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Related subjects: Recreation

Background Information

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Gardens of Versailles (France)
Renaissance garden in Pieskowa Skała, Poland
A kaiyu-shiki or strolling Japanese garden
Nicosia municipal gardens
The Sunken Garden of Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

A garden is a planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation, and enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature. The garden can incorporate both natural and man-made materials. The most common form today is known as a residential garden, but the term garden has traditionally been a more general one. Zoos, which display wild animals in simulated natural habitats, were formerly called zoological gardens. Western gardens are almost universally based on plants, with garden often signifying a shortened form of botanical garden.

Some traditional types of eastern gardens, such as Zen gardens, use plants such as parsley. Xeriscape gardens use local native plants that do not require irrigation or extensive use of other resources while still providing the benefits of a garden environment. Gardens may exhibit structural enhancements, sometimes called follies, including water features such as fountains, ponds (with or without fish), waterfalls or creeks, dry creek beds, statuary, arbors, trellises and more.

Some gardens are for ornamental purposes only, while some gardens also produce food crops, sometimes in separate areas, or sometimes intermixed with the ornamental plants. Food-producing gardens are distinguished from farms by their smaller scale, more labor-intensive methods, and their purpose (enjoyment of a hobby rather than produce for sale). Flower gardens combine plants of different heights, colors, textures, and fragrances to create interest and delight the senses.

Gardening is the activity of growing and maintaining the garden. This work is done by an amateur or professional gardener. A gardener might also work in a non-garden setting, such as a park, a roadside embankment, or other public space. Landscape architecture is a related professional activity with landscape architects tending to specialise in design for public and corporate clients.


The etymology of the word gardening refers to enclosure: it is from Middle English gardin, from Anglo-French gardin, jardin, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German gard, gart, an enclosure or compound, as in Stuttgart. See Grad (Slavic settlement) for more complete etymology. The words yard, court, and Latin hortus (meaning "garden," hence horticulture and orchard), are cognates—all referring to an enclosed space.

The term "garden" in British English refers to a small enclosed area of land, usually adjoining a building. This would be referred to as a yard in American English.

Garden design

The back garden of the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, India
Flower-bed with the date in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy

Garden design is the creation of plans for the layout and planting of gardens and landscapes. Gardens may be designed by garden owners themselves, or by professionals. Most professional garden designers are trained in principles of design and in horticulture, and have an expert knowledge and experience of using plants. Some professional garden designers are also landscape architects, a more formal level of training that usually requires an advanced degree and often a state license.

Tropical garden in the Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore in Singapore

Elements of garden design include the layout of hard landscape, such as paths, rockeries, walls, water features, sitting areas and decking, as well as the plants themselves, with consideration for their horticultural requirements, their season-to-season appearance, lifespan, growth habit, size, speed of growth, and combinations with other plants and landscape features. Consideration is also given to the maintenance needs of the garden, including the time or funds available for regular maintenance, which can affect the choices of plants regarding speed of growth, spreading or self-seeding of the plants, whether annual or perennial, and bloom-time, and many other characteristics. Garden design can be roughly divided into two groups, formal and naturalistic gardens.

The most important consideration in any garden design is, how the garden will be used, followed closely by the desired stylistic genres, and the way the garden space will connect to the home or other structures in the surrounding areas. All of these considerations are subject to the limitations of the budget. Budget limitations can be addressed by a simpler garden style with fewer plants and less costly hardscape materials, seeds rather than sod for lawns, and plants that grow quickly; alternatively, garden owners may choose to create their garden over time, area by area.

Elements of a garden

Garden at the centre of intersection in Shanghai.
Naturalistic design of a Chinese garden incorporated into the landscape, including a pavilion

The elements of a garden consist of the following:

Natural conditions and materials:

Constructed elements:

  • Garden beds
  • Paths
  • Pool, water garden, or other water elements such as drainage system
  • Terrace, patio, deck
  • Lighting
  • Sculpture,
  • Buildings such as sheds, gazebos, pergolas and follies

Uses for the garden space

Partial view from the Botanical Garden of Curitiba ( Southern Brazil): parterres, flowers, fountains, sculptures, greenhouses and tracks composes the place used for recreation and to study and protect the flora.

A garden can have aesthetic, functional, and recreational uses:

  • Cooperation with nature
    • Plant cultivation
  • Observation of nature
  • Relaxation
    • Family dinners on the terrace
    • Children playing in the garden
    • Reading and relaxing in the hammock
    • Maintaining the flowerbeds
    • Pottering in the shed
    • Basking in warm sunshine
    • Escaping oppressive sunlight and heat
  • Growing useful produce
    • Flowers to cut and bring inside for indoor beauty
    • Fresh herbs and vegetables for cooking

Types of gardens

A typical Italian garden at Villa Garzoni, near Pistoia
Checkered garden in Tours, France
Zen garden, Ryōan-ji
French formal garden in the Loire Valley
Bristol Zoo, England
Castelo Branco, Portugal
Hualien, Taiwan
El Escorial, Spain
An ornamental garden in the Auburn Botanical Gardens, Sydney, Australia

