Parterre in the Enid A. Haupt Garden, Washington, D.C.
Image 3: Enid A. Haupt Garden – Washington, DC.

Many formal gardens are designed by placing plants in arrangements of geometric shapes to create patterns. The Haupt Garden, located at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC is a contemporary recreation of a Victorian-era garden, popular in the late nineteenth century (over 100 years ago!). This style conveys Victorian ideas of beauty in nature – luxurious, colorful, and refined. Did you know that this garden is actually a roof top garden? There’s a building underneath it! The soil depth here is barely two feet.

1. What is your definition of beauty in nature? Is it different from or similar to the Victorians’ definition? Why or why not?

2. Ask a family member or friend to tell you what they think defines a beautiful garden and why.

3. If you asked a student living in a different neighborhood, country, or culture, do you think they would have a similar or different answer?

4. Do some research: Find pictures of gardens from all over the world and look for similarities and differences. Why do you think they look so different? Consider the impact of climate in certain regions.

Mount Sharon, Orange, VA
Image 4: Mount Sharon Farm – Orange, VA. 2004.

Formal gardens usually contain trimmed hedges, rectangular pathways, and sculptures.

1. What shapes can you find in the garden above? What objects are in the garden?

2. What kinds of shapes would you use to create a formal garden? How would you use them? Where would you place each shape in a garden design?

3. Many formal gardens, such as this one, feature bilateral symmetry – meaning it is the same on the right and left sides. Try drawing a line down the middle of the picture. Are the left and right sides exactly the same in this garden? Look carefully!

4. The opposite of bilateral symmetry is asymmetrical symmetry. What is the difference between the two styles? Do you like bilateral or asymmetrical symmetry better? Why?