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Were Street, Brighton.

Serene and green, this elegant and timeless formal design creates a feeling of complete calm.

"Formal gardens are always in favour. There is something timeless about them; an enduring elegance that transcends changing trends and passing fancies thereby ensuring the design never dates nor looks out of place.

A formal garden is a well balanced garden. It relies on clean lines, strong geometric forms, symmetry and an underlying sense of order to create spaces that are ordered and therefore somehow calming. And there is a simplicity to them that complements homes of contemporary or traditional design.

The principles of formal design can be applied to big or small outdoor spaces, and to any degree you like. If you don’t like gardening, or don’t want to pay for regular maintenance, you don’t have to have a garden that is manicured to within an inch of its life. You can use the basic principles to define spaces, frame views, create garden paths and terraces, or you can just use certain elements – perhaps a classically-styled urn or sculpture placed at the end of a path or in the centre of a pair of intersecting paths.

While some people draw on classical French or Italian gardens for inspiration, others seek to establish a formal structure but give it a relaxed twist by incorporating elements of a cottage garden, a bushland garden or, in the case of this project, elements of a French provincial garden.

Designed and built by Franklin Landscape & Design, the front and rear gardens of this Melbourne home are a confident fusion of formal and French provincial design elements. From the refinement of the well structured front garden, with its clipped topiary, to the opulence of the rear garden with its alfresco entertaining space, the outdoor areas exude elegance.

“The brief for this project was to design and build front and rear gardens that matched the architecture of the house; made optimum use of the available space; and met the homeowners’ lifestyle needs,” explains designer, Dave Franklin. “In terms of the design, the owners wanted to have formal-style gardens but with the emphasis on more garden and less paving. They also needed a lawn area for the kids to play on.”

To introduce height to balance the gardens with the house, trees were planted in both front and rear gardens. Says David: “In the front garden, Manchurian pears were used as an attractive hedge to complement the house, and topiary lilly pillies were used on either side of the entrance path to create a French provincial feel. To screen out the neighbours and draw the eye upwards, weeping fig was planted along the back fence line and also down the side of the house.”

In the rear garden, the covered patio looks out over an expanse of lush green lawn. Traversing the lawn is a stepping stone path that leads to the focal point of the design, a classical-style water feature comprised of a wallmounted fountain sending water into the semi-circular pond below. The water feature is flanked by planters brimming with geraniums. Another pair of planters can be found at the steps leading to the patio. These are urn-style pots planted with cycads.

“For the paved areas we used Gosford quarry sandstone. Large slabs of the richly coloured sandstone were used throughout this job, from the paved area around the rear water feature to the path leading down the side of the house, and everything was designed to fit a particular template so had to be cut on-site,” says Dave.

As with the best formal-style gardens, Dave’s approach to the palette of plants, materials and colours was to keep it limited, and his use of decorative elements and focal points is precise and well considered. Attention to detail, in both the design and construction, is evident, which extends to the lighting which turns the garden spaces into stunning nightscapes."

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