Like a home's interior design, flower gardens have themes and elements that set them apart. The characteristics of these flower garden types may overlap, reflecting the personality of the homeowner, but the basic fundamentals of these categories remain distinct. Start with the key elements and create a solid framework for your garden theme.
Butterfly gardens focus on providing habitat and food for these colorful, winged insects. Happily, the same flowers butterflies find attractive are also generally pleasing to the human eye. A combination of native and cultivated plants mingle in the butterfly garden, and this wide selection of flowers draws a similarly wide selection of butterflies. Butterflies are nearsighted and have difficulty picking out a single suitable flower, so gardeners plant the same variety in masses. Butterflies also drink from standing water, and well-designed butterfly gardens provide a dish or bucket filled with pebbles and water, creating an artificial puddle.
For smaller yards, cottage gardens add charm and character. Cottage gardens incorporate a variety of flowers, colors and textures that please the owner or that have sentimental meaning, focusing on the gardener's personality. There is no formal planting plan and the design is small and intimate, an extension of the home. No two cottage gardens are alike, although cottage gardens often have a solitary pathway to the front entrance and are surrounded by low borders, walls or a fence.
The cutting garden has fallen out-of-favor with the availability of cut flowers from the grocery store, but cutting gardens were once incorporated into vegetable gardens or given their own plot outside the kitchen door. With long-blooming and re-blooming favorites planted in neat rows, the homeowner harvested the flowers alongside the vegetables and herbs. Tucking a cutting garden into an out-of-the-way corner kept other flower beds neat, tidy and safe from bouquet hunters.
Long hours on the job give some gardeners little time to enjoy their hobby. Moonlight gardens sidestep this problem neatly; they are designed for the evening and nighttime hours. White flowers and variegated foliage are luminous under moonlight, and night-blooming, scented flowers like Nicotiana perfume the evening air. Moonlight gardens incorporate cozy patios and soft lighting along meandering walkways, and often have a fountain or other water feature to provide soothing sound. Remember that the moon will be low and to the south in summer months; moonlight gardeners plant tall varieties along the garden's northern edges, so moonlight strikes the entire garden.
Mediterranean gardens focus on low-water, heat-loving plants. Although the term "low-water" brings to mind vast stretches of rock lawns, Mediterranean gardens are lush and inviting. Water availability defines the plants in this garden style, which focuses on plants that survive hot summers without supplemental watering. Mediterranean plants, however, aren't limited to succulents. Spring- and summer-flowering bulbs add bright splashes of color, while lavender, thyme and salvia provide cool blues and gray-green foliage against sunny walls. Regional natives mingle in the flower borders, and feather grasses and succulents provide contrasting textures. Mediterranean gardens use large boulders, bright pots, vine-covered pergolas and rock-lined, dry streams as accents.