Gardens may feature a particular plant or plant type(s);

  • Back garden
  • Bog Garden
  • Cactus garden
  • Fernery
  • Flower garden
  • Front garden
  • Herb garden
  • Mary garden
  • Orangery
  • Orchard
  • Potager
  • Rose garden
  • Shade garden
  • Vegetable garden
  • Vineyard
  • White garden
  • Wildflower garden
  • Winter garden

Gardens may feature a particular style or aesthetic:

  • Alpine or rock garden
  • Bonsai or miniature garden
  • Children's Garden
  • Chinese garden
  • Dutch garden
  • English landscape garden
  • Gardens of the French Renaissance
  • French formal garden
  • French landscape garden
  • Italian garden
  • Japanese garden
  • Knot garden
  • Korean garden
  • Mughal garden
  • Native garden
  • Persian garden
  • Roman gardens
  • Spanish garden
  • Terrarium
  • Trial garden
  • Tropical garden
  • Water garden
  • Wild garden
  • Xeriscaping
  • Zen garden

Types of garden:

  • Botanical garden
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Butterfly zoo
  • Chinampa
  • Cold Frame Garden
  • Community garden
  • Container garden
  • Cottage garden
  • Cutting garden
  • Forest garden
  • Garden conservatory
  • Green wall
  • Greenhouse
  • Hanging garden
  • Hydroponic garden
  • Market garden
  • Rain garden
  • Raised bed gardening
  • Residential garden
  • Roof garden
  • Sacred garden
  • Sensory garden
  • Square foot garden
  • Vertical garden
  • Walled garden
  • Windowbox
  • Zoological garden

Environmental impacts of gardens

Gardeners may cause environmental damage by the way they garden, or they may enhance their local environment. Damage by gardeners can include direct destruction of natural habitats when houses and gardens are created; indirect habitat destruction and damage to provide garden materials such as peat, rock for rock gardens, and by the use of tapwater to irrigate gardens; the death of living beings in the garden itself, such as the killing not only of slugs and snails but also their predators such as hedgehogs and song thrushes by metaldehyde slug killer; the death of living beings outside the garden, such as local species extinction by indiscriminate plant collectors; and climate change caused by greenhouse gases produced by gardening.

Watering gardens

Some gardeners manage their gardens without using any water from outside the garden, and therefore do not deprive wetland habitats of the water they need to survive. Examples in Britain include Ventnor Botanic Garden on the Isle of Wight, and parts of Beth Chatto's garden in Essex, Sticky Sticky Wicket in Dorset, and the Royal Horticultural Society's gardens at Harlow Carr and Hyde Hall. Rain gardens absorb rainfall falling onto nearby hard surfaces, rather than sending it into stormwater drains. For irrigation, see rainwater, sprinkler system, drip irrigation, tap water, greywater, hand pump and watering can.

Wildlife in gardens

Chris Baines's classic book 'How to make a wildlife garden' was first published in 1985, and is still a good source of advice on how to create and manage a wildlife garden.

Climate change and gardens

Climate change will have many impacts on gardens, most of them negative, and these are detailed in 'Gardening in the Global Greenhouse' by Richard Bisgrove and Paul Hadley. Gardens also contribute to climate change. Greenhouse gases can be produced by gardeners in many ways. The three main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Gardeners produce carbon dioxide directly by overcultivating soil and destroying soil carbon, by burning garden 'waste' on bonfires, by using power tools which burn fossil fuel or use electricity generated by fossil fuels, and by using peat. Gardeners produce methane by compacting the soil and making it anaerobic, and by allowing their compost heaps to become compacted and anaerobic. Gardeners produce nitrous oxide by applying excess nitrogen fertiliser when plants are not actively growing so that the nitrogen in the fertiliser is converted by soil bacteria to nitrous oxide. Gardeners can help to prevent climate change in many ways, including the use of trees, shrubs, ground cover plants and other perennial plants in their gardens, turning garden 'waste' into soil organic matter instead of burning it, keeping soil and compost heaps aerated, avoiding peat, switching from power tools to hand tools or changing their garden design so that power tools are not needed, and using nitrogen-fixing plants instead of nitrogen fertiliser.


In art and literature

  • The Garden of Eden
  • Romance of the Rose
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne's short-story " Rappaccini's Daughter"
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera La finta giardiniera
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden
  • Elizabeth von Arnim's novels Elizabeth and Her German Garden and Solitary Summer
  • John Steinbeck's short-story The Chrysanthemums
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Other similar spaces

Other outdoor spaces that are similar to gardens include:

  • A landscape is an outdoor space of a larger scale, natural or designed, usually unenclosed and considered from a distance.
  • A park is a planned outdoor space, usually enclosed ('imparked') and of a larger size. Public parks are for public use.
  • An arboretum is a planned outdoor space, usually large, for the display and study of trees.
  • A farm or orchard is for the production of food stuff.
  • A botanical garden is a type of garden where plants are grown both for scientific purposes and for the enjoyment and education of visitors.
  • A zoological garden, or zoo for short, is a place where wild animals are cared for and exhibited to the public.
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