Best Way to Build an Informal Rectangular Garden

The strong rectangular shape of the garden is reinforced by the choice of paving stones, bricks, steps and patterns, but the shape of the plot is then deliberately obscured by having lots of plants overflowing on to the lawn to hide the straight lines. Harsh angles are cleverly softened with shrubs and raised beds, and curves and some pretty features ate introduced to draw atten­tion away from the overall shape. The tum­bling, trailing nature of many of the shrubs lends the garden an air of playful informality, but the underlying shape of the plot is main­tained, while all the harsh edges and corners are disguised by clever design and carefully chosen plants to create a stunningly pretty and enjoyable garden.


The awning on the patio provides shade on warm days and is a colourful feature in its own right. The garden furniture is white-coated cast iron, as is the seat on the lawn, which is the main focal feature of this garden. Placed at the far end of the garden, the pretty, ornate seat draws the eye down the plot and away from the neighbouring buildings. The seat, in turn, is situated so as to receive the sun, and from it the best view of the garden can be obtained. The borders along the sides are deep to create a sense of seclusion and give privacy.

Informal Rectangular Garden Best Way to Build an Informal Rectangular Garden

The steps that lead from the patio down to the lawn are bordered by curved, raised beds. These beds narrow the entrance to the lawn, which then opens out, giving a real sense of a separate area within the garden. The division created by the raised beds soft­ens the plain, angular line of the garden and also allows the planting to continue right up to the house. The semicircular raised bed under the window serves to complete the link between garden and house and raises the plants to eye level for people on the patio. The random use of containers on the patio gives a sense of informality, and the contain­ers on the steps also serve to link the two main areas together.

The steps are in the same stone as the mowing edge of the lawn. The hard land­scaping materials are in shades of white and grey, which add an airy feel to the garden. The furniture and railing next to the steps are white, to complement the grey chosen for the paving and add lightness to the overall scheme of the garden.

The small shed will soon be covered in foliage and colour as the scrambling rose cov­ers it in leaves and flowers. It would also be possible to place a trellis screen in front of it to provide a more permanent disguise.


The plants that have been selected for the borders and raised beds are soft and pretty, and they have long flowering periods to extend the seasons of interest. Including small shrubs and plants that bear brightly coloured flowers among the larger deciduous and evergreen shrubs will bring continual subtle changes in the garden throughout the year against the permanent backcloth of rich green. Mixed planting always adds lots of year-round interest, and every plant in this small space justifies its selection by display­ing an interesting characteristic or having a long flowering season.

Informal Rectangular Garden 1 Best Way to Build an Informal Rectangular Garden

The shape of many of the plants is rounded — even the flowers of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Altona’ are borne in round, soft corymbs — and their habits are anything but formal.

The well-maintained lawn is a perfect contrast to the bright, colourful, rolling shapes of the planting in the borders, which, in their turn, make a relaxed contrast with the straight lines of the plot and effectively remove the potential for it to be rather austere in appearance.

A few plants in colourful containers are all that is needed on the patio, and these can be filled with annuals or specimen plants and moved around. Indoor plants, such as cacti, can be stood outside during the summer pro­vided they are positioned where their spines will not cause problems. The canopy project­ing from the house, with the climber above it, creates a cafe-like atmosphere and pro­vides an ideal shady place to eat out. Dainty plants that might get lost in the main beds ate grown in the semicircular raised bed, where they will receive plenty of attention. Alternatively, this is an ideal place for herbs, which will provide scent on the patio as well as ingredients for the kitchen.

Elsewhere the plants are easy to look after, and the fronts of the beds are planted with perennials and spring bulbs to provide splashes of colour from early spring right through to late autumn.

Disguising the boundaries with plants removes clues to the garden’s size and shape and so it appears to have no clear limits. This frees the mind to indulge in the illusion of endless space. It is an illusion, but a very effective one, and the impression of space is furthered by the large variety of climbing plants that disguise the walls and clothe them with foliage and colour. The climbers create a green background, which is both natural and gives seclusion.

Informal Rectangular Garden 2 Best Way to Build an Informal Rectangular Garden

Although the planting around the lawn is limited to the comparatively narrow beds, which seem to emphasize the linear shape, the two large rounded beds part-way along the garden and the soft planting effectively counter any formal feel.

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