.

1. Plan

Like any good garden – no matter how carefully unstructured it looks – a formal garden requires planning. A formal garden generally has excellent proportions and symmetry so it is important to get the planning right. Not only will careful planning allow you to maximise the available space but it will ensure that you take best advantage of any sunlight coming into your garden.

2. Lawns and paths

Visit any formal garden and one of the things that will strike you is the expansive lawn and the paths that lead you from one area to another. Your plan will include grassed areas but you also need to think about what type of path you will have. Many formal gardens use gravel paths but you can also use prefabricated paving stones, make your own or, for a more modern look, try crazy paving.

3. Nooks

Many formal gardens include secluded areas where visitors can sit and enjoy the beauty of the foliage. These may be little alcoves, ideally in the shady part of the garden; you don’t interfere very relaxed if the sun is beating down on your head. And if you’re going to sit and contemplate, you need something to sit on, such as a wooden or stone bench (and perhaps a table to put a cold drink on.)

4. Hedges

Many formal gardens also use hedges to divide up the space. Depending on the available space you may choose to include a maze or simply dot topiary (hedges and shrubs trimmed into different shapes) around the garden. These add visual interest, and you can add even more with a couple of statues.

5. Water features

No formal garden is complete without a water feature or two. You may choose to create a pond, lake or artificial stream (complete with fish) in different parts of the garden. This is something you can do even in a small space. Many formal gardens include a fountain. The key thing with fountains is not just how they look but how they sound. You want to ensure that you can hear the soothing sound of the water when you are near the fountain to make that part of the garden a true oasis.

All of these features can be added even to small gardens, though you will have to pick and choose. However if your outside space is large then you can really splash out on creating a formal garden to rival those in the stately homes.

Jen Byiers writes for Gardens Galore who can assist with landscape design when creating a formal garden for your home.