While much of gardening concerns the down-to-earth elements of soil and water, artistic and inspirational elements have a place too. Creating a themed garden allows you to work in both the real and the imagined garden. Using plants, objects and ideas, a gardener is limited only by his or her imagination.
A lush, perennial border that crowds out weeds with colorful and varied plants epitomizes the English garden. Championed by early 20th century gardeners like Gertrude Jekyll, what is now thought of as the English garden is filled with native, easy-care plants that have a natural and informal look. The cool English climate allows for a large variety of low, medium and tall plants, such as daisies, roses, lilies, honeysuckle, foxglove and hollyhocks among many others. Use whatever plants are native in your area and plant them in abundance. Add a wooden bench with a curved back, a stone fence with plants cascading over the edges, and an arbor with climbing roses or clematis to complete the picture. The English Garden website recommends you limit the color palette for an English garden to four colors to produce a harmonious effect.
A Japanese garden is a place of tranquil meditation, whether you choose a more formal Japanese landscape, with manicured shrubs and trees pruned and shaped, or a Japanese garden in the wabi-sabi tradition of humble beauty, with rustic charm. Some common elements in either tradition include stone lanterns, a large or small zen garden with raked sand, a water feature, perhaps with a bamboo spout dripping water into a pond, stone rocks and boulders and, if your climate allows, a cherry tree to blossom in the spring. Add a graceful statue of a heron or a serene Buddha to complete the landscape.
While the Japanese landscape contains muted colors overall with splashes of spring blossoms in spring and red leaves in fall, a tropical landscape relies on bright colors everywhere. Use turquoise, lime green, blues, yellows and orange in both plants and in fabrics for outdoor furniture. Pick colorful succulents, bromeliads and palms. If your climate doesn't allow you to plant tropical plants outdoors, use large colorful pots that you can move to a sheltered spot or indoors when the weather cools. A thatched or brightly colored umbrella and a water feature such as a small fountain or pond are also essential elements.