Basic Garden Design
Although each garden will be as unique as its designers, many people follow a series of simple steps to make sure the final result will make the best use of the climate and resources available. There are as many approaches to garden design as there are people who garden, but there are a few basic design characteristics and design principles that you should keep in mind as you create your garden.
First it is important to consider the characteristics of the elements you will be using in your garden, including any plants, water features, or garden structures. These include, but are not limited to:
Form is basically the shape of any element that you are putting in your garden. Plant forms can be circular, columnar, pyramidal, spreading, weeping, etc. Plants of similar form can be used to contrast or harmonize each other to add visual interest to the garden.
Even a garden without bright flowers has many different colors. There are many complex theories out there to help you decide which colors to use, but just paying careful attention to a plant's colors - including its leaves, branches, flowers, and fruits - will help you create a combination which is pleasing to you. Color theory has shown that colors can impact people's moods, so you may want to consider if your color choices have a calming effect - blues, greens, and purples - or an energizing effect - reds, oranges, and yellows.
When deciding where to place elements in your garden, it is important to think about their scale, or relative size difference. While size differences can add emphasis to certain elements of a garden, they may also lead to smaller plants or garden features being overlooked.
All garden elements have some sort of texture that can be experienced through sight or touch. Texture can add mood or emotion to a garden - smooth, fine textures are visually subdued and formal, while coarse, rough textures are visually dominant and informal.
While many gardeners may consider the scent of certain flowers in their garden design, many other fruits and vegetables also have a fragrance that can add interest to a garden. Herbs such as dill, basil, oregano, and thyme have strong, recognizable fragrances, and can be experienced best when placed at garden edges or along walkways. The subtler scents of plants such as tomatoes, melons, and raspberries can also add interest to the garden experience.
You can use the characteristics of the elements in your garden as tools to impact the overall look and feel of your garden by applying a few basic design principles. These include:
Line is an element that can appear in a garden in any number of ways, and works to help guide someone's eye through a garden. For example, a horizontal line, like a row of low plants, will draw someone's eye across a garden, while a vertical line, like a tree or tall arbor, will draw their eyes up. The shape of lines can also make a difference - gentle, curving lines can have a calming effect, while sharp, jagged lines can add excitement and energy.
Repetition is the duplication of a certain characteristic in your garden, like color, texture, form or line. Repetition can be used to unify different parts of a garden, or to emphasize a certain element of the garden, but its overuse can lead to monotony or a sense of disorder.
Some of the most interesting gardens to visit are those with the right amount of variety. The opposite of repetition, variety refers to the mixing of different colors, forms, and textures in a garden to add visual excitement. When thinking about variety, it is important to consider how the garden will look in all seasons. Variety can also be overdone, however, and too many design elements may lead to a chaotic outcome. Balancing repetition and variety is an artistic challenge, but one with rewarding results.
When viewing a garden, the most dominant element of the garden will often be the focal point. Focal points give the viewer a place to rest the eye, and can be a unique plant, a water feature, or other garden element. In a larger garden, you can use several focal points to guide a visitor through the space.
When using several design elements in a garden, it is useful to create a transition, or gradual change, from on element to another. An example of this would be a line or group of plants that move gradually from very low plants to progressively higher ones. This is more pleasing to the eye than one small plant placed directly next to a very tall plant. The same idea can be applied to color, texture, and even scent.
Unity gives a garden continuity, and ties all of its distinct parts together into a greater whole. Unity is a design principle that may seem difficult to achieve when designing a community garden with a group of people, all of whom may have a concept of what the garden should look like. When working with a group of gardeners, the smallest use of color or form may be able to give the entire garden unity - for example, if everyone uses the same color of plant markers in their personal plot.