Top design elements of Classic Gardens with Paul Bangay

Classic gardens feature throughout history, never dating or losing their appeal.  Designed to compliment traditional and contemporary architecture, classic gardens place an emphasis on the design principles of geometry, balance and repetition.

Today, well composed formal gardens are inspired by those traditional principles and combined with modern outdoor living to create a classic, unrivalled style. Landscape designer Paul Bangay is well known for creating gardens that are of a timeless elegance and classic simplicity. Inspired by architecture and many travels to Europe and the Middle East, Paul has a passion for creating classic gardens that will endure and still remain fresh over time.

If you’re looking to create a classic garden in your home, read on as Paul shares his top design elements of classic gardens.

A garden with good bones

One of the most distinctive features of classic gardens is the layout, proportions and geometry of the outdoor space. “The architectural layout of a classical garden is fundamental to its success”, explains Paul. 

Whether the architecture is traditional or modern, classic gardens emphasise straight lines, angles and circles combined with balanced proportions. This achieves an overall sense of order and a feeling of calm.

Balance and symmetry combined with exacting proportions will endure and survive short terms fashion changes.

Classic plant varieties

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Paul Bangay ‘Stonefields’

Planting plays an integral role in a classic garden design and greatly defines how the garden looks and feels. Symmetrical planting and plants trimmed into sculptural forms like hedges, reinforce the layout of a classic garden, says Paul. Often hedges and topiaries are used to define paths, screen patios or as walls to create outdoor garden rooms. In a classic garden, plants are also effective at drawing your eye to a focal point.

“Layering of such plants as Buxus, Murraya and bay are old time favourites. Pencil pines provide accents in the garden, whilst clipped cones of Magnolia grandiflora provide interest”, says Paul. 


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Paul Bangay ‘Stonefields’ featuring Eco Outdoor granite paving ‘Raven’

A classic garden featuring repetition offers a sense of structure and cohesion throughout. “Often repetition creates harmony in a garden”, says Paul.

The thoughtful repeat of the same space and lines is harmonious and classical.

This is achieved through shapes, consistent planting, paving layout or even sculptural elements. Repetition reinforces the organised quality of classic gardens and when applied correctly, can be effective at making the space feel larger.

Ornamental features

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Paul Bangay Hawthorn Project featuring Eco Outdoor bluestone paving

Attractive ornamental features are used throughout classic gardens as focal points to add interest or to frame a particular view.  These can come in the form of urns, water features, mirrors, furniture or sculpture. 

An element of restraint should be used when deciding on the ornamental features of the garden, advises Paul. He recommends you opt for simple design over elaborate features. “Avoid over ornamented Victorian features,” suggests Paul.  “Always choose slightly overscale instead of under scale features”. 

To maintain balance and still offer visual impact, Paul also advises prioritising fewer good pieces rather many average ornamental features in the garden. 


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Paul Bangay Main Ridge project

“The best lesson in garden design is restraint”, says Paul. Whether it’s the layout, planting, paving, a monochromatic colour palette or ornamental features Paul suggests restraint is essential to the overall success of any classic garden. 

Paul suggests you can achieve restraint through mass planting using few species but more of them. “Avoid too many objects of interest and not over complicate a design layout, says Paul.

These are all good lessons learnt along the way