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Sequence and Rhythm

Sequence and rhythm are employed to create a feeling of logical follow-through, a leading up to the climax of the garden. They produce interest throughout the entire scheme. Nothing is so disheartening to the gardener as to have a visitor pass by his efforts with casual glance and polite but indifferent comment. This often happens because the garden lacks challenge or a demand for closer attention.

Sequence provides movement or flow and prevents the picture from being static. It is developed by repetition of the same element, a group or specimen, in a series of pairs balanced across the main axis. If the intervals between the groups are regular, rhythmic sequence is produced. Such a planting carries the eye along from the beginning to the end and leads from one picture to the next, tying the whole together into a more unified composition.

Rhythm alone is pleasing if the proportion of masses to intervals is well arranged. In long, narrow compositions a rhythmic arrangement is preferable to an episodic one that fails to develop continuity and seems illogical. When the color scheme is planned for a long border, a rhythmic sequence provides a frame on which to build a series of pictures. Suppose, for example, you planted recurrent masses of white phlox ten feet apart. They constitute the basic rhythm. Around each group arrange other things, say echinops, late hemerocallis, veronica, yellow centaurea in one case; pink and red phlox in another; and marigolds and bronze zinnias and ageratum in another. Rhythm remains but there is also variety to maintain interest.

Rhythm, as all musicians know, does not have to be regular. It can be syncopated as in modern dance music. Such syncopation is possible in planting, and may produce very interesting effects. Instead of regularly spaced and identical plant masses, try to vary the spacing considerably without destroying either balance or rhythm. In fact, in all but the most formal compositions, some syncopation is useful to soften the effect and prevent monotony. The more informal the scheme, the more syncopation is desirable, until natural rhythms are approached. Man-made rhythms should have definite space relationships. That is what distinguishes them from nature's. Man points up, develops the natural scene, and makes it art!

plate 12
Plate 12. Planting for Sequence and Rhythm.
1. Hemerocallis Hyperion4. Playtcodon grandiflorum
2. Phlox Leo Schlageter5. Linum perenne
3. Veronica maritima subsessilis 

Planting for sequence and rhythm also helps to restrict unwieldy lists. To achieve the necessary effects you must use a number of the same plants repeatedly. If this cuts down too much on the varieties you think you want, don't throw away the design. Put the extra favorites in cutting rows, and keep your garden artistically right. (Plate 12.)

Sometimes people justify haphazard planting by calling it old-fashioned. They admire quaintness. This is side-stepping the issue. Old-fashioned gardens, if they were good, were no more casual than those of today. Too often we reverence and imitate the old just for the sake of its age. We are not sufficiently critical of its merit. Not everything ancient is meritorious or worth copying. Each age must do its own thinking if it is to progress, and that applies to gardens too.


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