In its most basic form landscaping is arrangement of living and not living things in an outdoor space that is visually pleasing to the eye. While the different styles of landscaping are practically endless there are two general classes of landscaping that may help you narrow down a design philosophy that best fits your tastes. These two classes of design are formal and informal.
Formal Landscape Design
In the formal class of design, the onlooker will notice a very specific order in the design. To paraphrase the great Benjamin Franklin, everything has a place and everything is in its place. The plants and flowers are chosen with the specific goal to complement each other, or to bring out the features of the landscape that surrounds them. Formal landscaping is typically distinguished by low barriers such as hedges or walls that are used to separate featured areas, such as flower beds, in a distinct and orderly fashion. Some formal garden designs use geometric patterns that take on a structure and orderly feel. This is the essence of formal landscaping; it will generally evoke a feeling of order that is stunningly obvious.
The structure of the Formal class does not hinder what goes into the space. For instance formal landscaping uses water structures as well as other stone or wooden structures. These elements are simply placed in such a way as to add to the structured appeal of the space. Classic material choices are also a characteristic of the Formal class. Classical mediums such as stone are common choices in formal gardens since they add a well characterized touch of class and elegance. And as a generality, typically landscaped areas are usually larger or sparser than the average landscape design, since the beauty and order of the formal garden needs a bit of space to be seen as a large sweeping picture.
Informal Landscape Design
After reading the above description of formal landscape design it may seem that Informal Landscaping could be nothing but chaotic. However, the art of informal landscaping is actually structured but in a non traditional way. This combination of structure and non-structure makes it a bit more difficult to conjure up a good design.
Although, informal landscaping features a hodge-podge of plants and landscape elements, there is a certain order inside the hodge-podge.
Professional designers who use the informal class of design still have to consider the scale and scope of the area and also the preferences of the homeowner when making design decisions. Informal landscaping is more like letting the garden run its natural course with some tender guidance. By culturing the plants in a natural way, without any large scale pruning or trimming, you the homeowner actually let the plant life to have the appearance of natural disorder without letting things get out of control.
Landscaping can be a very interesting project for those DIYers out there. The actual process of designing a pleasant landscape as well as building the design with your own hands is a great project that most homeowners can tackle if they have the gumption. Not only will it be a fun project, but also since the entire yard or garden was transported from concept to completion by your own efforts, you will find joy in maintaining your creation for years to come.