I like formal gardens. Symmetry makes me feel calm. Keeping plants in the mostly green and leafy realm creates a feeling of peaceful tranquility. And sometimes the style just goes perfectly with the adjacent architecture.
But formal gardens can be a bit…um, predictable.
Then there’s the Western take on a formal garden. Designer Daniel Nolan of Flora Grubb Gardens (I know I plug him a lot, but his gardens are sort of amazing) keeps the symmetry, keeps the tranquility, but swaps out fuddy-duddy plants and replaces them with Western rockstars.
The boxwood stays because—NEWS FLASH—boxwood rocks. It’s low on water needs, reliably hedge-worthy, and makes a fantastic edge. The camellia in the back also stays, but has a totally funky form: Daniel espaliers it to the wall with eye hooks and tension cables to make the branches more prominent. But then it gets funky! Silver straps of an astelia? So nontraditional, and so brilliant. Ditto on the large structural leaves of bear’s breech (Acanthus mollis). And in the right corner are a few super gorgeous Cordyline fruticosa ‘Soledad Purple’ which will grow nice and tall.
Another example of Daniel’s revamped take on formal gardening is shown below. Doryanthes palmeri and Astelia ‘red gem’ are two totally unexpected choices in a formal garden. But they take minimal water, look awesomely polished, and make the new western formal garden.
Also: Big shout out to Ground Cover Landscaping. They do all of Daniel’s installations.