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Another commentary on an exam question - Level 2 Garden Planning
by Janet Prescott - Wednesday, 27 May 2020, 12:47 PM

From R2112 June 2019, Q4.

a)      List SIX distinct characteristics of an English Landscape garden.                   6 marks

b)     State what is meant by the term ‘informality’ in garden design.                  2 marks

c)      Name TWO distinct features associated with informal garden design.       2 marks

This question relates to the following part of the syllabus:

Outcome 4.  Understand the characteristics of accepted garden design styles.

4.1 Describe the difference between formality and informality in garden design. 

To include examples of features associated with each style of design, (fountains, knot gardens and wildlife ponds, wildflower meadows).

4.2 Describe the main characteristics of a knot garden, a landscape garden and a cottage garden. 

To include the typical hard and soft landscaping features of a knot garden (clipped hedges, shapes, infill, pattern); a landscape garden (English landscape garden, borrowed views, serpentine lakes, Palladian bridges, ha has, temples, follies, grottos, hermitages, Chinese bridges and pagodas); and a cottage garden (annuals and ‘easy’ perennials, vegetables, gravel paths, brick edging, picket fences).


Part a) is very straightforward and relates directly to the syllabus. Use bullet points or numbers to clearly indicate your six characteristics. The examiners’ comments suggest the following, almost identical to the syllabus:

Distant vistas, serpentine lakes, Palladian bridges, ha-has, temples, follies, grottos, hermitages, Chinese bridges and pagodas.

A lot of people get muddled between pergolas and pagodas, so look out for that. Also make sure you don’t just say ‘bridge’ or ‘lake’ as that might not be sufficient.

Part b) has two marks, so needs a reasonable amount of detail. The examiners’ comments suggest the following:

·        The use of winding, irregular and loose shapes for the layout of borders, paths, patios and garden features.

·        It includes plants which are allowed to grow to natural and flowing forms reflecting the shapes and style seen in nature.

There are many different ways of answering this, but you can see the themes of irregular shapes natural, flowing forms.

For part c) you could include soft or hard landscaping features. Think carefully that these examples are particularly associated with informal design. For example, if you just stated ‘water feature’ this could be for either formal or informal.

The examiners’ comments suggest the following as suitable examples:

·        Wildflower meadow

·        Rustic bench seat made from logs

·        Wildlife pond with marginal planting

·        Winding, meandering bark path

You can always add a bit more detail to emphasise that the feature is for an informal garden.