What Is A Garden?

Gardens give us a place to feel safe in nature, a personal retreat. They help us rest and rejuvenate, and find our calm center. They inspire art and literature.

Gardens provide us with a feast for the senses. We drink in the aroma of blossoms. We see the palette of colors against a green backdrop. We hear the birdsong and the rustling of squirrels. We touch the bark of an ancient tree. We taste their bountiful fruits and vegetables.

Gardens invite us to slow down and notice the small details. No matter your reason for visiting a garden, you’ll agree that gardens bring joy. But they can do much more.

They teach us about the mysteries of growing and living. Even a tiny backyard garden helps you learn how pollination, soil, humidity, and water affect what can and can’t thrive in a particular place on Earth.

No matter the size of the garden, their emphasis on nature, framed by order, makes gardens both appealing and relaxing.

What is a Public Garden?

By bringing together many plant species in one place, public gardens open our eyes to what lies beyond where we live, the endless variety of habitats sprinkled across this massive planet.

Most public gardens can be classified into one or both of these major categories:

  • Arboreta – Gardens that focus on trees, also known as arboretums
  • Botanical Gardens – Gardens that participate in botanical research, conservation, and education

Some public gardens are cultivated and managed by garden clubs or park staff in local, state, and county parks. In these, you may find test gardens that focus on a particular plant species by comparing different varieties of a single plant, such as roses or irises.

Universities, colleges, and county extension agencies often have gardens that show off best practices for gardening native flowers, trees, vegetables, and fruits. Demonstration gardens offer ideas on how to set up a particular type of garden of your own at home.

More often, gardens are privately owned and managed but open for public enjoyment. Many charge an admission fee, since there is much to take care of on a garden’s grounds.

Some public gardens are part of a larger destination. For instance, zoos often include botanical gardens as their conservation mission for animal species fits neatly with conservation of plants from those same places, too.

It’s also common to find gardens on the grounds of historic homes and museums. Often the garden is as much or more of a draw than the home or museum itself.

Sculpture gardens showcase art in natural surroundings. Sometimes the gardens form elaborate stages for the art, while others simply use nature as a backdrop.

Formal gardens impose a structure, placing plants and water features in an orderly arrangement. These structures have cultural roots, and an architecture framed by centuries of landscape architects.

European gardens feature a geometrically precise, often symmetrical landscape. Some use hedges that define outdoor rooms. Fountains or sculptures are a common focal point. An English garden has a different feel than a French garden or an Italian garden. Each contains elements important to that culture.

Romantic gardens emphasize nature. While orderly in layout, they cultivate a wild woodland feel by letting plants crowd the walkways. They surprise you with secret passages and hidden nooks.

Asian gardens are relaxed and meditative, incorporating elements of chi, including flowing water, bamboo, and meandering pathways.

Woodland gardens honor the importance of the forest canopy and the forest floor. They allow you to feel that you are walking in a forest while enjoying the colorful plantings that do not detract from the forest canopy or interrupt the slope of the natural landscape.

Some gardens focus on a specific habitat or species of plant. Tropical gardens are found in warmer climates, and desert gardens in drier climates. Rose gardens have only roses within their walls.

Any garden can include a combination of garden styles within it. The more acreage the garden covers, the more likely that you’ll find all of these types of gardens within it.