Most people like neat and orderly gardens—straight lines, perpendicular corners, and shrubs trimmed into boxes and spheres. For them, having one kind of plant on the left means having the same number and kind on the right. You can see everything in a single glance.
But is strict formality always best? Jorge Sanchez, landscape designer at SMI in Palm Beach, Florida, says no. To illustrate why, he points to Elizabeth and Facundo Bacardi's garden in Coral Gables. It's formal near the house, but then it throws you some curves.
This curving walk urges you to explore the garden.
The Big Idea: Native South Florida stone helps create a secluded space on the side of the house that is easy to maintain, can withstand the pounding of rampaging kids, and acts as a transition between the two larger garden areas. A long, curving walk snakes through it.
The Details: "A serpentine walk reads better in your brain," says Jorge. "It feeds your eye, urges you to look to the left and then to the right, and gives you a more complete picture. If the path is dead straight, you tend to see only what's in front of you." The must-see feature of this space? A stand of golden bamboo.
Inside the walled garden, a striking grove of golden bamboo rewards you for your patience.
The Big Idea: Undulating paths and planting beds offer a glimpse of the entry to the side walled garden and encourage a journey of discovery.
The Details: Not being able to see everything at once builds excitement. What's beyond the corner or behind the wall? You must find out. Another advantage of curves and asymmetrical planting is that this landscape always seems full of surprises, while the lure of formality may not last. "If everything is perfectly symmetrical—three here, three there, like a mirror image—it looks pretty at first but gets boring after a while," says Jorge.
A side path of coquina stones runs through swaths of button ferns and Ganges primroses.
The Details: Nature typically doesn't grow in straight lines. Gently curving planting beds look more natural in the landscape than straight ones. The stone adds interest and marks a sharp transition between an open space that has a single texture and color and a heavily planted space that is more dense. Open lawns are not only beautiful but also functional—making great play areas for children and giving your eye a resting point in the landscape. "They have tremendous beauty unto themselves," says Jorge.
The paved mowing edge acts as a small path and keeps grass and ground covers from growing into each other.